We all know what “propaganda” means. It is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” But it may surprise you, as it did me, to learn where the word originated.
Exactly 400 years ago, in 1622, Pope Gregory XV set up a committee of cardinals in charge of foreign missions of the Catholic church named Congregatio de Propaganda Fide or congregation for propagating the faith.
The word has a religious etymology. In the broader sense, propaganda is a form of lying used by men to seduce people into following them and obeying them and supporting them.
Propaganda might be compared to a beautiful banquet of sumptuous food. It looks good, and it tastes good, and we want to feast, but what we don’t know is that the food is infused with a slow acting poison.
Consuming propaganda poisons our mind.
How can we recognize it for what it really is? Our Lord Jesus did not leave us defenseless so that we might be easily seduced by liars.
“Either you make the tree fine and its fruit fine or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten, for by its fruit the tree is known. Offspring of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things. I tell you that men will render an account on Judgment Day for every unprofitable saying that they speak; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”” (Matthew 12:33-37)
“Offspring of vipers”: Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders of his day. Elsewhere he likened them to whitewashed graves such as you see here. Outside they appear clean and bright but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and “every sort of uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
Religious leaders give themselves away to the careful observer by the words they use. Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
With that in mind, let’s have a look at this month’s Broadcast on JW.org as an example of religious propaganda. Notice the theme of the broadcast.
This is a very common and recurring theme among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Just how abundant in the heart of the Governing Body is the theme of unity?
A scan of all Watchtower publications going back to 1950 reveals some interesting figures. The word “united” appears about 20,000 times. The word “unity” appears about 5000 times. That averages out to around 360 occurrences a year, or about 7 occurrences a week at the meetings, not to count the number of times the word comes up in talks from the platform. Obviously, being united is paramount to the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a faith allegedly based on the Bible.
Given that “united” appears about 20,000 times in the publications and “unity” about 5,000 times, we would expect that the Christian Greek Scriptures would be ripe with this theme and that those two words would appear often and reflect the emphasis that the Organization gives to them. So, let’s have a looky-see, shall we.
In the New World Translation Reference Bible, “united” occurs only five times. Only five times, how odd. And only two of those occurrences relate to unity within the congregation.
“. . .Now I exhort YOU, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that YOU should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among YOU, but that YOU may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
“. . .For we have had the good news declared to us also, even as they also had; but the word which was heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who did hear.” (Hebrews 4:2)
Okay, well, that’s surprising, isn’t it? What about the word “unity” which appears about 5,000 times in the publications. Surely, a word that important in the publications will find Scriptural support. How often does “unity” occur in the New World Translation? One hundred times? Fifty times? Ten times? I feel I bit like Abraham trying to get Jehovah to spare the city of Sodom. “If only ten righteous men are found in the City, will you spare it?” Well, the number of times—not counting footnotes by the translator—that the word “unity” occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures in the New World Translation is a big, fat ZERO.
The governing body, through the publications, speaks out of the abundance of its heart, and its message is that of unity. Jesus also spoke out of the abundance of his heart, but being unified wasn’t the theme of his preaching. In fact, he tells us he came to cause the very opposite of unification. He came to cause division.
“. . .Do you think I came to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51)
But wait a minute, you might ask, “Isn’t unity good, and isn’t division bad?” I would answer, it all depends. Are the people of North Korea united behind their leader, Kim Jong-un? Yes! Is that a good thing? What do you think? Would you doubt the righteousness of the unity of the nation of North Korea, because that unity is not based on love, but on fear?
Is the unity that Mark Sanderson brags about due to Christian love, or does it stem from fear of being shunned for holding a different opinion from that of the Governing Body? Don’t answer too quickly. Think about it.
The Organization wants you to think they are the only ones who are united, while everyone else is divided. It is part of the propaganda to get their flock to have an us vs. them mentality.
