“Be transformed by making your mind over.” – Romans 12:2
[From ws 11/18 p.23 January 28, 2019 – February 3, 2019]
Last week’s Watchtower article was discussing the subject “Who molds your thinking?”. In it the Organization made the claim “The faithful and discreet slave” does not exercise control over the thoughts of individuals, and neither do the elders.”[i] Why not check out this statement from this week’s article in paragraph 16? It says “While we are firmly resolved to avoid the transfusion of whole blood or any of its four major components, some procedures involving blood require making a personal decision based on Bible principles that indicate Jehovah’s thinking. (Acts 15:28, 29)”
Does not the phrase “we are firmly resolved to avoid” show control, or strong influence which it could be difficult to resist. They do not even word it “It is good and commendable if we are firmly resolved”. Rather there is no apparent option to opt out or have a different view. Especially when you are “encouraged” to give a copy of your medical directive to the secretary on a regular basis; all the more so if you have not done so. Perhaps an elder has requested it from you, with a “Our congregation secretary is missing a few advance directives, including yours. Could you please provide him a copy.” Is this not arguably exerting strong influence almost to the point of coercion?
This type of attitude runs all through this Watchtower article.
Paragraph 3 states “For example, we might have difficulty understanding Jehovah’s view of moral cleanness, materialism, the preaching work, the misuse of blood, or something else.”
While it is not stated overtly, all Witnesses, both present and past, know they expect and want you when you read “Jehovah’s view” to substitute this phrase in your mind with “the view of Jehovah’s Organization” and then go one further step and drop “Jehovah” leaving “the view of the Organization”. How can we know this for sure? Acts 15:28-29 says “abstain from blood”. Now you may personally interpret this scripture to mean, one should not drink it and should show respect for it, but because of your respect for life you would accept a blood transfusion in certain circumstances. However, would the Organization accept your understanding of Jehovah’s view. Most assuredly not. The Organization is much more likely to haul you before a judicial committee and disfellowshipped if you defended your understanding of Jehovah’s view. What are they trying to impose upon you and thereby control your thinking and decisions? The Organization’s view.
Paragraph 5 gives us the Organization’s definition of study. No, it is not reading and meditating on the scriptures. It says: “Study is more than superficial reading and involves much more than merely highlighting the answers to study questions. When we study, we consider what the material tells us about Jehovah, his ways, and his thinking.” This then is influence to view the Organization’s publications as primary study material and guide to the scriptures, rather than studying the scriptures directly. It also means the sharpness of God’s word is blunted by going through a third party, rather than direct to the source. (Hebrews 4:12) This also has an effect on and contributes to the problems discussed below about paragraph 12.
Paragraph 6 continues on “As we meditate regularly on God’s Word”, thereby implying that study of God’s word is satisfied by studying Bible literature. This too is subtle influence.
Paragraph 8 will probably see comments by super-righteous members of the congregation about obeying the Governing Body’s policy on further education as it says “Some parents insist on the best for their children materially, even at the expense of their children’s spiritual health”.
Today, around the world, both Witness and non-Witness parents insist on what they think is the best for their children. Sadly though, often children are not able to live up to their parents’ expectations. More commonly these days the children do not want to, as the parents have not considered the happiness of the child. This is even more prevalent in the Organization. While the statement in paragraph 8 implies that seeking the best for one’s child materially means spiritual harm for the child, that is not the case. It depends very much on the circumstances and choices, all of which will be unique to each parent and child relationship. Seeking the Organization’s view of spiritual health for the child could result in the worst for the child materially.[ii]
Paragraph 10 shows the same symptoms as paragraph 12 below when it says “For instance, suppose we are attracted to a certain style of dress or grooming that is likely to upset some in the congregation or that may well arouse passion in the minds of others.” This warning regarding the issue of beards and beard fractions that upset some, amongst other things, keeps on being repeated. One problem is that due to the high control environment that has existed for a long time, even though beards are now acceptable in many western countries, many Witnesses still view beards as sinful, despite the fact that Jesus always had one. Another problem alluded to is the dress of many sisters in particular which is considered indecent by most, i.e. low-cut blouses, short skirts or short dresses, dresses and skirts with slits, etc., or clothes of both sexes that are very tight and leave little to the imagination. Obviously, the counsel is failing to reach the hearts of the culprits. All the points made below with regard to paragraph 12 are equally applicable here.
