This time round Witnesses are being told to avoid close association with any who indulge in “personal speculations and critical conversations.” Such ones are to be considered as “false apostles” (a kind of milder version of apostates), who attend meetings but nevertheless “speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
Witnesses are also warned against “time wasting pursuits” such as “keeping in contact through social networks, reading and answering electronic messages, avidly pursuing hobbies, or constantly keeping abreast of sports events.”
And in an echo of the “close ranks” mentality set forth in the November issue, Witnesses are instructed to ignore any negative reports from journalists. “Misleading statements and outright lies about Jehovah’s servants are sometimes featured in the media,” rants the Watchtower, citing no examples. “Newspaper headlines, television documentaries, and Internet Web pages are used to propagate untruths. As a result, some people become disturbed, gullibly believing such lies.”
Backs against the wall?
When reading the first study article of the December 15 magazine, I can’t help but behold an organization that is lashing out like a caged animal. Any organization that wants to be taken seriously by outsiders would not say “the media is lying, you should ignore them,” but would rather demonstrate HOW they are lying, and give evidence of such. The fact that no evidence is given, with no examples cited, suggests to any thinking person that, in fact, the media reports are likely accurate – and Watchtower simply doesn’t want people to read them.
It has long been a paradox that Watchtower both admits to using the media “when necessary to convey an accurate picture of our beliefs” (Bearing Witness book, page 110), while at the same time lampooning it as an instrument of Satan. If the media is truly “influenced by the Devil” (as this latest article suggests), then how is Watchtower able to “use” it at all? You can’t have it both ways. If the media is truly under Satan’s control, then Watchtower shouldn’t even be trying to use it. – 2 Cor 6:14-17
With no real explanation or clarification, Witnesses are merely left with instructions to listen to the media when it has nice things to say about the organization (such as when reporting on Conventions), but ignore any negative news reports because these must automatically be lies and deception. Does this approach raise red flags with anyone other than me?
In emphasizing its anti-media message, Watchtower has even “recycled” the exact same image that was used in the now-infamous July 15 2011 “mentally diseased” magazine, which seemingly portrays a Witness couple being startled by an apostate being interviewed on television…
Arguably the most vociferous attacks in this issue are reserved for the new enemy within that has been identified for us by the Governing Body. No, we are not talking about so-called “mentally diseased” apostates. Referring to the early Christians, Watchtower warns: “Admittedly, Christians would face dangers other than those from apostates and their teachings.”
The words of 2 Thessalonians 3:6,10 are then wheeled out to argue that Witnesses should “withdraw from every brother walking disorderly” by limiting association with perceived “false apostles.” These are not apostates, but are seen as “veering toward apostasy.” “Yes, close association with such individuals back then [in the First Century] was especially dangerous and was to be avoided – and that is also true today.”
And so a whole new level of paranoia is now being encouraged. The walls of the Kingdom Hall are no longer a boundary between God’s people and Satan’s influence. “Trust no one” should be the new motto for Witnesses. The enemy could be the brother sitting next to you. “If ever someone attending our congregation meetings would try to entice us into discussions of personal speculations or critical conversations, we should definitely be on guard.”
It is interesting that the Society should single out speculation as something we should be on guard against. For example, family worship sessions are prescribed in paragraph 15 of the first study article as being a “safeguard” against “speculation and doubts.” In fact, the word “speculation” appears five times throughout this new magazine. It is clearly a word Witnesses are to loath and distrust.
The irony, of course, is that the Governing Body has free rein to engage in their own speculation, such as with the recent “new light” about the faithful and discreet slave, which requires logic-defying mental gymnastics to even begin to comprehend. But if speculation is attempted on a personal basis outside that group of men, this marks one out as a “false apostle” who should be avoided as someone who is on the slippery slope to apostasy.
“Avoid time wasting pursuits!”
But it isn’t just those who indulge in speculation who are to be avoided. Paragraph 11 in the first study article uses Paul’s words in Hebrews 2:1 about those who might “drift away.” Such drifting away is identified in paragraph 12 as being linked to “time wasting pursuits.” As previously stated, any use of social media, electronic messaging, avid pursuit of hobbies or even being well-versed in the latest sporting developments could mark one out as being such a “drifter.” The result of any of these vices is said to be a loss of spirituality. “Heartfelt prayer, study of God’s Word, meeting attendance and preaching the good news might suffer,” the magazine warns.