When I was a practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses, I used to believe what Mark Sanderson says here was evidence that I was in the one true religion. I believed that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been around and united since the days of Russell, since 1879. Not true. Jehovah’s Witnesses came into being in 1931. Up to that point, under Russell and then under Rutherford, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was a printing company providing spiritual guidance to many independent Bible Student groups. By the time Rutherford centralized control by 1931, only 25% of the original groups remained with Rutherford. So much for unity. Many of these groups still exist. However, the main reason that the Organization hasn’t fragmented since then is that unlike Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, and other evangelical groups, Witnesses have a special way of dealing with any who disagree with the leadership. They attack them in the earliest stages of their heresy when they just start to disagree with the leadership. They have managed through a misapplication of Bible law to convince their entire flock to shun the dissenters. Thus, the unity they so proudly boast of is much like the unity the North Korea leader enjoys—unity based on fear. This is not the way of the Christ, who has the power to intimidate and ensure fear-based loyalty, but never uses that power, because Jesus, like his Father, wants loyalty based on love.
This is how a propaganda message can seduce you. What he says is true, up to a point. Those are lovely interracial pictures of happy, good-looking people who obviously have love for one another. But what is strongly implied is that all Jehovah’s Witnesses are like this and that nowhere else in the world is it like this. You don’t find this type of loving unity in the world, or in other Christian denominations, but you’ll find it everywhere you go within the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is simply not true.
A member of our Bible study group lives on the Polish border with Ukraine. He witnessed the many kiosks which various charitable and religious organizations have set up to provide real support for the refugees fleeing the war. He saw lineups of people at these places getting food, clothing, transportation, and shelter. He also saw a booth set up by the Witnesses with the blue JW.org logo, but there were no line ups in front of it, because that booth only catered to Jehovah’s Witnesses fleeing the war. This is standard operating procedure among Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have witnessed this myself time and again over my decades within the organization. Witnesses continue to fail to obey Jesus’ command about love:
“You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NWT)
Let’s be clear on something. I’m not suggesting that all Jehovah’s Witnesses are unloving or selfish. Those pictures you just saw are very likely reflections of true Christian love for their fellow believers. There are many good Christians among Jehovah’s Witnesses, just as there are many good Christians among the other denominations of Christendom. But there is a principle all religious leaders of all denominations overlook. I first learned this in my twenties, though I failed to see the extent to which it applies as I now do.
I had just returned from preaching in the South American country of Colombia and was getting reestablished in my home country of Canada. The Canada branch called a meeting of all the elders in the southern Ontario area, and we gathered at a large auditorium. The elder arrangement was still quite new, and we were getting instructions on how to manage under that new arrangement. Don Mills of the Canada branch was speaking to us about situations that were arising in various congregations where things weren’t going well. This was the post 1975 era. The newly appointed elders were often contributing to the drop in congregation morale, but naturally were reluctant to look inward and take any blame. Instead, they would fixate on certain older faithful ones who were always there and always just chugging along. Don Mills told us not to look at such ones as proof we were doing a good job as elders. He said that such ones as those will do well in spite of you. I shall never forget that.
Being united in the good news you preach and in the instruction you receive is nothing to brag about if the good news you preach is a false good news and the instruction you receive is full of false doctrine. Cannot the members of the churches of Christendom say the same things? Jesus didn’t tell the Samaritan woman “God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and unity.”
Mark Sanderson is again playing the Us vs. Them card by making the false claim that there is no unity outside of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That is simply not true. He needs you to believe this, because he is using unity as the distinguishing mark of true Christians, but that is nonsense, and frankly, unscriptural. The devil is united. Christ himself attests to that fact.
“. . .Knowing their imaginations he said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and a house [divided] against itself falls. So if Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?. . .” (Luke 11:17, 18)
True Christianity is distinguished by love, but not just any love. Jesus said,
“. . .I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”” (John 13:34, 35)
Did you notice the qualifying characteristic of Christian love. It is that we love one another just as Jesus loves us. And how does he love us.
“. . .For, indeed, Christ, while we were yet weak, died for ungodly men at the appointed time. For hardly will anyone die for a righteous [man]; indeed, for the good [man], perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
The Governing Body wants Witnesses to focus on unity, because when it comes to love, they don’t make the cut. Let’s consider this excerpt:
What about people committing religiously motivated hate crimes against each other?
