“We cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:19-20.
[From ws 7/19 p.8 Study Article 28: Sept 9 – Sept 15, 2019]
Paragraph 1 refers back to the previous Watchtower Study article entitled “Prepare now for Persecution”
The article raises the question “Does persecution mean that we have lost God’s favour?”
Perhaps a more pertinent question is: Did the Organization ever have God’s favour?
“If a government bans our worship, we might wrongly conclude that we do not have God’s blessing. But remember persecution does not mean that Jehovah is unhappy with us.” (Par.3)
One could also wrongly conclude that ‘we’ (the Organization) do have God’s blessing, and that Jehovah is happy with us and so ‘we’ (the Organization) are a target for persecution. But both conclusions are erroneous, because they are based on the premise that God’s blessing was and still is on the Organization, which while claimed, is unprovable. The most common so-called evidence of God’s blessing is the continual increase. This increase, even according to the official figures is hardly dramatic, mostly not even keeping up with the World’s population growth. Add to this the constant news of the sale of Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls from around the world, then the continued claims of increase ring hollow.
The undisputed fact that “We learn from the apostle Paul’s experience that Jehovah allows his faithful servants to be persecuted” does not confirm or deny the point really at issue, which is whether the Organization is a faithful servant.
Additionally, as discussed last week, Governments and others may take actions interpreted by the Organization as persecution, but in reality these actions against the Organization are based on it teaching and practicing activities that harm the Organization’s adherents and hence harm the Government’s citizens, which the Government has a duty and a right to defend and protect.
Paragraph 4 claims “Persecution is not a sign that we lack Jehovah’s blessing. Instead, it indicates that we are doing what is right!”.
Is the Organization persecuted because of refusing to support war? No, not usually. Only occasionally do some countries have problems with conscientious objectors, often mistaking them for shirkers.
Is the Organization persecuted for teaching their children Moral standards from the Bible? No.
Is the Organization persecuted for not doing enough to greatly reduce the problem of child abuse? Yes. They display an intransigent stance, and instead of having the best child protection policies, have some of the worst child protection policies of any secular or religious Organization.
Is the Organization persecuted for its unchristian judicial system, especially the inhuman shunning policy? Yes. Once again, they display an intransigent stance, which breaks up families and drives people to suicide, all because the Organization is trying to control its members from leaving in larger numbers.
The doubling of Witnesses during World War II as highlighted in paragraph 5 could undoubtedly just as easily be caused by the then prevailing terrible world conditions in conjunction with the tempting hope of the nearness of Armageddon which would usher in the peaceful world they wished to enjoy, rather than Jehovah’s blessing.
The comments in paragraph 6 that “many who had stopped serving Jehovah began to attend meetings and were reactivated” in countries where a ban started, could just as easily be caused by fear among these ones that the persecution meant Armageddon was close due to the constant linking of persecution with Armageddon as also experienced in this article.
“Should I move to another land?”
In paragraphs 8 & 9 the article attempts to limit the exodus of Witnesses from lands under persecution, by giving reasons for leaving and reasons for staying. However, in doing so it uses the same subtle reasoning as is used with the subject of higher education. The article suggests you could leave lands under persecution and that is your personal decision. “However”, it says, “others (subtext: the spiritually minded ones) might note that…the Apostle Paul, (subtext: the really spiritual Brother compared to the ones who fled) decided not to move away from areas where the preaching work was opposed”. Of course, the Organization also says higher education is also a personal choice and no one should criticize someone’s choice, but on the other hand it really recommends the removal of elders who send a son or daughter to university, (in letters and publications available only to elders)[i] because they are going against the recommendation of the Governing Body.
The next paragraphs deal with the question:
How will we worship while under ban?
The only two aspects of worship dealt with in this section are keeping up with the Organizations material by meeting together, no doubt to ensure the indoctrination continues, and to continue the preaching of the Organization’s teachings.
Traps to avoid
Avoid sharing too much information.
Do not allow minor issues to divide you.
Avoid being presumptious: In paragraph 17 we are given the following experience: “For example, in a land where the work is under ban, the responsible brothers had directed that the publishers not leave printed literature in the ministry. Yet, a pioneer brother in that location felt that he knew better and distributed literature. What was the result? Shortly after he and some others finished a period of informal witnessing, they were questioned by the police. Apparently, officials had followed them and were able to retrieve the literature they had distributed”.
As we cannot read hearts, it is difficult to know for sure why the pioneer brother continued to distribute literature. However, one very plausible explanation is as follows:
As a pioneer, especially if he had been serving for some time, he would have been conditioned to use the Organization’s literature as the end goal in any call. The general intention behind this is to have a study of the publication What Can the Bible Teach Us? with the aid of the Bible with any interested ones. This is to ensure that all Bible Studies learn the teachings of the Bible as interpreted by the Organization. He, therefore, most likely felt the literature was so important he could disregard the instructions of the local elders and continue as before the ban, especially if an explanation behind the reasoning leading to the instructions was not shared with the brothers.
Paragraph 18 states: “Jehovah has not given us authority to make personal decisions for others. Someone who makes needless rules is not protecting his brother’s safety—he is trying to become the master of his brother’s faith.—2 Cor. 1:24”
“Physician, heal thyself” is a familiar phrase that comes to mind. Over many years, the “Questions from Readers” section in the Watchtower and the Organization’s headquarters service desk has opined and made rules for Witnesses across the whole spectrum of Witness life and Witnesses personal lives. Instead of allowing Witnesses to make their own decisions on most things based on a Bible-trained conscience, the decisions on many things have been taken out of their hands. On top of that, local congregation bodies of elders have made their own rules despite counsel not to. Such as, brothers being required to be wearing a matching suit jacket and trousers when on the platform, and in some places, a white shirt as well. Also, the continued unwritten rule in many western lands that brothers with beards cannot be used as public speakers and assembly speakers.
This has led to the environment where many Witnesses prefer the decisions to be made for them and will confess this viewpoint, rather than being responsible and making their own Bible trained conscience decisions.
A very predictable article given the subject matter, with no attempt to discuss the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is: What is behind the majority of persecution? And, how would we know we are being blessed by Jehovah as an Organization and persecuted because of being his faithful servants?
[i] Watchtower Publication: Shepherd the Flock of God – (for elders only): Shepherd sfl_E 2019, Chapter 8 section 30 page 46: Under the heading “SITUATIONS THAT MAY REQUIRE A REVIEW OF AN APPOINTED BROTHER’S QUALIFICATIONS”
He or a Member of His Household Pursues Higher Education:
If an appointed brother, his wife, or his children pursue higher education, does his life pattern show that he puts Kingdom interests first in his life? (w05 10/1 p. 27 par. 6) Does he teach his family members to put Kingdom interests first? Does he respect what has been published by the faithful slave on the dangers of higher education? Do his speech and conduct reveal that he is a spiritual person? How is he viewed by the congregation? Why is he or his family pursuing higher learning? Do they have theocratic goals? Does the pursuit of higher education interfere with regular meeting attendance, meaningful participation in field service, or other theocratic activities?