In the third article discussing the awakening of Felix and his wife, we were treated to the letter written by the branch office of Argentina in response to the demand for them to meet basic human rights criteria. It is my understanding that the branch office actually wrote two letters, one in response to Felix and another to his wife. It is the wife’s letter that we have in hand and which is translated here together with my commentary.
The letter begins:
Dear Sister (redacted)
Much to our regret we are forced to contact you by this means in order to answer your [redacted] 2019, which we can only describe as inappropriate. Spiritual matters, whatever these may be, should not be handled by means of registered letters, but rather by means that allow for preserving confidentiality and maintaining trust and friendly dialogue, and which always remain inside the realm of the Christian congregation. Therefore, we deeply regret having to respond by registered letter—given that you have chosen this means of communication—and it is done with great displeasure and sadness since we consider that we are addressing a dear sister in the faith; and it has never been the custom of Jehovah’s Witnesses to use written communication for this, because we strive to imitate the model of humility and love that Christ taught should dominate among his followers. Any other attitude would be to act contrary to the basic principles of the Christian faith. (Matthew 5:9). 1 Corinthians 6: 7 says, “Actually then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.” Therefore, we are obliged to state to you that we will not answer any more registered letters from you, but will only attempt to communicate through friendly theocratic means, which are appropriate to our brotherhood.
In Argentina, a registered letter is called a “carta documento”. If you send one, a copy goes to the recipient, a copy stays with you, and a third copy stays with the post office. Therefore, it has legal weight as evidence in a lawsuit which is what concerns the branch office here.
The branch office refers to 1 Corinthians 6:7 to claim that such letters are not something a Christian should employ. However, this is a misapplication of the Apostle’s words. He would never condone an abuse of power, nor provide a means for those in power to escape the consequences of the actions. Witnesses love to quote from the Hebrew Scriptures, yet how often do those speak about such abuses of power and the fact that the little one has no recourse, but that God would hold an accounting.
“…Their course is evil, and they abuse their power. “Both the prophet and the priest are polluted. Even in my own house I have found their wickedness,” declares Jehovah.” (Jer 23:10, 11)
When Paul was being abused by the leaders of God’s holy nation, Israel, what did he do? He cried out, “I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:11).
The tone of the letter is one of petulance. They cannot play the game by their rules, and it ticks them off. For once, they are being forced to face the consequences of their actions.
From the third article, we learn that Felix’s tactic of threatening legal action bore fruit. They did not disfellowship him and his wife, though the slander and libel (slandering in writing via text message is libel) were not undone.
However, what does that say about these men that seek to shun him? Seriously, if Felix is a sinner, then these men should stand up for what is right, be loyal to Jehovah, and disfellowship him. They shouldn’t worry about the consequences. If they are persecuted for doing what is right, then it is a source of praise for them. Their treasure is safe in the heavens. If they are righteously upholding Bible principles, then why back off? Do they value profit over principle? Are they afraid to stand for what is right? Or do they know deep down that their actions are not righteous at all?
I do love this passage: “it has never been the custom of Jehovah’s Witnesses to use written communication for this, because we strive to imitate the model of humility and love that Christ taught should dominate among his followers. Any other attitude would be to act contrary to the basic principles of the Christian faith.”
While it is true that they don’t like to use “written communication” for such matters because it leaves a trail of evidence for which they can be held accountable, there is no truth to the statement that they do so to model the “humility and love that Christ taught”. It makes one wonder if these men read the Bible at all. Outside of the four gospels and the account of Acts, the rest of the Christian Scriptures consist of letters written to the congregations, often with strong rebukes for misconduct. Consider the letter to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and John’s Revelation with its letters to the seven congregations. What hogwash they spout!
In the article “A Weapon of Darkness” we find this delicious quote from an 18th century Bishop:
“Authority is the greatest and most irreconcilable enemy to truth and argument that this world ever furnished. All the sophistry—all the color of plausibility—the artifice and cunning of the subtlest disputer in the world may be laid open and turned to the advantage of that very truth which they are designed to hide; but against authority there is no defence.” (18th Century Scholar Bishop Benjamin Hoadley)
The elders and the branch cannot defend themselves using Scripture, so they fall back on the time-honored cudgel of ecclesiastical authority. (Perhaps I should say “nightstick” given the current climate.) Given their power, Felix and his wife are using the only defense they have against the authority of the Organization. How typical that they now paint him as working against God by not following theocratic procedure. This is projection. They are the ones not following theocratic procedure. Where in the Bible are elders allowed to form three-man committees, hold secret meetings, disallow any recordings of or witnesses to the proceedings, and punish someone for speaking only truth? In Israel, judicial cases were heard by the older men sitting at the city gates where any passerby could hear and observe the proceedings. No late-night secret meetings were allowed by Scripture.