If you were to tell the elders that something the organization is teaching is contrary to Scripture and you were then to prove it using the Bible, what would they do? They would get all the Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world to shun you. That is what they would do. If you were to start to study the Bible with a group of friends, what would the elders do to you? Again, they would disfellowship you and get all your Witness friends and family to shun you. Isn’t that a hate crime? This isn’t speculation, as our previous video demonstrated in the case of Diana from Utah who was shunned because she refused to stop attending an online Bible study outside of the Watch Tower’s organizational arrangements. The Governing Body justifies this abhorrent behavior on the basis of preserving unity, because they hold unity to be more important than love. The Apostle John would disagree.
“The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message which YOU have heard from [the] beginning, that we should have love for one another; 12 not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother. And for the sake of what did he slaughter him? Because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother [were] righteous.” (1 John 3:10-12)
If you disfellowship someone for speaking the truth, then you are like Cain. The organization cannot burn people at the stake, but they can kill them socially, and because they believe that a disfellowshipped one is liable to die eternally at Armageddon, they have committed murder in their hearts. And why do they disfellowship a lover of truth? Because, like Cain, “their works are wicked, but those of their brother are righteous.”
Now you may say that I’m not being fair. Doesn’t the Bible condemn those causing division? Sometimes “yes,” but other times, it praises them. Just as with unity, division is all about the situation. Sometimes unity is bad; sometimes, division is good. Remember, Jesus said, “Do you think I came to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Luke 12:51 NWT)
Mark Sanderson is about to condemn those causing division, but as we will see, to the critical thinker, he ends up condemning the Governing Body. Let’s listen and then analyze.
Remember that propaganda is about misdirection. Here he states a truth, but without context. There was division in the Corinthian congregation. Then he misdirects his listeners to think that the division was the result of people acting selfishly and demanding that their own preferences, conveniences, and opinions mattered more than others. That is not what Paul was admonishing the Corinthians against. I’m sure there is a reason that Mark hasn’t read the full text from Corinthians. Doing so does not cast him, nor the other members of the Governing Body in a favorable light. Let’s read the immediate context:
“For the disclosure was made to me about YOU, my brothers, by those of [the house of] Chloʹe, that dissensions exist among YOU. What I mean is this, that each one of YOU says: “I belong to Paul,” “But I to A·polʹlos,” “But I to Ceʹphas,” “But I to Christ.” The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for YOU, was he? Or were YOU baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13 NWT)
The divisions and dissensions were not the result of selfishness nor of people egotistically pushing their opinions on others. The dissension was the result of Christians choosing to follow men and not the Christ. It would not serve Mark Sanderson to point that out given that he wants people to follow the men of the Governing Body instead of Christ.
Paul goes on to reason with them:
“What, then, is A·polʹlos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom YOU became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, A·polʹlos watered, but God kept making [it] grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes [it] grow. Now he that plants and he that waters are one, but each [person] will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. YOU people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
Men are nothing. Is there anyone like Paul today? If you took all eight members of the Governing Body and combined them into one, would they measure up to Paul? Have they written under inspiration like Paul? No, yet Paul says, he was just a fellow worker. And he rebukes those of the Corinthian congregation who chose to follow him instead of the Christ. If you choose today to follow the Christ instead of the Governing Body, how long do you think you’d remain in “good standing” within the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Paul continues reasoning:
“Let no one be seducing himself: If anyone among YOU thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own cunning.” And again: “Jehovah knows that the reasonings of the wise men are futile.” Hence let no one be boasting in men; for all things belong to YOU, whether Paul or A·polʹlos or Ceʹphas or the world or life or death or things now here or things to come, all things belong to YOU; in turn YOU belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-23)
If you scan through the dozens of Bible translations available on the internet, like through biblehub.com, you will find that none of them describes the slave at Matthew 24:45 as “faithful and discreet”, like the New World Translation does. The most common rendering is “faithful and wise.” And who has told us that the Governing Body is the “faithful and wise slave”? Why, they have said so themselves, haven’t they? And here Paul tell us, after admonishing us not to follow men, that “if anyone among YOU thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.” The Governing Body thinks they are wise and tells us so, but have made so many foolish mistakes that you would think that they might have gained true wisdom from the experience, and become wise- but alas, that does not appear to be the case.
