Christians and the Internet
October 30, 2006
When Mr. Crowe came across the hateful website of that perennial apostate and general thorn in our side, Tom Barfendogs, author of Forty Years Down the Toilet: My Wasted Life With Jehovah’s Witnesses, he posted a comment in which he observed that the theme “JWs aren’t allowed to use the internet” is a recurring one among detractors like Barfendogs. What’s with that? he wanted to know.
It is true that when Watchtower mentions the internet, they don’t gush with praise. They’ve many times issued warnings to congregation members. For example, far and away, the most popular internet sites have to do with porn. Nothing comes close. So if you have any significant voyeuristic impulses, you might appreciate such a warning before you embrace the internet as a way of life. Such a warning might have helped Tom Sowenmire, who accidentally stumbled across such a site. All he wanted was online repair instructions for his 1975 AMC Hottie. We never saw him again. Enticed by explicit porn, coupled with absolute viewing privacy, we hear he eventually just collapsed from exhaustion, like one of those Skinner lab rats.
So Watchtower has warned about that danger. Why shouldn’t they?
They’ve also observed how easy it is on the internet to mask who you really are. This is timely because websites claiming to be just for Jehovah’s Witnesses keep popping up here and there. Expand your contacts of fellow servants of God, meet brothers in different lands, make new friends, even find your new wife or husband! But how do you know who you’re really speaking with? Even Tom Barfendogs has been known to post comments using the alias Tom Puppydogs! He pretends to be a loveable & harmless pal, then by subtle degrees, he tries to foist his own odorous opinions upon the incautious.
So they’ve warned about that, too.
In 1999, amidst the explosion in internet interest, the Witness organization observed that some individuals had begun to sponsor websites ostensibly for the purpose of spreading the good news. Many such brothers were being “indiscreet,” they pointed out. And, two years prior, they stated that there is no need for individuals to create websites for the purpose of explaining the beliefs and activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Accurate information in this regard could already be found on the Watchtower’s own site www.watchtower.org. All this was before blogging became popular, but there’s no reason to think that the same principles wouldn’t apply. Internet savvy Witnesses, by and large, seek to conform to direction from Jehovah’s organization. They respect it, and view their direction in the light of scriptures like Heb 13:17:
Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.
Can a Witness blog without being “indiscreet?” Some think not and stay away from that form of communication. Obviously, I am one who thinks it can be done. But you can’t be clumsy.
For example, you don’t set yourself up as “Tom the Bible Answer Man,” as if you were the ultimate source of spiritual truth. You don’t go hosting a meeting spot for Jehovah’s Witnesses; that’s what the congregation is for. You don’t give the impression that you are representing Watchtower itself. Sometimes, enthusiastic brothers post long passages, even entire articles, including artwork, from Watchtower publications. Might this be indiscreet, especially when Watchtower has not posted the article themselves? It is their words. Shouldn't they control their distribution?
Our Kingdom Ministry, a monthly bulletin distributed to congregation members, is the source for much of the internet counsel directed to our people. Why not post entire articles as they relate to the internet? Why not post the whole Kingdom Ministry, so all who want to can peruse it?
Because that would be indiscreet. Our Kingdom Ministry is not written for the general public. It is written for those who specifically have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God. Most folks using the internet don’t fall in that category. So Our Kingdom Ministry doesn‘t concern them. It’s not that Our Kingdom Ministry is confidential, or secretive, or restrictive. It’s a colossal bore, frankly, to non-Witnesses. But the title says it all. It is Our Kingdom Ministry. Is our kingdom ministry your kingdom ministry? If you are not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s not. Why would anyone post it online? It already, through the congregations, has a distribution channel.
If Sheepandgoats assures readers that he is a baptized Witness in good standing, so what? How do they know he’s not lying? And assuming he’s not, how do they know he’ll be the same tomorrow? People can change. And if he goes over to the dark side tomorrow, will he post to that effect? Barfendogs didn’t. Maybe he will park on the Kingdom Hall lawn tomorrow and the elders will tell him not to, so when he gets home he will post about how elders are mean, and why do we need elders anyway when we have Jesus who would let him park anywhere he wants? You just don’t know what individuals will do.
On the other hand, if a brother at the Society’s website goes belly-up spiritually, they can just pull him and put in someone faithful. So www.watchtower.org can guarantee both continuity and accuracy, but such is not the case with individuals.
So you don’t claim or pretend to be them. You confine yourself to being you. A single imperfect person. No guarantee of accuracy. No guarantee of being a model Witness. Just one person fully capable of being wrong. One person giving his own experiences, explaining what motivated him to do this or that. Some posts at this site are clearly meant to be humorous, and have little bearing to the actual state of things with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Other posts have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.
Jesus said that those who exercised faith in him would do works greater than his. (John 14:12) Not that they could outreason or outspeak him, of course. No, but his disciples would cover greater territory over a longer period of time and so would reach more people. In time, they would also make use of inventions and technology.
There are a few things a blogger can do that the Watchtower organisation cannot. A blogger can target a specific audience. A blogger can comment on local and current events. A blogger can give his own experiences. But if you just repeat verbatim everything the Watchtower Society states, you run the risk of people thinking you are them, or represent them. And what individual can live up to that?
It may be that more direction will come to congregation members regarding the internet. But if that happens, will there be anything new? Most likely just a reiteration of what has already been stated, perhaps updated to cover new internet developments such as blogs and Utube. Contrary to what Barfendogs claims, there really are not a lot of rules in the Christian congregation. He just says that because he wanted to be big cheese and they said no. What Jehovah’s organization generally does is point out how relevant Bible principles affect this or that situation, and then leave it to individuals to choose their own course per the dictates of their own Bible-trained conscience.