They speak of keeping confidentiality. Who does that protect? The accused, or the judges? A judicial matter is not the time for “confidentiality”. They crave it because they crave the darkness, just as Jesus said:
“. . .men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For he that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.”” (John 3:19-21)
Felix and wife want the light of day, while the men in the Branch and the local elders want the darkness of their “confidentiality”.
Having clarified this, we are also obliged to reject all your assertions as being completely inappropriate within the religious sphere, something you are well aware of and which you accepted at the time of your baptism. The local religious ministers will only act according to theocratic procedures based on the Bíble without imposing any of the actions your letter alleges. The congregation is not governed by human procedural norms nor by the spirit of confrontation typical of secular courts. The decisions of the religious ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be overruled since their decisions are not subject to review by the secular authorities (art. 19 CN). As you will understand, we are obliged to reject all your allegations. Know this, dear sister, that any decision by the elders of the congregation made according to the established theocratic procedures, and that are proper to our religious community on a biblical basis, will be fully operative without there being any legal recourse on the basis of alleged damages and/or harm and/or religious discrimination. Law 23.592 would never apply to such a case. Finally, your constitutional rights are not higher than the constitutional rights that also support us. Far from being a question of competing rights, it is about the necessary differentiation of areas: the state cannot interfere in the religious sphere because acts of internal discipline are exempt from the authority of magistrates (art. 19 CN).
This demonstrates a complete disdain for “God’s minister”. (Romans 13:1-7) Again, they claim to be acting only by what the Bible says, yet they provide no scriptures to support: their secret committees; their refusal to keep any written and public record of the proceedings; their total prohibition against witnesses and observers, their common practice of not informing the accused of the evidence against him beforehand so he/she can prepare a defense; their practice of concealing the names of a person’s accusers.
Does not Proverbs 18:17 guarantee the accused the right to cross-examine his accuser. In fact, if you search through the scriptures for an example that matches the judicial proceedings common among Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will find only one: The star chamber trial of Jesus Christ by the Jewish Sanhedrin.
As to their statement that “the congregation is not governed by human procedural norms nor by the spirit of confrontation typical of secular courts.” Poppycock! Why, in this very instance, the elders engaged in a campaign of public vilification and slander. How much more confrontational could it have been? Just imagine if a judge in one of the secular courts they so easily disdain did such a thing. Not only would he be removed from the case he was trying, but he would surely face dismissal and very likely be brought up on criminal charges.
They do a lot of chest thumping about how they can operate freely and without concern for violating the country’s laws, but were that the case, why did they back off in the end?
I love the allusion to “the terms…you accepted at the time of your baptism.” In other words, “you agreed to our terms (not God’s) and so are bound by them, like it or not.” Do they not realize that a person cannot surrender his human rights? For instance, if you sign a contract to become someone’s slave and then renege and want your freedom, they cannot sue you for breach of contract, because the contract is null and void on its face. It is illegal to try to force someone to give up their human rights which are enshrined in the law of the land and cannot be taken away be a signed contract or one implied by virtue of baptism.
You well know that the work carried out by the congregation elders, including the disciplinary work—if this were the case, and to which you submitted when you were baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness—is governed by the Holy Scriptures and, as an Organization, we have always adhered to the Scriptures in performing disciplinary work (Galatians 6:1). Furthermore, you are responsible for your actions (Galatians 6:7) and Christian ministers have the God-given ecclesiastical authority to take measures that protect all members of the congregation and preserve high biblical standards (Revelation 1:20). Therefore, we must clarify that from now on we will not agree to discuss in any judicial forum matters that only concern the religious sphere and that are exempt from the authority of the magistrates, as has been repeatedly recognized by the national judiciary.
This is the area I would love to see brought before the human rights tribunal of any nation. Yes, any religion has the right to determine who may be a member and who can be thrown out, just like any social club can. That is not the issue. The issue is one of social blackmail. They don’t just throw you out. They force all your family and friends to shun you. By this threat, they deny their followers the right of free speech and free assembly.
They misapply 2 John which speaks only of those who deny the Christ coming in the flesh. They put that on the same level as disagreeing with their interpretation of Scripture. What an incredible presumption!
