By Tim Creek
On October 8, 2001, people were shocked to learn that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York had a nine-year affiliation with the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization. This reaction was due to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ long history of excoriating the UN in its publications, videos, and talks. The article in The Guardian that uncovered this can still be read at the link below:
In short, Watchtower was actively associated as a UN NGO for nearly a decade, from February 1992 until October 2001, until the very day after the newspaper article was published, at which time Watchtower requested termination of its association as a UN NGO.
The UN’s responses in 2001 and 2004 to the hundreds of inquiries seeking confirmation of this relationship can be located online, as well as Watchtower’s flimsy excuse for seeking affiliation in order to obtain a library card. This article provides a historical review of (i) what Watchtower’s NGO affiliation entailed, (ii) how Watchtower may have endeavored to meet its obligations to the UN, and (iii) how Watchtower portrayed itself to Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time it was an NGO.
Implications of Watctower’s Affiliation with the UN
As stated in the March 4, 2004 letter from the UN, the purpose of association as a UN NGO is for the “redissemination of information in order to increase public understanding of the principles, activities, and achievements of the United Nations and its Agencies.” Clearly, Watchtower can meet this criterion as a publishing company with a global audience.
An additional criterion to becoming a UN NGO is that the NGO must “share the principles of the UN Charter.” This is interesting since, as many know, Watchtower has denounced the UN in its publications for decades.
One example of Watchtower’s description of the UN prior to it becoming a UN NGO is contained in The Watchtower, September 15, 1984, p. 15:
The UN really stands in the way of God’s Kingdom by the “seed” of Abraham. Hence, it is the present-day “disgusting thing that causes desolation.” (Matthew 24:15) No, the UN is not a blessing, even though the religious clergy of Christendom and the rabbis of Jewry pray heaven’s blessing upon that organization. It is really “the image of the wild beast,” the visible political, commercial organization of “the god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil. So the UN will soon be destroyed along with that beastly organization.
How Did Watchtower Meet Its Obligations as a UN NGO?
Notably, once Jehovah’s Witnesses had applied to become a UN NGO, their treatment of the UN in their literature shifted dramatically. Consider a sampling of Watchtower publications from the time when Watchtower sought association with the UN in 1991, and notice whether the tone of Watchtower’s treatment of the UN changed from what it was in 1984:
Awake!, September 8, 1991, pp. 9, 10
The preamble to the United Nations Charter expresses these noble aims: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, . . . and [desiring] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”
Did the UN “accomplish these aims”? Did it get the nations to unite their strength and maintain peace and security? No, not so far, although the UN has sincerely tried to be a significantly better way than the League of Nations. However, the generation that saw its establishment in 1945 has since been scourged by wars, revolutions, invasions, coups, and aggression in many parts of the earth. And this violence involved many of the nations that had resolved to “maintain international peace and security.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses firmly believe that the United Nations is going to play a major role in world events in the very near future. No doubt these developments will be very exciting. And the results will have a far-reaching impact on your life. We urge you to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood for more details on this matter. The Bible clearly paints a picture showing that the United Nations will very shortly be given power and authority. The UN will then do some very astonishing things that may well amaze you. And you will be thrilled to learn that there is yet a better way near at hand that will surely bring eternal peace and security!
Readers of this misleading text may conclude that future UN actions will bear fruit and directly bring about improved world conditions, with Watchtower plainly stating that the UN’s efforts to bring peace and security have not succeeded “so far.” It also praised future UN efforts as being “very exciting,” having “a far-reaching impact on your life,” with the UN doing “some very astonishing things that may well amaze you.” While Watchtower might justify these statements by bending them to fit its predictions of UN actions on the world scene, these comments intimate support for such UN activity, rather than denunciation of them as the fruitless actions of an enemy of God’s Kingdom. Consider another example of how Jehovah’s Witnesses portrayed the UN while it was a UN NGO:
The Watchtower, October 1, 1995, pp. 3, 4
For 50 years the United Nations organization has made notable efforts to bring about world peace and security. Arguably, it may have prevented a third world war, and the wholesale destruction of human life through the use of nuclear bombs has not been repeated. The United Nations has provided millions of children with food and medicine. It has contributed to improved health standards in many countries, providing, among other things, safer drinking water and immunization against dangerous diseases. Millions of refugees have received humanitarian assistance.
In recognition of its accomplishments, the United Nations organization has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Yet, the lamentable fact of life is that we still do not live in a world without war.
As shown, Watchtower’s characterization of the UN changed from “the disgusting thing that causes desolation” in 1984, to “noble” in 1991, to lauding its accomplishments in 1995. Unbeknownst to Witnesses at the time, this change likely occurred in order for Watchtower to fulfill its obligations as a UN NGO to disseminate information about UN activities, which it did by publishing articles painting the UN in a favorable light.
How Watchtower Portrayed Itself to Jehovah’s Witnesses
In 1993, not long after becoming affiliated as a UN NGO, Watchtower published the book Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Notice how Watchtower described the history of the UN’s establishment, the involvement of Christendom’s leaders at that time, and how Watchtower remained neutral. Bear in mind that the primary audience of the Proclaimers book was Witnesses, not the general public.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, pp. 192-193
While World War II was still underway, in 1942, Jehovah’s Witnesses had already discerned from the Bible, at Revelation 17:8, that the world peace organization would rise again, also that it would fail to bring lasting peace. This was explained by N. H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, in the convention discourse “Peace—Can It Last?” Boldly Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaimed that view of the developing world situation. On the other hand, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders actually shared in the deliberations in San Francisco in 1945 during which the UN Charter was drafted. To observers of these developments, it was plain who wanted to be “a friend of the world” and who was endeavoring to be “no part of the world,” as Jesus had said would be true of his disciples.
One cannot overemphasize the fact that the preceding text was published in 1993, while Watchtower was a UN NGO. Jehovah’s Witnesses blatantly lied to its members – sanctimoniously condemning other religions as being “a friend of the world” while falsely declaring itself “no part of the world” at the very time that it was a UN NGO. Yet, in the publications it distributed to the public quoted previously, its portrayal of the UN was very complimentary, not condemnatory.
What It All Means
Most would find it astonishing that Watchtower, who claims to be God’s one true religion and spirit-directed by Jehovah, would voluntarily seek association with the UN, a supposed part of Satan’s political and commercial machine in opposition to Jehovah – and then lie in print that it was “no part of the world” during such affiliation. For anyone who has ever faced the decision of attending a funeral of a family member in a church, Watchtower’s secret affiliation with the UN is deeply disturbing. It’s highly hypocritical for Jehovah’s Witnesses to shout “get out of Babylon the Great!” to individual Witnesses when the religious organization itself had voluntarily applied for and was granted affiliation with the image of the wild beast upon which the religious harlot is riding. According to Watchtower rules applicable to individual Witnesses (contained in the Shepherd the Flock of God elders’ manual), didn’t Watchtower paradoxically disassociate itself by “joining a nonneutral organization”?
Now approaching twenty years since coming to light, one can only speculate as to what would have prompted this affiliation. Perhaps it was to curry approval with the global political community in the face of tax-exemption and charitable status headwinds at the time or to ease restrictions on proselytizing in various countries. Whatever the case, the very thing for which Watchtower has frequently denounced Christendom – spiritual fornication with the kings of the Earth – is applicable to Watchtower. Jehovah’s Witnesses can hardly claim to be following Jesus’ counsel to true Christians to remain “no part of the world” and to speak the truth.
This is as shocking today as it was in 2001.
Article Contribution by Tim Creek