Here is one to develop: FECRIS, the international anti-cult organization based in France, denounces and schemes harm to Jehovah’s Witnesses on the basis they are a ‘harmful cult.’ It does this mostly through the machinations of its Russian born Vice President, Alexander Dvorkin. He is the one who masterminded the 2017 ban against Witnesses throughout Russia that has to date resulted in the arrests and jailing of hundreds.
War in Ukraine breaks out—a bloody, punishing, shocking war in which civilian deaths are many and genocide is alleged. Dvorkin backs Russia to the hilt. Others of that organization back Ukraine. Whatever semblance of unified action they may have had—smashed to smithereens over Ukraine! Just who is the ‘harmful cult’ here—FECRIS or Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The one thing we know for sure about Jehovah’s Witnesses is that not one combatant will be theirs. They may be drawn from every other religious and secular background—the ‘king’ can always persuade his subjects they are the victims—but not theirs. Just who is the ‘harmful cult?’ Given the ongoing atrocities, they are among the few parties not harmful!
I mean, this FECRIS fix is almost as poignant as the most prominent exJW ‘activist’ cavorting with the lithe and pretty young sex workers of Thailand, blowing his own family to smithereens in the process. It is as though those ubiquitous Watchtower drawings of slovenly opposers shouting and shaking their fists in rage finds complete fulfillment in that bearded bullying slob who perfectly typifies the scriptural ‘promising freedom while himself being slave to corruption!’ (2 Peter 2:19) And now the secular FECRIS grapples with the enormous bloodshed its VP cheers for! And Jehovah’s Witnesses are the harmful cult??! I don’t think so!
What has FECRIS done with this division in its ranks? As quietly has possible, it has expelled Dvorkin, its Vice President. It hasn’t really ‘disfellowshipped’ him because only cults do that. But what it has done so closely resembles disfellowshipping that no reasonable person can tell the difference. Is it enough? Or is the ideology of FECRIS itself the fault, whose factions stoked the perception of evil cults at work in Ukraine right until it all blew up in their faces? I mean, it is possible to drink too much of your own Kool-Aid.
“But…but…but,” that perennial apostate Vic Vomodog wrote me, “What about that Watchtower line, ‘We need to obey the faithful discreet slave to have Jehovah's approval?’ Huh, Tom Harley, what about that? Jesus Christ himself said at John 14:6, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ Unlimited power is what they want!”
No, Vic. They no more make a grab for “unlimited power” than did those taking the lead in the first century:
“As [Paul and Banabas] traveled on through the cities, they would deliver to them for observance the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem.” (Acts 16:4)
Never did those two suggest Christians ought blow away “decrees” from Jerusalem as though the tyranny of domineering men. All Bible translations use words such as ‘decrees’ for Acts 16:4. Some say ‘rules,’ some ‘regulations.’ Some strengthen it as regulations “which were to be observed.” Only the independence-savoring Message translation waters it down to ‘helpful guidelines which proved most useful.’
“What I am saying is that trust us because God trust us sounds cultish!” Vomodog fired back!
It does sound cultish and it may therefore be impolitic to say it, but only for that reason. There’s nothing especially shocking in the idea itself. The Lord trusted the twelve. Does that mean their performance was flawless? We are the children of those who drove around with bumper stickers saying “Question Authority.” (if we are not those people ourselves). It makes us touchy on the point of authority. Dare I say overly touchy?
The Governing Body says what it says as it mans up, girds its loins, and takes the same lead as did faithful men in the first century. They think we’re entering crunch time. Witnesses will agree with that; if they don’t they have no business being Witnesses. The Governing Body does not want to find themselves in the shoes of Lot, urging evasive action only to find his sons-in-law think he is joking. (Genesis 19:14)
Jesus says (John 14:12) “whoever exercises faith in me will also do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these.” The first century governing body, “the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem,” did considerably greater works than Jesus in that they spread the message throughout the then-known world. The modern-day governing body has far eclipsed them, spreading it throughout the entire world regardless of the barriers set up (language, nationality, ethnicity, culture), at the same time keeping it freely available, unified, and uncontaminated. For this they deserve great respect, and yes, obedience. It is understood that this obedience is not tyranny, that it recognizes “we are not masters of your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24) and that we shall smell a scandal when Sam Herd upgrades to a bigger dorm room.
By and large, rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses have worked out the balance pretty well: “We have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us—imperfect humans. We are imperfect and those taking the lead are imperfect], so that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
If we are going to carry on about “absolute authority” let us attribute it to the one who has it in this system of things and who uses it for great harm—the “great dragon who is misleading the entire inhabited earth,” the “ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Rev 12:9, Ephesians 2:2) It is this one who uses his absolute authority over the “air” to motivate the malevolent ones at FECRIS to boast of their “freedom of mind,” caring not that it makes them pawns of the national kings fighting their bloody battles for dominance. That’s the “absolute authority” to worry about, not those of the people who say we should pay attention to dress and grooming and keep track of time spent in the ministry. “Light has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light,” says Jesus. (John 3:19) See how quickly a discussion about the authority that kills is diverted into beefing about the authority that doesn’t.
The Governing Body may not correspond to the human authority Jehovah has used in the past in every particular, the main one being that since Scripture was completed in the first century CE, they are not explicitly mentioned in it. But it is far more beneficial to dwell on the similarities than the differences. Even Witnesses who aren’t thrilled over every aspect of GB policy have no problem conceding that there should be human leadership. Any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is easily able to reconcile “I am the way and the truth and the life” with verses such as Ephesians 4: 7-13 that plainly state Christ grants authority to men:
“Now undeserved kindness was given to each one of us according to how the Christ measured out the free gift. ….And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, to build up the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness of the faith and of the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to being a full-grown man, attaining the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”
Surely Christianity was not meant to die with the completion of the Bible canon. Surely someone was meant to be around to oversee Matthew 24:14: “And this good news will be preached in all the inhabited earth, as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”