They cite Galatians 6:1 which reads: “Brothers, even if a man takes a false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness. But keep an eye on yourself, for fear you too may be tempted.”
It doesn’t say officially appointed elders, but those with spiritual qualifications. Felix wanted to discuss these matters with them using the Scriptures, but they wouldn’t have it. They never do. So who is demonstrating spiritual qualifications? If you are afraid to engage in a reasonable Bible discussion, can you still claim to have “spiritual qualifications”? Go to them and challenge any of their beliefs using only the Bible and you will get the standard response, “We are not here to debate you.” That is the pat phrase that really says, “we know we can’t win an argument if we can only use the Bible for support. All we have is the authority of the Governing Body and its publications.” (The JW publications have become the Catechism of Jehovah’s Witnesses and like its Catholic father, it holds authority over Scripture.)
Their only recourse is the exercise of ecclesiastical authority. We have to bear in mind that their “God-given ecclesiastical authority” is not given by God at all, but by the self-appointed men of the Governing Body.
Finally, we sincerely and deeply express our wish that, as you carefully meditate prayerfully on your position as God’s humble servant, you may proceed according to divine will, focus on your spiritual activities, accept the help that the elders of the congregation seek to give you (Revelation 2:1) and “Throw your burden on Jehovah” (Psalm 55:22). We bid you farewell with Christian affection, sincerely hoping that you can find the peace that will allow you to act with the peaceful wisdom of God (James 3:17).
With the foregoing, we close this epistolary exchange with this letter, expressing our appreciation and wishing you the Christian love that you deserve and that we have for you, sincerely hoping that you reconsider.
This is my favorite part. Out of their own mouth comes their condemnation! They cite Psalm 55:22, which is the go-to text used by elders and branch officials to quiet the victims of abuse of power, but I’m sure they never read the context. If they want Felix to apply this verse to his situation then they have to accept the part that applies to them. It reads:
Listen to my prayer, O God,
And do not ignore my request for mercy.
2 Do pay attention to me and answer me.
My concern makes me restless,
And I am distraught
3 Because of what the enemy is saying
And the pressure from the wicked one.
For they heap trouble upon me,
And in anger they harbor animosity against me.
4 My heart is in anguish within me,
And the terrors of death overwhelm me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
And shuddering grips me.
6 I keep saying: “If only I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and reside in safety.
7 Look! I would flee far away.
I would lodge in the wilderness. (Selah)
8 I would hurry to a place of shelter
Away from the raging wind, away from the storm.”
9 Confuse them, O Jehovah, and frustrate their plans,
For I have seen violence and conflict in the city.
10 Day and night they walk around on its walls;
Within it are malice and trouble.
11 Ruin is in its midst;
Oppression and deception never depart from its public square.
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me;
Otherwise I could put up with it.
It is not a foe who has risen up against me;
Otherwise I could conceal myself from him.
13 But it is you, a man like me,
My own companion whom I know well.
14 We used to enjoy a warm friendship together;
Into the house of God we used to walk along with the multitude.
15 May destruction overtake them!
Let them go down alive into the Grave;
For evil resides among them and within them.
16 As for me, I will call out to God,
And Jehovah will save me.
17 Evening and morning and noontime, I am troubled and I groan,
And he hears my voice.
18 He will rescue me and give me peace from those fighting against me,
For multitudes come against me.
19 God will hear and respond to them,
The one who sits enthroned from of old. (Selah)
They will refuse to change,
Those who have not feared God.
20 He attacked those at peace with him;
He violated his covenant.
21 His words are smoother than butter,
But conflict is in his heart.
His words are softer than oil,
But they are drawn swords.
22 Throw your burden on Jehovah,
And he will sustain you.
Never will he allow the righteous one to fall.
23 But you, O God, will bring them down to the deepest pit.
Those bloodguilty and deceitful men will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I will trust in you.
By using this scripture, they have given Felix and his wife much needed encouragement. Why? Because they have labeled them both as “the righteous one”. That leaves themselves to fill the role of “those bloodguilty and deceitful men”. They have aptly, though unwittingly, cast themselves in the role of enemies of God.
Remember, our days are not just 70 or 80 years, but eternity if we humbly submit to God. Even though we sleep in death, we will awaken when the Lord calls. But will he call us to life or to judgment? (John 5:27-30)
What a shock it will be for so many individuals who hold themselves to be the most righteous of men when they awaken to find they are not standing in the warmth of the Lord’s approval, but in the harsh light of the Lord’s judgment. Will they then humbly repent? Time will tell.