Earning Everlasting Life
"Because Then You Will Find the Culprits"

"Mentally Diseased" and Political Correctness

You know, Joel Engardio's words seem more prescient each day. I wrote once that he was an apologist for Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrote back to say he wasn't. Still, his words seem more relevant with each passing day.

Through his film KNOCKING, Mr. Engardio offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully. Jehovah's Witnesses are “moral conservatives who stay out of politics,” he observes. “They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.” Isn't that the key? “Persuade, but not impose.” Their door-to-door visits rank right up there with death and taxes as one of the constants of everyday life. But the exercise of free speech is as far as they go, and in today's world of malcontents, firebrands and terrorists, what an example that is of getting along! Even politics might be viewed as a form of personal violence, since it offers a means of imposing one's views by law upon others. JWs steer clear of politics.

“There was little tolerance for my explanation that we only worshiped God, and that God wasn't American,” Joel writes of his childhood upbringing. Those words, too, are prescient. For today there is considerable backlash against JWs by those who insist that God is American. Or at any rate, that he embraces traditionally American values, such as “rugged individualism” and "independence." But he doesn't.

Signing on with Jehovah's Witnesses is in some ways like joining an army; no one's ever said otherwise. And in an army, you can disagree with those taking the lead, but you can't go on a campaign to undercut them. You just can't. Everyone who has ever served in the military knows it. Now, Jehovah's army poses no threat to any nation. In aspects of personal fiber and morals, members are a great asset to any country. And surely, they're the largest “army” in history whose soldiers have never taken a life. People today join armies at the drop of a pin; daily we see news images of young men firing AK47s into the air. The only army people look askance at is the one in which they don't get to fire guns, the one whose weapons are words only.

Desperate to avoid absolute disintegration in human society, and having utterly failed to curb human violence, nations increasingly resort to “political correctness.” If you can prevent people from saying certain things, the theory goes, perhaps love and tolerance, peace and good will to all will one day come about. There's not much evidence it works that way, but one must try something. So woe to anyone uttering words suggesting lack of tolerance.

Has the Watchtower run afoul of that stricture recently? In its July 15, 2011 issue, for consideration in JW congregations, the magazine recommended (strongly) avoiding “apostates,” even calling them “mentally diseased.” You should have heard the howling from those who don't like Witnesses, grousers who immediately broadened application of those words to include all who left the faith, something the article never suggested. Government ought to investigate such “hate speech,” they insisted.

Look, most persons who leave JWs simply move on in life, some with the viewpoint that the religion just wasn't for them, some with minor grumbling over this or that feature of the faith that prompted their decision, some with the viewpoint that they couldn't live up to it. None of these are viewed as 'apostates.' To be sure, we don't think their decision is wise, but they're not “apostate.” A fair number eventually return. You could liken those leaving to a man or woman leaving a relationship, like a failed marriage. Most just move on. But there's always a certain few psycho ex-mates that can't let go, who devote all their time and energy to harassing the person they once loved. Sigh....with the internet, these ones have a voice and it's amazing how prolific they can be. One such character (I'm not suggesting he is typical) even hosted a website (does he still?) in which he offered expert testimony in legal proceedings against Jehovah's Witnesses and expert testimony in legal proceedings against pharmaceutical makers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each offer undercuts his credibility for the other. In any other setting, he'd be a quite ordinary person, but put him on the internet and he looms huge.

That's the type that the magazine commented on, not at all simply everyone who departs.

Moreover, 'mentally diseased' was placed in quotation marks, indicating it was not meant as a medical diagnosis, but as an adjective to suggest a manner of thinking. Nor is the term anything original. It's merely a repeat of the Bible verse 1 Tim 6:3-4....."If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words."

Whoa, whoa, whoa! said guys like this one....that's not in any Bible I know of except the New World Translation, your Bible! He offered some alternatives, and I'll quote from his blog:

“That's not what it says in any English translation I know of. Here are 3 as a sample (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions (NASB)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings (KJV)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions (Douay-Rheims)

“But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“ει τις ετεροδιδασκαλει και μη προσερχεται υγιαινουσιν λογοις τοις του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου και τη κατ ευσεβειαν διδασκαλια τετυφωται μηδεν επισταμενος αλλα νοσων περι ζητησεις και λογομαχιας εξ ων γινεται φθονος ερις βλασφημιαι υπονοιαι πονηραι (Wetscott-Hort)

“I will discuss the meaning of the Greek passage with you if you wish. In fact, I invite you to do so. If you can't read the Greek, then we have little to discuss about it. What I will say is that the NASB, in this case, happens to be nearest in meaning to the original. I will stand by that assessment unless you can demonstrate conclusively that it's not true.”



