Q: The Governing Body doesn’t directly write what becomes the spiritual food, does it? Doesn’t the Writing Committee originate it, and they merely put their stamp of approval on it?
A: The defining word here is “merely.”
If my roof caves in tomorrow and I decide that it’s God’s fault, or if I park on the Kingdom Hall lawn, the elders tell me not to, and I say, “Oh yeah?! Well I show you in my next post!”—if I do it at Bethel, the GB will “merely” decline to put their stamp of approval on my rant—they will put me on potato-peeling detail in the kitchen instead, and call up someone from the bullpen less deranged. But if I am a loose cannon on my own blog—there is nothing anyone can do when I go haywire. That’s why I don’t ever expect to be acknowledged for my self-appointed role as an apologist, much less commended for it. Even the real apologists of the early centuries have not fared will at the hands of the writing committee, that tends to focus on things they got wrong.
No, the “merely” is a big deal. It makes for constancy and consistency. Call it a “think tank” at Bethel if you will. It is a concentration of gray hairs and experience, of meeting trials, of knowing they are to be judged for their actions (or inaction), of following up on having brought understanding of the sacred writings to begin with.
I can just shoot my mouth off here, say whatever pops into my head, insult Vic Vomodog whenever he deserves it (which is almost always), praise the Benoit Blanc movie* even though there is crude language—and perhaps I have never faced a care in the world. But they can’t.
What are my morals? I could (to borrow from Bob Dylan) “be respectably married—or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aries.” Nobody knows. But the Bethel writers are vetted, not just for being good writers, but for being good Christians. They take it for granted there that if your conduct is sullied, somehow that will come out in your guidance, even if it doesn’t seem to at first glance.
I had a friend that, eccentric though he was, had a gift of making complex things simple—even oversimplifying to drive the point home. I can still hear him recounting to someone just how it works in Jehovah’s organization: “At Bethel, the Governing Body study their Bibles. An idea will occur to one of them. They will discuss it among themselves and when they all come to agreement, it will appear in print.”
“Now, the thing is,” he continued, “you also study your Bible. The same idea might have occurred to you, maybe even before it occurred to them. ‘And if this were Christendom, you’d run out and start your own religion over it.’ But because you know it is not a free-for-all, and you know that Jehovah is a God of order, you wait for material to come through the appointed channel.”
So if they have called themselves “Jehovah’s mouthpiece” in the past, I can live with that. They have the greatest think tank collection of gray hairs that, per the scriptures, denotes wisdom, of experience in Christian works, in safeguarding and extending the king’s belongings, in knowing the will be held accountable before God. They have the greatest sense of direction and following up on momentum. One must not do a Miriam and say—“does not Jehovah speak through all of us?” I am happy to have a thought that makes sense—I don’t go thinking I am God’s gift to the brotherhood for it.
The trouble is that there are so many literalists who see the expression “crocodile tears” and take it as proof that the one shedding them is a crocodile. There are so many literalists who do not strive to think of how phrases like “Jehovah’s mouthpiece” might apply, but they strive to think of how they don’t. It is the same with “being led by spirit.” It is almost too explosive a phrase to use because of the literalists—if you go to the bathroom—well—how can you be guided by spirit? since holy spirit would never do THAT!
It’s the same with elders and servants being “appointed by holy spirit.” How do you know they are? To my mind it is because the qualifications are in the Book inspired by holy spirit, and the judgment as to how persons measure up is made by a (small) “think tank” of holy spirit, and seconded by a traveling minister patterned after scripture—another repository of holy spirit. It works for me. But there will be some who think that if an appointee ever goes bad afterwards it must be that they were not appointed by holy spirit. I think not. Any of these terms must necessarily be “watered down” some when put in the context of humans, “in whose heart the inclination to do bad” is ingrained from his youth up.
I think of certain brother appointed upon the recommendation of the BOE. The circuit overseer, an older and very experienced man, okayed the recommendation, with the observation: “He’s not the most humble brother in the world.” He didn’t have to be. All he had to do was to meet each of the qualifications to an acceptable degree. Alas, the CO should have listened to his gut, for the man in time went apostate. He was the one who was a history buff and used to impress the householder by answering, “Because I’m an historian,” when asked how he knew this or that about the past. Once I said to him, “Will you knock it off?! You are a history buff. A historian is when other people acknowledge you, not just you yourself!”
I could be wrong, but I bet the GB has learned to be very leery of such phrases and terms as “mouthpiece” and “inspired” and “spirit-directed”—not just for all the literalists, but for all the critics (who are often the same). Some things if they say just once, it is magnified 100 times. Other things they say 100 times, only to find it ignored. “Don’t save seats for everyone you know,” they would say about the Regionals, “think of the elderly.” Finally, they gave up, and said to let the elderly in early, and everyone else only after the oldsters were seated. Innumerable directives went unheeded. Yet if they speak just once about “forums,” their words are enshrined for all time. I alluded to this in Tom Irregardless and Me. The organization would say that the Governing Body does not endorse such and such, and the friends would accordingly have a helpful sense of priority and focus. And then Oscar or someone would be found doing it, and Tom Pearlandswine would descend to tell him that the Governing Body DOES NOT ENDORSE!!! such and such. You never know what quote will be magnified and what will be forgotten, but I bet they are advancing on the learning curve.
*Aw, shut up, with your Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl!” the villain says to Benoit Blanc. it’s about time someone said it to me. (Someone just had.) If you see the movie ‘Knives Out’—it is free on Amazon Prime—you must be prepared for a bit of language. It is by no means filthy, by today’s standards—I don’t recall a single f-bomb—but no way is it pristine like in the Kingdom Hall. It is an Hercule Poirot parody, with Daniel Craig playing the Christie-like eccentric, brilliant, and world-renowned sleuth, Benoit Blanc. There is nothing funnier, to my mind, then when he opens his mouth to speak an overbearing combination of French/Southern Redneck accent. He routinely says things that, at first glance are profound, but at second are just plain stupid.