‘Man is a political animal,’ Juan says, ‘and naturally forms and flourishes in societies. And every such society needs leadership that preserves the peace and unity of that society. And the best form of leadership capable of fulfilling that function is a unified head. And the same is true of the Congregation. . . . So if a person has an incorrect notion of the nature and function of civil government, this will make it more difficult to grasp the true nature and function of ecclesial government.’
Yes. Of course. The two are connected, If you have a shaky grasp on one, you may well have a shaky grasp on the other, just as those who had a rotten father may struggle to grasp the concept of a loving heavenly father. How to deal with those who, in an intense age of independence, find even the governing structure of the Christian congregation oppressive? Some go so far as to agree with critics that Jehovah’s Witnesses all but worship their organization and pursue a model of ‘following men.’ How do you answer that?
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be likened to the coach or the teacher—both of whom may lean into their charges from time to time as a legitimate function of their job. Persons too prickly in our independence-savoring age are inclined to chafe at such legitimate roles.
‘Who needs a math teacher?’ such persons are wont to say. ‘Just study numbers. I don’t serve a teacher!’ And if the teacher betrays any evidence of being imperfect, they jump on such evidence to justify the surly attitude.
’Who needs a coach?’ they will say. ‘I’m not serving any coach. Just practice football!’ And if the coach betrays any evidence of being imperfect—say, he eats too much, like the Chiefs’ coach, they seize on that circumstance to justify the grumbling.
But anyone with a proper view of civil government has no problem at all acceding to the authority of the teacher or coach. They don’t confuse such relative submission with becoming ‘slaves to men.’ They know full well they are ‘serving’ math and football, not their respective teachers or coaches in such. They know full well the latter exist just to bring out the best in them. Even when the coach seems to flounder a little and thinks it cool that Kelse should become ‘Maauto’ because it complements ‘Mahomes,’ they just put on that new jersey and continue, albeit maybe with a little grumbling. They may not be so sure about this new light to bundle your home and auto insurance, but they know it’s not worth making a fuss over such minor things.
Once in a while there appears a student who truly does not need a teacher, and for whom a teacher just gets in the way. Think Gates, Jobs, Einstein, Musk. What then? Do they use their atypical gifts to tear down the need for teachers? Do they carry on that to acquiesce to the teacher’s (or coach’s) authority is to allow that one to ‘lord it over’ them? Unless they are drunk on the contemporary spirit of independence, they do not. At most, Kelse doesn’t don his squirrelly ‘Maauto’ jersey, but neither does he quit the team over it. ‘Ah, well, we need coaches’ he says.
Should he do this, almost for certain, the assignment to become ‘Maauto’ will fall upon some other teammate. That teammate will accept it, maybe with the enthusiasm of being a good organization man. Maybe he’ll even recall the expression, ‘Even if the coach asks something that doesn’t appear to make sense, be obedient.’ Sounds odd, he says, but he does it anyway. He wouldn’t bump off another player on that authority, but he knows that putting on a jersey is not in that league. Or maybe he says, ‘Maauto! Cool! What a great idea!’ and dons the shirt instantly. Kelse doesn’t try to talk him out of it, even though he declines himself. He knows the Chiefs will make the Super Bowl if he keeps his mouth shut, but they may not if he goes on bellyaching about his enlightened view that you can tell the coach to kiss off.
Sheesh! You’ll hear it all the time from adversaries, about worshipping an organization, to the point where others being to pick it up. Put it to rest. I would never say that brothers or sisters worship the organization. I might say that I have seen some engage in activity that so closely resembles worship that you can confuse the two, yet even here I would couch my words.
Recently my wife and I were invited on a Kingdom Hall remodeling project. At my age and non-skill level, I am not going to be any major player in anything, but I appreciated the invitation and accepted a two-day stint along with my wife.
Safety training is required—a lot of it before you even set foot on the project. For one session online that I was informed might take up to three hours—several videos followed by answering questions off the master safety document—Man, that’s a lot! I thought. I’d better not see God strapped into His chariot for safety. But it did not happen and I could not help but think that the quality of training would be the envy of any construction organization. The way scriptures were interwoven was masterful. Even the verse of the ‘overconfident one who comes to ruin’ was applied to the experienced worker inclined to blow past safety regulations because he is so experienced he thinks himself immune. Nobody blows past anything when it comes to safety, experienced or not. You’re dismissed from the site if you do, but I didn’t see anyone coming even close to grumbling over such rules of safety, which are iron-clad. Zero accidents is the goal.
Not just the training, but the project itself. The people skills on display far outshone what would be found on any secular construction site. The abilities of volunteers, some experienced and some not, was harnessed to an astonishing degree. Always, there was a brother with oversight to accommodate any skill level and to break any task into doable steps—and always with the safety and overall well-being of participants placed even ahead of the job itself. First of all, they are shepherds, I am told—that is incorporated into their training. In short, I’ve never seen anything like it—even if the chariot was not on visible display.
That was just after two days. People are the sum of their experiences. Imagine the one immersed in such an atmosphere continually. Might they not get super-enthused about the theocratic organization that they experience repeatedly and see works so well? Would I not be displaying cynicism were I to say, ‘They worship the organization?’ I would never say it.
I’m not even sure I’m wise not to get more immersed into it. On the exhaustive skills list is ‘Writing’ broken down into several subcategories—creative, historical, technical, etc. I could put something down there. But I’m scared I might be assigned some long and monotonous project that I would choke on. Sort of like how Davey, the brother that everything he touched turned to gold, once told me he he’d been assigned to write an article, as though testing him out, to tentatively appear in Awake. But it was on some generic topic that he just couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for, and he never got around to it.
