The speaker’s wife gave one of the first comments at the Watchtower Study—on the very first paragraph. It sort of fit, since the theme was on making wise decisions and following through. Still, she ‘shoehorned’ it in a bit—it wasn’t a perfect fit. She said how she had not been manipulated to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses—it had been her own choice and one that she did not regret.
Well, who said that she had been manipulated?—that’s why the comment had an artificial flavor to it—the paragraph itself contained no hint of it. Furthermore, pushing the limits of the 30-second goal for comments, put in place so that no one loquacious person steals the show, she found it the stupidest notion in the world for anyone to suggest that. Manipulation? How ridiculous.
Plainly, someone had thrust that idea at her recently, maybe some sorehead that she had run across at work or among the neighbors—that it is no more than manipulation with Jehovah’s Witnesses—that’s why they believe and act as they do. It is the classic technique of the mainstream bully—to assert that one couldn’t possibly depart from the ordinary unless they had been manipulated to do so, and “unfairly” manipulated at that—had the “manipulation” been in that bully’s direction, there would be no problem with it.
You can apply this to anything. The reason you bought a Chevy is that you were manipulated by their ads. The reason you cheered for the 49ers is that you were manipulated by San Francisco. The reason you went to college is that you were manipulated by the guidance counselor. The reason that you died for your country is that you were manipulated by that country to think the cause noble—nobody of any other country thought so.
Really, Jehovah’s Witnesses least fit the accusation of manipulation, because they, unlike the above examples, represent persons who were actively searching—they were anything but moldable pieces of dough. They were dissatisfied with the status quo, dissatisfied with where life was heading, dissatisfied with the goals society set before them, and they took upwards of a year looking over a new model, weighing and trying it on for size, before committing to it. All this was done in familiar surroundings without leaving trusted routine—as opposed to the above examples of college and military, in which one is immersed 24/7 in unfamiliar settings, a classic tool of manipulators.
Well, if you are going to talk manipulation, talk it with something that counts. That’s why I liked Mark Sanderson kicking back at the petty application of manipulation with a major one. In his annual meeting talk about not being fearful, he quoted Hebrews 2:15, that “through [Jesus’] death [God] might bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil, and that he might set free all those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.”
Sanderson cited the Nuremberg trials, in which various Nazis who had committed unspeakable atrocities were asked the simple question, “How could you do those terrible things?” “What did they say?” he asked, and then related the answer they had given: “We had no choice. If we didn’t obey they would put us to death.”
“Those people could be manipulated,” Sanderson said. “They could be controlled. They could be made to do the most wicked things because they were afraid.” Exactly! If you are going to bandy about words as “manipulate” and “control,” don’t trivialize the terms—do it with an example that matters! Don’t do it with an example of choosing this life course or that life course, neither of which will extend beyond 80 years. Do it with the example of control and manipulation that will gain you the reputation of a mass murderer to last throughout all time. Maybe that’s why the resurrection of the dead was one of the first Christian teachings to come under attack, even during the time of the apostles; the teaching thwarted the goal to keep people afraid so that you can make them do what you want.
Was it coincidence for Sanderson to speak as he did or did it represent kicking back at these petty people who put all their stock in the here and now, equating acting by faith as “control” and “manipulation?” I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it.