When Watchtower’s new ‘history’ book was released this summer it was said to have been released because their old one had too many pages. “God’s Kingdom Rules!” was presented as a slimmer, and therefore more translatable, volume than its predecessor.
I’ve recently had a chance to go through it, and I firmly believe its purpose is much more complex than we have been led to believe.
A key difference between Watchtower’s old and new history book is that the new version is meant to be studied at weekly meetings. The older Proclaimers book was merely a personal reference volume, and had no questions and answers for the paragraphs.
As a study book, each Jehovah’s Witness will soon be expected to study a lesson from the new history book and attend the requisite Q&A book group each week. Throughout and after this very long process, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be well-armed with its fallacies and fabrications.
“God’s Kingdom Rules!” is a carefully crafted whitewash of Watchtower history that cunningly converts past bitter defeats into glorious victories. The book is spectacularly Orwellian.
The volume opens by attempting to thrill the reader into imagining they are someone from 1914 sitting in the room when Charles Taze Russell announces the “end of the Gentile times.”
Only the perspective of an ardent believer in Pastor Russell is given. What the book fails to mention is that many of Russell’s followers were disillusioned by the lackluster results of his predictions.
As with Harold Camping in 2011, Russell’s 1914 end of the world prophecy was a failure. Both cases left behind followers that either believed in what was cooked up next, or cut their losses and moved on.
Rather than being recognized as an abysmal and embarrassing theological failure, Russell’s failed prediction has been re-shaped as the triumphant herald of the end of an age. In quite dramatic fashion, the moment is portrayed as an exciting historical event rather than the depressing disappointment it truly was.
Only a few pages later do you find Watchtower’s new and improved embarrassment: the “overlapping generations” doctrine, designed to explain Matthew 24:34.
Over the past century, Watchtower has been forced to evolve. They have transitioned from setting hard apocalyptic dates to using the generation who witnessed the “events” of 1914 as an apocalyptic barometer.
Since this original generation have all died off, the doctrine has gone through some strenuous changes. The current contortion can be found in question and answer form very early into the book. It spuriously claims that two generations can actually be considered as one.
George Orwell, author of the legendary novel 1984, spoke about theocratic entities changing their history in this way:
“A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.”
The organization that controls Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world through its “ruling caste,” the Governing Body, is claimed to be infallible. Logically, it simply cannot err while continuing to claim a perfect status. However, being an entity established by humans, it does fail. When this happens, a “rearrangement” of the past is called for, which is exactly what the God’s Kingdom Rules! book accomplishes.
The beginning of the book somewhat desperately tries to convince the reader that God’s plan has been progressively revealed. This “new light” strategy is a perfect way to covertly accomplish what Orwell was talking about. It allows for a future restructuring of past events which are then portrayed as the progressive understanding of “God’s will.”
It’s a “get out of jail free card,” to borrow a Monopoly metaphor.
Jehovah’s Witnesses – conquerors of the courtroom?
Section 4 of the book, entitled “Kingdom Conquests – Legally Establishing the Good News,” sparked a special interest for me. It paints the Watchtower as under direct attack from Satan through the world’s legal systems and its citizens. Irwin Zalkin, who is currently battling in court against the Watchtower, had this to say about their practices:
“These guys will deny and deny, they are belligerent, they are arrogant, they treat victims as adversaries. This is not an organization that is ready to accept the reality of what they have been doing.” (Source: U-T San Diego)
Section 4 of the book attests to the accuracy of Zalkin’s observations. The language clearly indicates that Watchtower sees opponents in the courtroom as agents of the devil.
The book again attempts to alter Watchtower’s history by awarding the organization with the image of “conquerors” of the courtroom. Countless court documents over many decades paint a picture very similar to the words Zalkin used: arrogant and belligerent. Yet, within Watchtower’s new “history” book, they are portrayed as the valiant conquerors who vanquished the dragon.
The book cultivates this image by ignoring the negative and focusing on the positive. Granted, Watchtower has been involved in many landmark victories throughout the 20th century. They’ve even received attention from the outside world for their efforts to protect their freedom to propagate an unpopular message.
For instance, Joel Engardio, civil liberties advocate and creator of the documentary “Knocking,” had this to say about Watchtower in the courtroom:
“There have been nearly 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involving Jehovah’s Witnesses that involved the issue of constitutional rights… We have to thank Jehovah’s Witnesses for being on the forefront of protecting everyone’s freedoms.”
Engardio is talking about giving credit where credit is due, as I understand it. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t want any of the credit. This is clearly spelled out on page 156:
“Why have Jehovah’s people won so many landmark legal victories? We have no political influence. Yet, in country after country and court after court, fair-minded judges have protected us from the onslaught of tenacious opposers and, in the process, have set precedents in constitutional law. Without a doubt, Christ has backed our efforts to gain those victories. (Read Revelation 6:2) Why do we fight such legal battles? Our intent is not to reform the legal system. Rather, our goal is to ensure that we can continue to serve our King, Jesus Christ, without hindrance.”
They never intended to give the legal system a helping hand. Clearly, they do not concern themselves with the rights of others. Rather, their sole concern has always been running their doomsday propaganda machine without hindrance.
If they took an ounce of credit for any of the constitutional precedents they have helped introduce, they would be part of what they preach as being doomed. Within their theology the legal systems of the world, including their written laws, are merely things to be used until Armageddon comes and they are all destroyed.
Do we really owe them a debt of gratitude as Engardio claims? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses really team players in the battle for freedom?
Democracy on the chopping block
Unfortunately, Engardio isn’t the only one who buys into Watchtower’s side of the story. He, as well as people who see Jehovah’s Witnesses as brave defenders of freedom, need to take a good look at pages 26 and 27 of their new book. It shows the structure of the kingdom they predict will destroy the world’s governments and take their place. Atop this structure is the heavenly person who has allegedly been directing the Watchtower since 1914. This is what they have to say about their ruler:
“Enthroned in 1914, Jesus Christ is a powerful, just, wise and merciful King who is humble before Jehovah God. (Isa. 9:6, 7; 11: 1-3) Unlike imperfect human rulers, he cannot be corrupted, nor is he hampered by fractious congresses and parliaments or self-seeking lobbyists and special interests groups.”
As a religion founded in the United States of America, a system of checks and balances made the Witnesses possible in the first place. Before the advent of representative democracy, the world was mostly ruled by a slew of dictators who wielded absolute power.
In a world of dictators there was no freedom of religion, and an outfit like Watchtower could never have been conceived. They relied on these systems in order to even get off the ground, yet they make the claim that, in the future, humanity will revert back to the old ways with an established monarchy.
Watchtower has had many opportunities over the past 100 years to show that their organization is different, but they have completely failed in this endeavor. They have been plagued with scandals, cover-ups, false prophecies, and have shown utter disregard for the sanctity of life itself.
According to Watchtower’s record, any monarchy setup by them would undoubtedly be exactly the same as every other failed dictatorship that has ever existed. There is no reason to believe otherwise.
All they can do is desperately attempt to alter their past and misrepresent themselves to everyone as something they are not. Fortunately, we now live in a world that is interconnected through technologies such as the internet. It is now much more difficult to get away with changing your own past in the manner to which Watchtower has become accustomed.
People simply have more access to information than ever before. And knowledge is power.