Paragraph 12 reveals a symptom of the high control environment of the Organization, and as a result, it’s failure not only to control many Witnesses, but also to actually reach their heart.
It says: “For example, lap dancing is a form of lewd conduct that is becoming more common in the world. Some might excuse such conduct, reasoning that it is not the same as outright sexual relations. But do such actions reflect the thinking of God, who abhors every kind of badness”
This statement reveals a number of issues on reflection of its implications. They are:
- There must be a sufficiently significant amount of Witnesses engaging in this practice for it to even be mentioned in print.
- This points to a failure in control of the Witnesses behaviour.
- It also points to a failure for the Organization’s teaching in reaching their heart.
- It is accepted that the higher the control exerted on people, whether by a government or an organisation, the more likely people are to try to find ways around those rules, or to do things not specifically forbidden by a rule, often as a form of rebellion. The reason being they end up focusing on obedience to rules, and will deem anything not ruled against to be acceptable, rather than thinking about the original principles behind those rules.
To rectify the situation the Organization would have to change from an ever-increasing rules mentality to a principle-based mentality. To achieve this, they would need to reduce the focus on preaching which gives Witnesses the impression that they will be more likely to be saved the more preaching they do. This would give more time in meetings and publications to focus on principles and how to reason on principles and apply them in a practical way. Also, to highlight more the benefits of applying these principles in daily lives. Then many of these issues that are surfacing would cease to be issues. But the likelihood of that happening is like a snowball remaining unmelted in a furnace.
The whole presentation of this article comes over as a scolding parent telling off the children. I told you not to do this, I told you not to do that, why are you doing it? As outside observers we would comment that the parent has failed to reach the hearts of the children and concentrates on rules rather than principles. That the parent needs to take time to help the children to understand why certain things are good or not good to do.
It is becoming obvious that the Organization is just such a failing parent. The constant diet of ‘do as we say’ articles lacking in any substance, with the constant reminders to obey whatever the Governing Body says, right or right, is failing to achieve its desired results.
Paragraph 18 continues the attempt to influence people’s decisions according to the Organization’s desire rather than God’s desire. It says: “For example, what if your employer offered you a promotion with a substantial increase in salary but the position would interfere with your spiritual activities? Or if you are in school, suppose you were offered an opportunity to move away from home to receive additional education. At that moment, would you need to do prayerful research, consult with your family and perhaps with the elders, and then make a decision?” No scriptures are cited for you to research. Could it be because the scriptures contain very few rules for Christians, but instead mainly principles?
Furthermore, what “spiritual activities” would be interfered with? Attending at least one midweek meeting lasting 1.75 hours plus travel time? Where is that prescribed in the Bible? Only not forsaking or forgetting to gather together is encouraged (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is no requirement for a weekly meeting with material closely scripted by others.
And what about further education? What scripture suggests we should not even consider it? None. Once again, Bible principles do come in to play in making the decision but no more than in any other important decision in life.
The scriptures do not coerce us or strongly suggest any particular course of action for either of these decisions. However, you can be sure the Organization’s literature is full of coercive and decision influencing statements. They would also like you to consult the elders, so that they can ensure you tow the line as defined according to the Organization.But yet they denied controlling (and by implication, influencing) Witnesses as recently as last week’s Watchtower study article.
In conclusion then, the question we truly need to answer is “Are we making Jehovah’s thinking our own”? Or is it the thinking of a group of men, claiming to be God’s appointed representatives, who pass off their thoughts as God’s thinking?
The decision is ours and it is our responsibility. What we will not be able to do when Armageddon does come, is offer the excuse, “it is their fault, they made me do it.” It will be our fault, if we continue to allow it, when we know or suspect it is wrong.
[i] In paragraph 13.
[ii] The author personally knows of one such child (now an adult) who earns less per month from his chosen job than he would if he were on government benefits. He is fully dependent on his parents for food and lodging, and has no prospects of marriage as he could not afford to even feed a wife, let alone house her. He is fortunate to live in a country which would pay low-income, unemployment benefits, if his father (the sole bread winner) died.