First, it may be well to catch up with Part 1.
Jehovah’s Witnesses did fail in this regard. Let us admit it. They failed to ‘go beyond the law.’ The stakes are so high that law is thereafter reinterpreted to mean that they did violate it. Why did they fail? Ms. Chuck accurately states that any Witness victim or family of victim was always free to report child sexual abuse and that congregation justice did not preclude outside secular justice. Arguably, then, they failed because they were insular, as she says, and they may not realize just how firmly she has put her finger on the reason. They were not inclined to air their dirty laundry before the public.
It is not hard to understand. In some cultures, the concept of ‘saving face’ is so firmly entrenched that your efforts to communicate are doomed to failure if you ignore it. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal human instinct to keep them there. It is even found in the scriptures that Ms. Chuck acknowledges underlie everything Witnesses do. Decrying the spectacle of early Christians taking one another into court over personal disputes, the apostle Paul writes: “I am speaking to move you to shame. Is there not one wise man among you who is able to judge between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and before unbelievers at that!” If Jehovah’s Witnesses today are ‘insular,’ it is because Christians back then were ‘insular.’
In this case, however, insularity, and the failure to ‘go beyond the law’ has resulted in child abusers who did not take their turn in the police lineup, as well as victims thereby deprived of justice. Whether they would have received justice otherwise is arguable, for no end of persons manage to evade the wrath of the law. But that is not the point. They should have been turned over to police, the argument goes, for the latter to either nail them to the wall or let them beat the rap. The victims want justice. Like victims anywhere, they don’t always get it. But don’t get in the way of their quest for it. Since the Witness organization is perceived to have gotten in the way, with law being reinterpreted so as to more damningly point to that conclusion, should they apologize to victims or issue a public statement of regret? You could certainly build a case for it.
When the cop speeds in hot pursuit and a horrific accident results, pointing out that he had permission to speed only goes so far. There are times when only a sincere expression of regret stems the tide of outrage, for who is going to dismiss a run-over pedestrian as ‘just one of those things’? At such times legal matters become technicalities and you look tone-deaf if you harp on them. Best to say that, in pursuing one’s mission, even within existing rules, a terrible tragedy has resulted for which there is sincere regret.
Were the Witness organization to ever do that, it would cut them no slack with the Reddit group. They would merely drop down a notch on their list to highlight the next reason they hate their former religion before surfacing briefly again to declare the statement insincere. No, there will be no placating these folks. But it might very well clear the air for all other persons, who know very well, simply through personal experience, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very fine people. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson concedes this, as she somehow manages to insinuate that this is despite their evil governing body, rather than the much more reasonable ‘because of it.’
Not because of it solely, of course, for Witnesses’ decency stems from the God they worship. But in the sense that the Witnesses’ governing body keeps them clearly focused on the Bible, the source they signed on for, they surely deserve credit, not condemnation. Almost all other faiths have swayed with the changing winds of contemporary culture. Witnesses have not. They merely update now and then, as they have with their procedures of child sexual abuse investigations. Is it intimidating for a victim of child sexual abuse to appear before the three men of a investigatory committee? Well, they never thought of that. Maybe they should have. So now it is that a child’s recorded testimony can serve itself as the witness and he or she does not have to appear personally. If he or she does, it can be with any congregation member they choose, whether male or female. The religion’s fiercest critics say they will never stop opposing until Witnesses fix their child abuse policies. Arguably, they already have, since almost all cases tried are from 20-30 years ago.
Not everyone likes Jehovah’s Witnesses. Probably more do not than do. But people are mostly fair. A statement of regret would go a long way for them to say: “Oh, I see. They did screw it up, but now I can see why. They really do abhor child sexual abuse over there.” Otherwise, their enemies find it a cakewalk to portray those in leadership positions among Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘arrogant,’ and in some cases, careful cultivators of child sexual abusers. They are probably the least arrogant people on earth, but that does not mean they cannot be painted that way.
They do Bible education work. They do it extensively and effectively. In the developing world, a person is stuck with some 200-year old turkey of a Bible translation that he can neither afford nor understand because nobody other than Jehovah’s Witnesses thinks it is inappropriate for Big Business to handle distribution of the Word of God. The Witness Governing Body does think it is inappropriate and they have invented an entirely new production and distribution channel so that the person can obtain a modern Bible at minimal cost, or even free. That accomplishment is not nothing.
They do not do all of this personally, of course. Detractors routinely spin it that Witnesses are ‘controlled’ by ‘eight men in New York.’ It makes no sense. They are modest persons. Many of them cut their teeth performing their trademark door-to-door ministry in the developing world, carrying out a work more lowly than that of the ones they ultimately lead. They have a certain knack at administration, as with any effective organization, but other than that, they have little expertise in anything. But they know where to find it when they need it. From a field of eight million members, where there are no paywalls nor turf battles, they can quickly assemble whatever they deem necessary.
Their latest offering in the field of Bible education consists of an online, self-guided, and anonymous course of Bible study offered on the front page of their website, JW.org. The Bible offers convincing answers to important questions of life, Jehovah's Witnesses feel, questions not readily answered anywhere else. The course is all available online for free, now. After each lesson there is the option to 1) go deeper, for the presentation is necessarily simple, 2) attend a group study at the Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall, 3) request a personal instructor, or 4) say ‘none of the above’ and proceed to the next lesson. It’s a relatively new feature. I don’t know how it will be incorporated. But with only some exaggeration, I am looking forward to saying: “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself. If you have any questions or want to go a level more, I’ll be around.” With only slightly more exaggeration again, the new feature illustrates that, if need be, the main Bible teaching component of the Witnesses’ work could be run out of a server in someone’s dorm room.
They always will be ‘insular,’ or to put in their terminology, ‘no part of the world.’ Surely, they must be permitted to be, for the alternative is to snuff out the type of Christianity that existed in the first century, arguably the most 'true' model. Snuffing out this model in favor of societally evolved ones would be a very fine outcome in the eyes of today’s ‘anti-cultists,’ who will allow that religion can have a place only so long as it is clearly subservient to contemporary life and leaders. Anything not meeting this description they are inclined to label a ‘cult’ that ‘brainwashes’ people through ‘mind-control.’ Those of that spirit of Western anti-cultists have used exactly that reasoning to fuel the furor that has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and confiscated all of their property, with many other faiths shaking in their boots that they will be next. Of a prominent Russian anti-cultist, Alexander Dvorkin, who shares Western connections via an French NGO, a human-rights expert has said: he “enjoys disseminating inflammatory narratives and hate speech.” It is no less with anti-cultists here, who further their goals through whatever avenues present themselves.
It may well be time to acknowledge that this avenue, this one involving child sexual abuse reporting, is one that became riddled with axle-bending potholes, express sincere remorse, help out to whatever extent is necessary to fill them in, so as to move on with the overall program.
End of Part 2. Part 3 to follow.