To which I answered (starting with a requote of his words):

But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“Of course! [Why do people have to be such blowhards?] Fortunately, people like you produce translations so that dumb people like me can hope to understand the original. Surely we are permitted to use translations. If not, then all international dealings/relations ought to be suspended unless all parties involved are thoroughly conversant in all languages.

“By comparing many translations, even the dunce can get an accurate feel for the original.

“You've objected to "mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words." What do your other quoted translations say? Douay-Rheims says "sick about questions and strifes of words." In view of the context, what sort of 'sickness' do you think the translator had in mind? Tuberculosis, maybe? Or is it not a sickness of thinking, so that "mentally diseased" is not such a bad rendering after all? NASB, which you admire, offers "morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words." Does "morbid," when applied to thinking, suggest balance and soundness of mind? Or is "sickness", even "mentally diseased," more to the point?”


I'm okay when grousers who don't like the Bible denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses for that reason. But it burns me up when they suggest JWs...or the translation they generally use....misrepresent the Bible.

Here's a few other translations:

 diseased (Emphasized New Testament; Rotherham)

 filled with a sickly appetite (Epistles of Paul, W.J.Conybeare)

morbid appetite (A New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People; Charles Williams)

 morbid craving, (An American Translation; Goodspeed)

 unhealthy love of questionings (New Testament in Basic English)

 morbidly keen (NEB)

unhealthy desire to argue (Good News Bible).

Do any of these other versions suggest soundness of mind to you? So the NWT's "mentally diseased" is an entirely valid offering, even if more pointed than most. Plus, once again, the term is an adjective, as it is in all other translations, not a medical diagnosis. Context (in that Watchtower article) made this application abundantly clear. But my blogging opponent declared all such context (apparently without knowing it) "irrelevant." The last time I carried on that way with regard to the remarks of some scientists, I was immediately accused of "quote mining."

Surely that sword must cut both ways. Malcontents who harp on that Watchtower sentence are quote-mining, totally ignoring (or disagreeing with) its context, so as to lambaste a religion they can't stand.

Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever (1932 – 2004), Professor of Religious Studies of the Southern Methodist University in his paper The Reliability of Apostate Testimony about New Religious Movements that he wrote upon request for Scientology, claims that the overwhelming majority of people who disengage from non-conforming religions harbor no lasting ill-will toward their past religious associations and activities, but that there is a much smaller number of apostates who are deeply invested and engaged in discrediting, and performing actions designed to destroy the religious communities that once claimed their loyalties. He asserts that these dedicated opponents present a distorted view of the new religions and cannot be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. He claims that the lack of reliability of apostates is due to the traumatic nature of disaffiliation, that he compares to a divorce, but also due to the influence of the anti-cult movement, even on those apostates who were not deprogrammed or did not receive exit counseling. (Kliever 1995 Kliever. Lonnie D, Ph.D. The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements, 1995.) [Submitted by “Jay” on the Beliefnet blog]


Years ago Jehovah's Witnesses faced down another form of “political correctness,” that of compulsory flag salute. As with the present political correctness, it involved forcing certain speech or actions so as to foster desired attitudes. Observed a Court opinion of the era: "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life." Yet for three years, until the Supreme Court overturned its own prior decision, compulsory flag salute in public school was the law of the land.


Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'



Thanks for providing a comparison of the various bible renditions of the 'mentally diseased' phrase. Anyone who's balanced and reasonable must see that the criticism levelled at the the WT society is off.
Besides, as you say, it's used as an adjective not as a medical diagnosis. Nice explanation Tom.

tom sheepandgoats

It's the dishonesty of these guys that gets me.....trying to make it seem that counsel is directed at all who leave the faith.

BTW, I should acknowledge that the phrase "psycho ex-mate" was suggested to me by Rosie, who used it in a comment following the post "You Got a Timetable on That?"


Tears of Oberon has some interesting material concerning this on his blog (http://tearsofoberon.blogspot.com/2011/09/laying-to-rest-mental-disease-nonsense.html).

As for the KJV - it too supports the NWT.

One definition of doting, per Dictionary.com is:
"showing a decline of mental faculties, especially associated with old age; weak-minded; senile."

Merriam Webster has a similar definition.

Lest anyone say that the KJV meant the other definition of doting, i.e. "to be lavish or excessive in one's attention, fondness, or affection", note this information about the root word dote (also from Dictionary.com):
1175–1225; Middle English doten to behave foolishly, become feeble-minded; cognate with Middle Dutch doten."

So the original meaning of the word is associated with mental defect. The KJV and NWT agree on the rendering of 1 Timothy 6:4.

tom sheepandgoats

Thank you, Dean.

