[Contributed by Graham Vern]

 When a person becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they primarily join an association, in truth, a club. This might sound outlandish, if not extreme, especially when most believe it to be a benign, albeit quirky religion. But let’s explain.

First, members do genuinely believe that they are the true Christians and on its face, it appears to be a religion based on the Bible. However, the procedures and the extensive process to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is definitely not Christian, and the removal of a member takes on a vindictive  and sinister behaviour.

To join, any new applicant undertakes a ‘Bible study’ which in all reality is an indoctrination program to learn the beliefs and club rules. This can take months and sometimes years. If they get indoctrinated enough, they may want to join.

They then have to go through the hundred or more questions described as, ‘Baptismal Questions’ These are usually completed in three sessions and always with two members present, usually one an elderlet’s view Elders as Club branch committee members.

Based on their answers and understanding to all the questions, the Club branch committee members meet and decide if the applicant has been indoctrinated enough so as to comply with all the rules of the club. If so, then the candidate can be baptised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On the day of baptism, candidates are asked two further questions in public. When they say ‘Yes’  in a loud voice to each question, they get baptised.

This final act is confirmation to current members that the applicant has accepted all the terms and conditions of the club. They are now one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This Club cherry picks numerous Bible verses to justify the process. In fact, the Club will use and cite any Bible verse to support any one of the myriad of the Club rules. Most of us are aware that Bible verses can be used to support any doctrine or rule when taken out of context. But this Club is one of the most innovative and imaginative in making scriptures fit any purpose.

A layperson might say that all this doesn’t make fit with the idea of joining a religion supposedly based on the Bible. But when you view Watchtower as an elite club than the penny will drop.

Why is Watchtower so adamant that all its club rules be strictly followed? The answer is simple: To protect the Club and its assets. If a member in the future decides to leave (dissociate) or is expelled (disfellowshipped), the extensive rule book will ensure there is little likelihood of any financial loss or legal comeback. So, there is logical rational to the club’s seemingly illogical approach.

Other than the actual water immersion, none of the other rituals/procedures; the questions, the committees, are Christian requirements. But the club is not interested in the act of accepting salvation through Jesus Christ, we must always remember that everything is intended to protect the assets of the club.

This whole procedurethe questions, the interviewshas been established over many years with amendments, when necessary, ensuring the Club is legally protected.

It is clever and devious; so orchestrated that members have no excuse if they question the authority of the Club and especially those who make the rules: The elite boardroom, the Governing Body (GB).

Should any member break any of the extensive rule list, there is a well-trodden procedure to follow. The Club branch committee members (the local body of elders) can hold an inquisition known as a judicial hearing which is made up of three Club branch committee members.

This committee can vote a member in or out. Obviously, this depends on what rules have been transgressed and more importantly how an errant member has responded to the judicial inquisition. Do they repent and promise to keep to the rules? When the investigation is complete, the Club branch (congregation) which is an associate member of the Club known as Jehovah’s Witnesses is informed of the judicial committee’s decision especially if the member is expelled (disfellowshipped).

Calling the judicial committee hearing an inquisition may seem far-fetched, but it aptly describes the process. It is simply an inquiry into the errant member’s actions and behaviour. The errant member has little recourse or control over the result. It is purely a fact-finding investigation to decide the member’s fate.

All the guidelines, procedures, and rules are written in extensive detail in the committee members handbook, known as the Shepherd the Flock book.

Surprisingly, it is only available to members who are on the Club committee (body of elders). The errant member will rarely have access or knowledge that the rule book exists. The latest addition, which is updated regularly, is larger and more detailed than the law of Moses.

These rules are loosely based on the Bible but not necessarily the Christian part.

As mentioned earlier, they will use any verse that suits them to credit the rule book.

They give the guise that they follow the lessons taught by Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul’s understanding of Christianity. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

This Club is so strict that many cannot keep to the extreme standards, finding them to be overly repressive, and so, many leave, either by being expelled (disfellowshipped) or conversely taking the safer course, going quietly—i.e., no longer attending meetings or preaching. This course is known as ‘fading’.

The most dangerous option though, is choosing to go out with a Bang!

This is done by highlighting to any who will listen, the reasons why they are leaving. Most of these now ex-members will be labelled ‘Apostates’. Other members, the rank and file of Jehovah Witnesses are trained and conditioned that anyone who is labelled apostate are now mentally diseased and Satanic, and are to be avoided at all costs. In truth, for any member who decides to leave the Club,  the process is fraught with stress and psychological pain that can go on for months and sometimes years.

The ultimate penalty is shunning. Initially, this may not seem so bad. But the reality is that from the moment it is announced that a member is no longer “one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, the shunning begins. Other members will have nothing to do with the ex-member, whether they are family, loved ones, friends or associates; it just doesn’t matter.

In a single moment, the ex-member loses their whole social community. Many younger ones will be left alone in a world in which they have little experience. There is no recourse; an ex-member can do little to redress the situation other than to repent and rejoin. But that process can take months, even years, before they are allowed back in. They will have to sit in the Club house (Kingdom Hall) whilst former friends ignore and shun them. After enduring this degrading treatment, eventually another committee may be formed to investigate the errant ex-member’s present behaviour. If they feel they have been broken in spirit and are sufficiently contrite, they might be allowed back in.

You may ask: “How is it possible that life-long friends and family can so heartlessly shun former members?” Before we can answer, consider this question: What if a member continues to associate or speak to others who are also ex-members of the Club?

Club rules dictate that no member is allowed to have any social interaction with ex-members including close family; it just doesn’t matter who they are. All this is regularly explained and reiterated in the monthly Club magazine known as the Watchtower magazine. Additionally, every month there is a monthly broadcast by the elite GB and their ‘Helpers’, all reinforcing the rules of the club.

In conclusion, we may mock what seem like silly questions, subtle interviews, and rituals that one must go through just to become a ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’, but please don’t be fooled. All this rigmarole, is very astute and very clever. As mentioned previously, it is designed solely to protect the organisation every way possible. It is all tried, tested, and successful as born out by the results of past litigation against this organisation. Since the late 1940s, wins against this organisation by expelled members are almost non-existent.

The Watchtower Society purports to be a loving Christian religious movement. However, their structure and how they function is based purely on Club rules and membership. The evidence indicates that this organisation is a high functioning controlling sect with a hierarchy reaching an apex of elite members known as the Governing Body.

They expect unquestioning loyalty and total submission from members to any rulings or change of doctrines they might decide on at the roll of the dice. Remember that these processes, from start to finish, are in place to ensure that the organisation is totally protected from dissident ex-members against any legal and/or financial losses.

The more you read and study about Jehovah’s Witnesses and how the mechanics of their organisation work, the more you realise they are as close as can be to a fully pledged dangerous and extreme cult with no redress for its members in or out.

And finally, Jehovah’s Witnesses might argue, where is the scriptural evidence to support these observations? The reply would be: WWhere is theirs? All the cherry picking of scriptures in God’s word still cannot explain away the extensive rules of an organisation which, under the façade of Christianity, appears to be designed as a commercial entity.

 

 

 

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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