How are we to avoid such a fate? “One thing that we definitely need to do is remain aware of the time we are living in and the potential effect of association with those who refuse to acknowledge that these are the ‘last days,'” urges the writer in paragraph 13. In other words, if someone doesn’t personally believe that Armageddon is imminent, or engages in certain activities that the Society deems to be “time wasting pursuits,” they should be marked as bad associates and shunned for all social activities.
Again, it’s difficult to comprehend of any thinking person reading this material without seeing warning signs. And I can only sympathize with all those Witnesses who will now feel compelled to close their Facebook accounts or sell their fishing and golf gear simply because they don’t want to be branded a “drifter.”
“Are you making enough sacrifices?”
Also worthy of mention is the second study article in the December 15 issue, with its “no pain, no gain” approach to requesting contributions – even from brothers in poor countries. The article begins by boasting in paragraph 2 of how “as a result of our efforts and Jehovah’s blessing, the preaching work is accelerating, and many continue to stream to ‘the mountain of the house of Jehovah.'”
It is unclear precisely how it could be said that “many continue to stream” to the organization given that there was only a 1.9% increase in publishers last year. Nor can I quite fathom how “the preaching work is accelerating” given that the growth was 2.4% in 2011, 2.5% in 2010 and 3.2% the year before. Watchtower must be using a different definition of the word “accelerate” than the one I am familiar with.
This and other arguments are used as a basis to urge Witnesses to donate to the cause. In paragraph 6 they are reminded of the Jewish system of sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures, and how these involved animal offerings even from those who were destitute. The reminder is given that such sacrifices needed to be without blemish, taken from the very finest that a person could offer. This reasoning is used to support the idea that contributions should not be made out of one’s surplus, but should be budgeted by each individual in advance.
“The apostle Paul provided a principle to follow when considering donations. (Read 1 Corinthians 16:1,2) Under inspiration, he encouraged his brothers in Corinth not to wait until the end of the week to see what was left over but, rather, to set aside funds at the start of the week in harmony with what they could do. As in the first century, brothers and sisters in our time plan ahead to respond generously according to their circumstances. (Luke 21:1-4; Acts 4:32-35) Jehovah treasures such a giving spirit.” – w13 11/15 (bold is mine)
The message is clear. Don’t send us what is left over in your funds at the end of each month. Budget in advance, and let your day-to-day expenses and unforeseen costs come second to supporting the preaching work.
It is especially disturbing to see the way this idea is propounded even for those living in poor countries. Granted, a cautionary note is sounded in paragraph 16: “The giving of our time and resources should not cause us to neglect the spirituality or physical welfare of our family.”
Even so, in a world of such economic uncertainty where a mere stock market fluctuation or company liquidation can leave a family penniless, it is gravely irresponsible to be asking even those in poor countries to be setting aside their resources for Watchtower in advance.
For example, paragraph 15 tells of brothers in “one very poor country in Africa” who “mark off a small section of their garden and use the funds from the sale of the produce to support the Kingdom work.”
You have to wonder whether these brothers, who doubtless live in day-to-day conditions of abject poverty, would so readily give away their food and livelihood to support Watchtower if they only knew that the Society pocketed $375 million in just one recent real estate transaction, as part of a larger scheme that is raking in over a billion dollars to the organization.
I personally consider it immoral to allow people in such a bleak and precarious predicament to sacrifice their food while raking in such gargantuan sums of money in property transactions without telling them of the figures involved. Watchtower should be sending them money – not the other way round.
The paranoid generation
But it is arguably the blatant paranoia that is encouraged in this new magazine that is of most serious concern to thinking Witnesses, not to mention those with loved ones under Watchtower’s control and influence.
Only a few weeks ago Witnesses were being ordered to “close ranks” and obey all instructions from the Society “whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.” Now they are being conditioned to scrutinize even their fellow brothers who attend the meetings, and effectively shun such ones if they say anything deemed negative or speculative.
This “trust no one” obsession with the enemy within, not to mention the reminders to ignore any negative reports in the media, only serves as further evidence of Watchtower’s alarming slide into radicalization.
On the one hand, it is nice to think that magazines such as this might put out red flags for those who are starting to awaken. Even so, this magazine can just as easily strengthen Watchtower’s mental grip on countless loyal Witnesses, who now have even more reason to fear and distrust those who are trying to liberate them from indoctrination – even from inside the congregation.