Things that Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 9
May 08, 2023
This is a multi-part series. See Preface, 2nd Preface, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8 Each part links to the next.
I think we have to accept that the primary influence on the earthly organization is going to be the Bible. Sometimes it seems the only influence. On a dozen different issues, you’ll want to say, ‘Come on! Open your eyes! Just look at THIS or THAT!’ We’re going to have to settle for the fact that they don’t. Moreover, it overall is their strength, even if there is a downside.
If they haven’t quoted that 2 Kings 22:7 verse about ‘trustworthy men’ not put under the microscope, that nonetheless will guide their thinking. How can it not? It is the Bible statement that most directly applies. As soon as they ‘cave’ and release SEC like line-item auditing, a thousand Rolfs come along and take issue with lines they don’t like. And they will be different lines for eachperson. Everyone will have his or her own unique beef.
These are not the days when people demurely state their point and, having done so, retire in peace. These are days when people go kamikazi for their cause. These are days when people try to stir up trouble with Norway because things are not going down to their liking.
I’m convinced that when it comes to government, the primary, if not only, consideration of the earthly organization, is what the Bible says about them. ‘They are your minister for good, to be obeyed in all things unless they try to impede pure worship. Barring that, they are nothing but your friend. The notion that governments themselves might be knowingly or unknowingly working against their citizen’s physical interests never seems to occur to the HQ brothers. How could they think such a thing of ‘God’s minister for your good,’ provided only they keep their hands off what is undeniably His, matters of worship? Therefore, if the governments take a stand on vaccines, it must be for a good reason, our people think.
It’s pretty much the same combination of strength and weakness when it comes to CSA. ‘What does the Bible have to say on child sexual abuse?’ is the gist of Tom’s question (that video of the priest/counselor/professor who became a Witness, had a ton of questions, and was impressed that the answer to each one came straight from the Bible). The answer is nothing. Does it? Specifically? In the scriptures? Settle for it being a form of pornea, to be governed as pornea is, and that’s about all there is. If anyone thinks Jehovah’s Witnesses were slow to adapt their child sexual abuse policies to today’s times, that’s no doubt the reason.
We’re going to have to decide that such a ‘Bible first (if not only)’ policy governing the organization’s outlook is a virtue to be cherished, even if it does expose ones to rabbit holes now and then. If you break from ‘Bible-first (or only)’ it will necessarily be a break into human wisdom. And then the inevitable question becomes ‘Which brand of human wisdom?’ I, who am in the United States—similar breakdowns are everywhere—have not reached the conclusion that all the evil people are Republicans and all the virtuous people are Democrats, or vice-versa. The reality is that there is more or less equal concern for righting the wrongs of society on both side, but it will be which wrongs take priority that drives their differences—differences that today flame into virtual civil war.
If the earthly organization strays from a ‘Bible first (or only’ worldview, you know they will ‘take sides’ one way or the other on societal issues, and they will quickly incur wrath from those who have taken the other side. And that’s assuming they can stay united themselves. They may not be able to if they were to forsake ‘Bible first (or only.’ How many of us have reflected that we probably would never know or like countless individuals in the faith were it not for the faith.
As can be seen from Geo Jackson’s talk at the annual meeting (monthly broadcast of January 2023) HQ is fixated on the divisive issues that would have torpedoed the lives of Christians living in 66 CE Jerusalem but for keeping their eye on the ball, and notbeing sucked into the hot societal issues of the day. It’s how they think on SEC auditing, on vaccines, and on CSA; the only guidance that must be heeded comes directly from the Scriptures. Beyond what the scriptures say on this or that, it’s probably a divisive side issue that will sink them if they pay it much attention.
We’ll have to defend them, even if we say (ideally, mostly to ourselves) ‘Boy, they sure stepped in it that time.’ Abandon Bible-first and the most precious quality of the brotherhood, it’s unity, vanishes.
I mean to comment on vaccines but it must be for another post. Already Oscar Oxgoad is saying ‘Oh my head, my head—the words!’ and Elisha is preparing his resurrection kit. Whyshould I impose on his time? “Skip a bit, brother.”
