It was at this same meeting in which Governing Body member Guy Pierce spoke of a new video that would show the progress in the construction of the new World Headquarters at Warwick. “This video will be placed on the JW.org website for the benefit of all,” he revealed.
True to Pierce’s words, the video has now been uploaded. As expected it is a slick production packed with feel-good stories and interviews set to uplifting music. Words like “historic” and “monumental” are used repeatedly in the opening minutes. Anticipation is stoked for the moving of Watchtower’s Headquarters, which many Witnesses will regard as a defining moment for the organization.
As you will see, the Governing Body features very prominently in the above video. All eight members make appearances, and the term “Governing Body” is either spoken or appears in the titles 13 times. By contrast, “Jehovah” appears 16 times, and Jesus, the “head of the congregation,” is not referred to at all.
“We’re very appreciative of the support and visits of the Governing Body members to the site,” gushes Enrique Ford of the Construction Project Committee (CPC) at 09:11. “It’s really been very stimulating. It’s a shot in the arm to not only us on the committee but all of the workers. It helps us to stay focussed spiritually even though we have a very challenging project ahead of us.”
As evidence of this “shot in the arm,” footage is shown of Geoffrey Jackson and David Splane wearing high-visibility vests and mingling with a packed room of workers on the site. “We have a tremendous interest in what you’re doing,” David Splane tells his audience. “And thank you very very much for all you do.”
What is the reason for the move?
For a video that is over 13 minutes in length you would expect there to be at least some mention of the actual reason why the World Headquarters is being moved from Brooklyn to Warwick, but this is not touched on at all. I have a feeling this is mainly due to embarrassment. Why admit that the move is purely financially motivated, and that the Society will profit to the tune of over 1 billion dollars once the move is complete? Far easier to gloss over this small detail and instead make vague references throughout the video to this being Jehovah’s will.
There is also a certain element of duplicity in how one Governing Body member attempts to explain the move. “If we look at the history of those taking the lead, they’ve never been sentimental toward material things,” muses Steve Lett at 00:35. “We’re not attached to anything material.”
If that is truly the case, I would be interested to hear Lett’s explanation for the recent production of a 3 minute 51 second promotional video solely about the Watchtower sign on the Brooklyn waterfront. The video features aerial shots from a helicopter flypast and a period re-enactment of the sign being erected including the use of at least one vintage vehicle. Not once throughout the entire video’s narration are the words “Bible” or “Jesus” uttered. “Jehovah” is referred to only in the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The video is intended purely as a tribute to the Watchtower sign. And yet we are now supposed to believe that the Governing Body is not “sentimental toward material things?”
U-turn over Jehovah’s direction
I have already mentioned repeatedly that, when the Warwick project was announced at the 2011 Annual Meeting, Guy Pierce expressed some uncertainty as to whether it was Jehovah’s will or not. “Although we are not yet certain of Jehovah’s will regarding Warwick, we are proceeding to develop the site with the intention of relocating the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses there,” Pierce said at the time. (w12 8/15 p.17)
But Pierce’s former uncertainty has now been completely whitewashed, and he now seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet as his fellow Governing Body members. “We see Jehovah’s direction in the procedure from the beginning to where we are now with the way it’s come together,” he now asserts. (01:10) And Mark Sanderson is only too happy to reaffirm these sentiments as though for emphasis, adding at 01:19, “The Governing Body is convinced that Jehovah is directing that the World Headquarters be moved to Warwick. We’re absolutely convinced of that.”
The apparent u-turn begs such questions as, “Why the initial uncertainty? And what changed in order to make the Governing Body ‘convinced’ of Jehovah’s direction?”
Jehovah’s spirit responsible for everything
A rather nauseating feature of the video is the way the success of the project is constantly attributed to Jehovah’s spirit. The most obvious example of this is the part where it is revealed that there were some problems over paperwork. At one stage it looked as though there would be a delay in starting construction because site approval documents had not been issued by the local planning authority.
“We went to the public hearing fully expecting to be turned down,” explained Richard Devine of the CPC at 04:28. “However, to our surprise, within 15 minutes of the start of the meeting the town board voted to approve our project. When the approval came through, we knew it was only by Jehovah’s spirit that that happened.”
Once again, a fairly mundane development that works out in Watchtower’s favor is attributed to divine intervention. This follows Geoffrey Jackson’s remarkable comments at the annual meeting in which he suggested that the mild summer enjoyed by the Wallkill printery was attributable to “Jehovah’s hand.” No thought is given that divine intervention in human affairs could be better justified in, say, preventing wars or natural disasters than in allowing extra bibles to be printed or replacement headquarters to be built.
With similar unashamed credulity, Kenneth Churnish of the CPC proclaims: “Doing close to a million and a half square feet of construction in less than four years will not be done without Jehovah’s spirit.” (07:15) Churnish sets the bar quite low for what constitutes a project too big for humans to achieve on their own without divine intervention. The Empire State Building has a total floor area of 2.7 million square feet and took less than a year and a half to build. The Pentagon is 6.5 million square feet and was completed in 16 months. Were these building projects also aided by Jehovah’s spirit?
More transparency, less ego-massaging
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong in making a billion dollars by switching headquarters. It is, however, highly questionable that there is such a lack of transparency on the Governing Body’s part as to the true motivations behind the Warwick move.
The way the financial incentives are glossed over with insinuations that this is merely about following Jehovah’s will undervalues the intelligence of the brothers, and suggests an element of desperation. After all, if ordinary Witnesses were informed how much Watchtower is making out of this move, would they feel quite so motivated to make hefty donations?
It is also sad to note the increased attention being lavished on the Governing Body – or, more accurately, by the Governing Body on themselves. After all, this video was produced with their consent and involvement. Those like myself who can see through the propaganda will gasp at how cult-like Watchtower is becoming in the way a small group of men is so openly venerated. But for most unquestioning Witnesses, this video will only serve as further evidence that the Governing Body is both approachable and likeable, and has their interests and Jehovah’s will at heart.