Who Really is a Cult? Part 2
January 18, 2019
When you release suddenly the compressed spring, it bounds wildly, delirious at its new freedom, caring not where it lands, for any landing is better than where it was. It is that way with those who become apostate. You would think the world is the most paradisiac place imaginable to hear them carry on, with nothing but boundless opportunities ahead. Yes, there are niggling problems here and there, but not at all things to fret over—just think of the new freedom gained! It is a description of the world that few others will recognize.
The things that once caught their attention and led to their embracing the Witness faith in the first place are completely forgotten. The mourning and disgust over how “man has dominated man to his injury”—gone. The dismay that God catches the blame when humans use their free will to choose the course that he advised them not to choose—no longer a concern. The futility that twenty years growing up, forty gaining experience, and then, just when you think you have begun to figure things out, your body starts to betray you—“Cool beans!” they say. Let them say it. When you negate the plusses, all that remains to speak of are the minuses.
The consideration of the deeper questions of life that first led them to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses have seemingly vanished, replaced by chasing the baubles of the present life, convinced that they are not baubles at all, but the true gems. Stack them both side by side—the upside of the Witness way of life and the downside. Those who act upon the downside and jump ship rarely ever mention the upside again. Let the general audience weigh both. Some will choose one stack. Some another. Put the choice out there. It is what tolerance is all about.
At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses might seem the most intrusive people on earth, trucking straight up your driveway to give you their version of truth, whether you asked them to or not—and almost always, you did not. Upon reflection, however, they are the least. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. They do not afterwards lean on the politicians or lawyers to force their way of life upon you, as do many others. Few bully more than the anti-cultists. Few disagree more with the Chief Justice who said, in a decision favoring Jehovah’s Witnesses: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion…If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” It is as though the anti-cultists say: “One has occurred to us. They pursue goals we don’t want them to pursue. They dream dreams that are not our dreams. We don’t like them.”
Sly in their techniques, they present themselves as the people’s protector. One way to “protect” troops on the opposing side is to kill off their generals. That way, being disorganized, maybe you can in time persuade them to fight on your side. That slyness is seen now in the suspicion cast upon “religious corporations” that “abuse people.” Jehovah’s Witnesses would be better off without one, the argument goes. Then they would not be “abused” and would fall into place with conventional goals.
It sounds noble at first listen, but it is readily punctured at second. The only reason that religious people form corporations is so that they may exist and do things such as owning property. To seek to strangle a religious corporation is no different than seeking to strangle a nation’s chosen government, such as is attempted in times of war. It is to say that Canadians, for example, are fine people, in fact, excellent people, but they must not be permitted to choose a government. Anti-cultists ought not be so coy. They are warring against the Witness religion and those members who have chosen it. They ought not paint themselves as taking the high road, as Alexander Dvorkin in Russia does. In advocating the Witness organization be outlawed in Russia, he said that he was protecting the civil rights of the individual Witnesses, as though he was their friend. Eliminate their infrastructure and—why, you may better absorb them into the course you wish them to take.
The intent of the apostates is to thrust the downside of Witness life into the spotlight, and thereby, both embarrass them and undermine their message. It changes nothing. The game is the same. It’s just up on another level. Want to examine the price tag first? It is how many people shop. Jesus says count the costs before you commit, and he plainly has in mind that you count the benefits first, but if some want to reverse the order, we can all live with that.
It is but the same age-old drama seen through a new lens. Everything with significant upside will have a downside. Let people focus where ever they will. Some will choose the product. Some will choose the price. “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow gate,” says Jesus. If the anti-cultists would focus on the narrow gate rather than the reason to pass through it, so be it. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied,” says Paul, signaling agreement that paying the price is foolish if there truly is no Christ. “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” says Jesus. (Luke 18:8) Let it all play out, as people weigh the product with the price.
The treasure is the “pearl of high price” for which its buyer sells everything else. (Matthew 13:46) Do the anti-cultists wish to focus on the “everything else?” That’s okay. That’s fair. Nobody in the Christian world would say that there is not a cost. Paul took the loss of all things and counted it as “a lot of refuse.” (Philippians 3:8) Should present-day opposers call him a fool, that is a value judgement that they are entitled to make. It is the same reality but seen through a different lens.