Or, for the box specifying experience, I might say, ‘From blogging,’ and then the Build brothers would say, ‘Oh….it’s that yo-yo.’ So I just say that I can pick up sticks and on the above occasion I was called upon to pick up some, plus a few other things.
Brother Winder undertook at the 2023 annual meeting to explain how the Governing Body decides things. A question comes up; either they have thought it up themselves or it is posed to them from without. Sometimes they jump on it right away. As often as not, however, it comes to resemble that thorn in their side—due to changing times and circumstances (beards are a perfect example)—that they figure at last the time has come to deal with it. They discuss it at their meeting. They assign it to a committee. That committee researches, among other things, anything that’s been written on the topic before. That committee submits a report, apparently with recommendations, and the Governing Body again puts it on their calendar. When it comes up for consideration again, they hash it out and maybe go along with the recommendations and maybe (per Winder’s talk) they don’t.
It all seems very competent, very thorough, very reassuring. It all seems to optimize the verse about drawing strength from a ‘many advisers.’ (When there is no skillful direction, the people fall, But there is success through many advisers—Proverbs 11:14) But there is nothing blatantly supernatural about it. You can imagine a public utility doing the same.
Arguably they could have provided this ‘transparency’ before, but this too appears to be an issue whose time has to arrive, and now it is judged that it has—maybe because grumblings have finally reached them that they lack ‘transparency.’ Due to such lack (if that’s what it is), some brothers have all but assumed an angel appears to them at those weekly meetings, setting them straight on what ever needs direction. Now they see it is not that way.
What is also not that way is that the first century governing body of Bible record had men endowed with supernatural power to confirmed their divine authority. Not so today—just regular men who don’t raise the dead, heal the sick, or walk on water.
This bothers some. It may be surprising they should be so bothered since scripture plainly says that such miraculous gifts would pass away. Maybe they had come to think that, in the case of the divine/human interface, they wouldn’t. Surely, there is an angel in that room, they suppose, or some other unmistakable supernatural manifestation that hits all over the head as with a sledgehammer that we’re talking divine authorization here. Nope—it doesn’t happen. I mean, there is prayer, to be sure, but a little more pizzazz is what some would prefer. Anybody can pray.
I was happy to hear Brother Winder’s explanation. It calls to mind what weird Mike used to say, a person with issues as long as anyone’s arm, who had a knack for simplifying the obscure. ‘Everyone of Jehovah’s Witnesses studies their Bible constantly,’ he would say, a bit too naively. ‘The Governing Body studies it all the time. Eventually, a point dawns on them. They discuss it thoroughly. When they have reached agreement, that point appears in a subsequent Watchtower.’ He didn’t for one instant expect miraculous light in the GB meeting room, as though in the Holy of Holies.
’Now, the thing is,’ he would continue. ‘In your personal Bible study, you may have noticed that point, too—maybe before they do.’ “And if this was Christendom, you’d run out and start your own religion over it!” But because it is not, you wait on divinely appointed authority to take the lead. Mike was ever so enthused about the unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone fresh from the world of religion is, really, even of irreligion; everyone is impressed with that. I had another friend whose formulative experience was to visit several far-removed Kingdom Halls to asked detailed biblical questions. The identical answers from persons who did not know each other impressed upon him that he had found the truth.
But, in time, some begin to take such unity for granted, as though it would exist without any coordinating governing body. Others begin to look askance at such unity, acceding to the contemporary view that it represents the thinking of a cult. Times change, and the question is asked online: “Is JW.org considered a cult site by some formerJehovah's Witnesses? What are their reasons for this belief?”
Yes, I think so. We live in unprecedented and intensely independent times. Paul’s counsel that we should all speak in agreement minus any divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10) has historically been wise Christian counsel. Today it reads as though an invitation to cult-thinking. We should not read the situation as Jehovah’s Witnesses having gone crazy. We should read it as this world has gone crazy and Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding the line of sanity.
The modern anti-cult lunacy can be seen in all fields, not just that of religion. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,’ were the noble words of a statesman (JFK) years ago. Today, they would be the words a a cult leader.
It also bothers some that all persons known today holding a position of Governing Body are self-professed. They lay claim to be anointed, but how is anyone to verify that claim? Might a fraud or a loon slip in and pull the wool over everyone’s eyes?
They may be self-professed as to being anointed, but they are also field-tested—field tested for a long long time, serving full-time in circumstances at times quite lowly, lowlier than those of most whom they will later lead. It’s more than enough time to screen out anyone not genuine. Nothing is more taboo among Jehovah’s Witnesses than ‘partaking unworthily.’ (“whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:27) Nobody is going to do that and if they do, nobody is going to keep up that pretense a for lifetime, both prerequisites to be invited to serve on the Governing Body.
That’s why I like the clarification a few years back that the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ consists of the Governing Body only, not just the entire population of those anointed. Of course. Anointed is an indication, for the most part, of a future assignment. Does it take 10,000 anointed ones to lead the present congregation today? Moreover, the clarification tends to weed out any person mistaken, maybe persons not well-balanced, not to mention any frauds or loons. In case any of these should become overly fond of authority or influence they imagine they ought to have now, this adjustment tends to nudge them into proper position. Serve faithfully under the present arrangement, and then upon death or the new system, their role as priests and kings will be exercised—or not, in case they truly were mistaken. At any rate, it’s no one’s problem until the new system and then it falls into the hands of those who can handle it.
Of course, in this skeptical age, some may begin to question the concept of anointing itself. Either they think it an experience common to all Christians or to none. But, by the time they have descended to that view, there really is no point in even calling themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are best served by ‘running off and starting their own religion.’
****** The bookstore