****** The bookstore
I agree the Bible is the primary influence, but I think when we examine closely why we get some things "wrong" it has to do with the very strong influence of culture and society. Taking your example of CSA: I remember this being discussed among the average publisher when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. And I often heard the idea "we don't want to drag Jehovah's name through the mud." At the time, that was a Bible-first idea in that there was a scriptural principle behind it. But the principle was being misapplied, because culturally the issue was being misunderstood (i.e. the compulsive nature of offenders, the extent of the effect on the child). Our policy today is also scriptural; but it's a better application of all principles involved plus more insight into the issue itself.
Likewise, I don't see how the approach to the covid vaccine is a Bible-first approach alone. The scriptures are very clear (and this is articulated in our literature) that human govt is the overt source of much oppression and corruption (there's a short Awake! series about the poison of govt corruption). I think it's more accurate to say that the GB is also a reflection of their culture, age, and society; and society generally speaking is unaware of the high level of govt corruption, regulatory capture, pharmaceutical fraud (and yes even conspiracies) worldwide. Most people including JWs I know over 65 still consider anything outside the medical industry to be "alternative medicine." We love to quote Jesus that the sick should go to a physician. But we seem not to grasp that the kind of medicine practiced in Jesus' day is nothing like what's happening in the medical industry today.
I agree the GB is Bible-First and that that works best in the long run, but I don't think that alone is an adequate explanation for what we get wrong at times. And I think that's good to know when one is making decisions for one's family (each one carrying his own load). For example, what's best for one's family medically, may not be appreciated by popular culture or understood by some taking the lead. I hope I'm making sense with this. This isn't an effort to devalue the suggestions from the GB. And certainly it wouldn't be an excuse to disobey clear direction, but I think it's something to weigh when making personal decisions that may have serious consequences. Would love your feedback on all that.
[Tom replies: Uh oh. I refer to non-med health care as ‘alternative medicine.’ Hope that doesn’t date me too much. What does the more modern generation call it?
I agree it’s a fine thing to not stress about ‘dragging God’s name through the mud.’ That WT study article a few years back did just that, making clear an abuser brings reproach upon himself, not the congregation. That said, one only frets about dragging a name through the mud if there is a name to protect. John says, ‘Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone liking and carrying on a lie.’ It’s not surprising the notion of protecting their name would be foreign to them.
Very fine comments you’ve made lately, CM. If you can forward that Awake series to me, I would appreciate it. (Just tell me the searchable title). I have a book coming out in about a month, ‘In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction’ that will incorporate some of these modern stressors and will benefit from your observations. ]
Posted by: CM | May 08, 2023 at 05:39 PM
The vaccine issue knocked me a great deal. I just feel it shouldn't have been discussed so often and not to sound cheeky but it did come across as "talking out to both sides of mouth"
Running the mini vaccine experiments in betel was bizzare and telling us everyone is fine and also it began to feel like Jehovah had blessed the vaccine. I didn't take any in the end a few held out but the pressure I felt to take it from the governments and the organization has left me shaken a bit.
[Tom replies: Thank you, Kevin. I think it threw many for a loop. Monitoring it among a population they can closely observe doesn’t strike me as a bad idea, but still it went quickly from ‘health care is a personal choice’ to ‘some at Bethel have chosen to get vaccinated’ to ‘pretty much everyone did.’ Now I notice the recent WT study in which vax is pointedly not mentioned, though other pandemic measures—mask, distancing, hand washing, etc—are.]
Posted by: Kevin | May 08, 2023 at 05:43 PM
In reference to Kevin's comment: I am finding the 1974 yearbook to be highly instructive when it comes to our organization facing novel and highly distressing developments in the world. When you read all these details of how those taking the lead initially reacted and adapted to what was happening in Germany in the 30s and 40s..., when you read about the uncertainty and fear among the congregations that sometimes resulted in very hurtful personal injustices...it can really help have realistic expectations of the congregation during difficult times and help us continue to take personal responsibility for our own integrity. The congregation can both disappoint us and courageously come through for us. The best part is knowing this all happened decades ago; the ones telling the stories made it through and are not bitter; and the organization has continued to thrive around the world.
Posted by: CM | May 10, 2023 at 12:19 PM