Now if there had been a Governing Body in the first century, this situation would have been ideal for Paul to have directed the attention of the Corinthian brothers to them- as Mark does constantly in this video. He would have said what we have heard so often from the lips of JW elders: Something like, “Brothers in Corinth, you need to follow the direction of the channel Jehovah is using today, the Governing Body in Jerusalem.” But he doesn’t. In fact, neither he nor any other Christian Bible writer makes any mention of a Governing Body.
Paul actually condemns the modern Governing Body. Did you catch how?
In reasoning with the Corinthians that they should not be following men, but only the Christ, he says: “Or were YOU baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
When Jehovah’s Witnesses baptize a person, they ask them to answer affirmatively to two questions, the second of which is “Do you understand that your baptism identifies you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with Jehovah’s organization?” Clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are baptized in the name of the Organization.
I have put this question to a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses and always the answer is the same: “If you had to choose between following what Jesus says or what the Governing Body says, which would you choose?” The answer is the Governing Body.
The Governing Body speaks of unity, when in fact they are guilty of causing division in the body of Christ. For them, unity is achieved by following them, not Jesus Christ. Any form of Christian unity which does not obey Jesus is evil. If you doubt that they do this, that they put themselves over Jesus, consider the evidence Mark Sanderson presents next.
“Follow direction from Jehovah’s organization.” First of all, let’s deal with the word “direction.” That is a euphemism for commands. If you don’t follow the direction of the Organization, you’ll get pulled into the back room of a Kingdom hall and be sternly counselled about being disobedient to those taking the lead. If you continue not to follow “direction,” you will lose privileges. If you continue to disobey, you will be removed from the congregation. Direction is JW speak for commands, so let’s be honest now and reword that to “Obey the commands from Jehovah’s organization.” What is an organization – it is not a conscious entity. It is not a life form. So where do the commands originate? From the men of the Governing Body. So let’s again be honest and reword this to read: “Obey the commands from the men of the Governing Body.” That’s how you obtain unity.
Now when Paul tells the Corinthians to be united, he puts it like this:
“Now I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
The Governing Body uses that to insist that the unity Paul is speaking of can be achieved by “obeying the commands of the men from the Governing Body”, or as they put it, by following the direction from Jehovah’s organization.” But what if it’s not Jehovah’s organization, but rather the Governing Body’s organization? What then?
Right after telling the Corinthians to be united in the same mind and line of thought…right after…Paul states what we’ve already read, but I’m going to amend it ever so slightly to help us all to see Paul’s point as it applies to our current situation today.
“. . .there are dissensions among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: “I belong to Jehovah’s organization,” “But I to the Governing Body,” “But I to Christ.” Is the Christ divided? The Governing Body was not executed on the stake for you, was it? Or were you baptized in the name of the Organization?” (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)
Paul’s point is that we should all be following Jesus Christ and we should all be obeying him. Yet, when extolling the need for unity, does Mark Sanderson list that as his first and most important point — the need to follow direction from Jesus Christ, or the need to obey the commands in the Bible? No! His emphasis is on following men. He is doing the very thing he condemns others for doing in this video.
Based on the evidence, who do you think cares more about their privileges, pride, and opinions within the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
When COVID vaccines became available, the Governing Body gave “direction” that all Jehovah’s Witnesses should be vaccinated. Now this is a contentious issue, and I’m not going to weigh in on one side or the other. I have been vaccinated, but I have close friends who have not been vaccinated. The point I’m making is that it is a matter for each one to determine for themselves. Right or wrong, the choice is a personal one. Jesus Christ has the right and authority to tell me to do something and expect me to obey, even if I don’t want to. But no man has that authority, yet the Governing Body believes it does. It believes that the direction or commands it issues are coming from Jehovah, because they are acting as his channel, when the real channel Jehovah is using is Jesus Christ.
So the unity they are promoting is not unity with Christ, but unity with men. Brothers and sisters within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this is a time of trial. Your loyalty is being tested. There is division within the congregation. On the one side, there are those who follow men, the men of the Governing Body, and on the other side, are those who obey the Christ. Which one are you? Remember Jesus’s words: Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
What effect do those words of our Lord have upon you? How do they impact your life? Let’s consider that in our next video.
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