I didn't include KJV on my list because "doting" seemed less specific/weaker than the other renderings. But, per the definition you supply, it's right there with all the rest of them.

Tony McGurk

"considerable backlash against JWs by those who insist that God is American"
Not being American (I'm Tasmanian or some would call me Australian) I wasn't aware of such an attitude. I am rather surprised to learn that people actually think that way. Nice post Tom, I like the way you explained about those who leave & just move on with life compared to those who have an axe to grind against Jehovah's organisation.

Tony McGurk

P.S. It doesn't matter what explanation is given & how reasonable & logical it is, the haters will always find fault with what The Watchtower says.

tom sheepandgoats

It does seem to work that way, doesn't it?

As for God being American, you understand that the words are not meant literally. Idioms don't necessary translate well into other cultures. As Joel used the words, they refer to how religion follows the flag....God and country....the present country always has God's backing, and in the event of conflict with another nation...well, they obviously don't. Joel grew up during a time when nationalism was especially rampant here.

I used the expression in a different way. Think of counsel often heard through the Watchtower that a spirit of independence is rife today. Well, "independence", insisting upon rights, typifies America, much more so than many nations, where values such as cooperation, yielding to the greater good, finding ones place in society may assume more prominance. For example, Americans (the majority....not all of them) still vigorously insist on the right to bear firearmns. In many countries, people have long ago lost interest in personally owning them.

RK Meier

When someone is painfully divorced from an organization, their impressions of that organization should in most cases be viewed with skepticism. This is not to say that these claims should be ignored, or that, if credible, that these claims should not be investigated.
However, I think for whatever reason, people are more inclined to believe sensational or downright false claims, when they're levied against a group like the Witnesses. I'm not sure if this is due to familiarity, or rather its opposite, as to some degree, the JW are by their nature, a little removed from general society.


So what you're saying here is that one can leave the religion and that's well and good but if they're open and talk about the reason they left or try to persuade others to not make the same mistake that's who they refer to as mentally diseased?

I'm curious here, I guess I'd take the example of Steve Hassan who wrote a book "Combatting Cult Mind Control" about his time in the Moonies. He feels they are a destructive mind control cult and speaks out against them. I don't think any JW would call him "mentally diseased" in fact they'd probably commend him for speaking out against the things that Moonies do. There are many JWs who were former members of other churches am I right here? Don't they give testimonies at their big meetings (assemblies I think?) saying how they left their previous religion and why? Would JWs call them "mentally diseased" because they didn't move on and stop talking about their previous religion.

It seems a double standard to me, "Those who leave their former religion and testify about it are perfectly fine as long as it's not our religion they left, if they left our religion then they're 'mentally diseased'".

Hoping this comment gets through the moderation, to get your response. Thank You.

tom sheepandgoats

“So what you're saying here is that one can leave the religion and that's well and good...”

No. I said in the post we don't think it's a great idea.

“but if they're open and talk about the reason they left or try to persuade others to not make the same mistake....”

Still no, but closer. There are many reasons a person might leave, but only a few that would trigger verses dealing with apostasy. See, we don't really view it as a “mistake” to become a Christian. You apparently do. Our opposite viewpoints on this might make any explanation hard for you to accept. Verses such as the following help formulate our position:

Titus 3:10 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.”

Acts 20:29 “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

Titus 1:10 “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach...”

From your point of view, these verses sound extreme, I understand, but JWs are a Bible people. We think that book's counsel is the best way to live. So we apply those verses among ourselves.

“that's who they refer to as mentally diseased?”

You have failed to put mentally diseased in quotes, as the article did. The distinction is important. It means you are taking the words quite literally. (though I see you corrected yourself later on) The article made clear it was not meant to be literal.

“It seems a double standard to me, "Those who leave their former religion and testify about it are perfectly fine as long as it's not our religion they left, if they left our religion then they're 'mentally diseased'".”

Seen from your point of view, it would seem strange, I agree. Really, all claiming to adhere to the Bible should apply the verses above to those leaving their ranks in a blaze of apostasy. I admit, that would result in a ridiculous spectacle, all faiths responding that way. But fear not, they're not going to do it. This subject is by no means the only area in which they ignore Bible counsel.

In fact, that's the reason Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you that the joined the faith in the first place, that they found a Christian faith that follows the Bible. That was attractive to them, even if not to you. Nor was it a snap decision. Becoming a Witness involves a period of study and application of Bible principles. It seldom takes less than a year. All the while, they continue to function in general society, just like before. I'm not real familiar with Moonies, but aren't they physically isolated in some sort of a training camp?

Lee John

Why Lamas?

Is this from a Noah's Ark drama or something?

tom sheepandgoats

Nah, I just like llamas. So does Mrs. Sheepandgoats

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