When apostates hope that persons will see the downside of Witness life and weigh it as more substantial than the upside, they are, in a sense, helping Jehovah’s Witnesses get their message out. They are hoping that people will learn of a downside and say: “Look, spiritual things are only so important. Who needs this kind of drama?” and steer clear. How is that any different from Jesus’ own words that one must exert oneself vigorously to squeeze in through the narrow gate and be prepared to jettison the extra-wide trailer that smashes against the gate posts? Let them do it. The Christian life will not appeal to all people. It separates one from the overall world—the one going down like the Titanic in the Witnesses’ eyes. But if you think that world is floating high and pretty, with armed crewmen on the bow poised to smash to smithereens icebergs as they approach, you will hate it. Kicking over the traces of anything produces an incomparable rush. Only much later is it revealed whether it was a good idea or not.
The restrictions of a Witness life are overblown, but nobody would say that they are nothing. Are they roadblocks to individual fulfillment or are they guardrails that one would be crazy to crash through? Beyond question, there are two very different views of the world. However, should someone sing: “Step out of line, the men come to take you away,” it is evidence of not having the most balanced personality—it’s not that restrictive. Nobody would say that Witnesses step any old place they like, but that is hardly the same as not stepping at all. Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with this or that aspect of “theocracy.” But they also keep it in perspective. They know that in any organized arrangement, there will be some things that do not go your way. And they are modest enough to consider that maybe it is they themselves who are in need of correction. After all, they have confidence that they are being “taught by Jehovah,” and they accepted from Day 1 that his chosen means of governing is not democracy. They know that slavish acquiescence is not required; it is enough to refrain from shouting from the rooftops that madmen are at the helm when the going gets rough.
They made their peace from the outset that separating from the greater world would trigger the latter’s disapproval. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations, when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you,” says Peter. As the divide grows between the former and the latter, the latter object: “What’s wrong with the ‘low sink?’ What are you trying to say about us?” In a super-sensitive world, one’s very existence is taken as judgmental of whatever one avoids. We must all “come together” is the mantra of our time.
To the extent that the anti-cultists lean atheistic, and most of the vociferous ones do, they seemingly are eager to trash things that are, not just JW, but of Judeo/Christian origin. The two-witness rule that Jehovah’s Witnesses retain in congregation matters, was, until recently, fundamental to Western law. You can’t just hurl out an accusation and allow your personal conviction to carry the day; you have to prove it. These days that Judeo/Christian model is increasingly a being replaced with a new one that says accusation is enough, and it is up to the accused to prove that it is not so. It represents a 180-degree reversal in justice, and one wonders whether the ‘old’ standard is rejected by a new atheistic world simply because its origin is religion. The reason one does not quickly shed “two-witness” policies emerges each time someone is exonerated after having served decades in prison, convicted over less strenuous “proof.”
The “crime” of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of taking the Bible too seriously. Anti-cultists don’t want them to do it. The situation reverts right back to certain clergy of decades ago who attempted to dissuade church members from Bible reading on the grounds that it would “make them crazy.” Those adhering to the ancient Book find themselves in a crazy world determined to stamp out injustice but not what causes it. No one can agree on the latter, and if they could they would be unable to launch coordinated action. It is the fundamental weakness of a world typified by those within being “not open to agreement.” Therefore, injustices are pandemic, and those subjected to enough of them become like Humpty Dumpty, who topples so severely as to not be made whole again—yet no complaint will ever be dropped until that unreachable goal is attained. People are damaged goods today. Those who become Jehovah’s Witnesses are also that way, but they put themselves in a setting they feel most conducive to healing. It is as a former prisoner of war told me ages ago—a man then studying the Bible—that at the Kingdom Hall he felt peace.
The prevailing winds of the day blow against religious people. Religion is simply not a force worth getting all worked up over, its enemies charge. Its strengths are supposed irrelevant, if not but fiction. The age-old perception that it is a healing power has changed, replaced with a new one that it is a destructive power.
See Who Really is a Cult? Part 3
From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!