100 Years After 1914 What Lies (are) Ahead For the Watchtower Society?
by Chris Stevenson
‘Jehovah’s organization is moving.’ Just ask United Van Lines. The move to Patterson years ago was just white flight, the moves they’re doing now (Warwick, NY) is more based on ‘strapped for cash.’ Pedophile scandals have taken a bite out of Watchtower assets, making unlikely millionaires out of members they only considered good for door-knocking or disfellowshipping. No doubt their “worldly” financial strategist advised them to start downsizing or turn to chapter 7 of their Fiscal Liquidation Mystery book.
The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (WBTS) is an evidently small-but-powerful organization. Not even the Mafia has been able to protect so many under-educated, unlearned laymen within countless congregations from the justice they so sorely deserve. Not even the much-more-known and powerful Catholic Church has been able to avoid major media scrutiny as they have. The reason for this goes way back, picture a small group of white males during the ‘50’s sitting at a table in a dark room with one of them telling the rest ‘we need rules where our members will nit-pick each other for the slightest hint of infractions so much, that they won’t see the glaring scandals even when the general public make them common knowledge.’ The rub is William Miller, Nelson Barbour, George Storrs, and Charles T. Russell, had no thought to use the name Jehovah-a name discovered by Ramundus Martini, a Spanish Catholic Monk credited with being the first to use the name during the 11th Century, and Petrus Galatinas, a Catholic Priest who in 1518 was the first to translate JHVH to Jehovah-much less use it as a marketing tool.
To begin with, it takes a certain mindset for most people to choose to stay in any relationship whose time limit has expired. How much more so a religion? Nosy people and families know how to to use strict religion to their advantage just as long-tenured employees know how to stay with companies whether corrupt or not. At least the employee gets something tangible in return, pay, medical benefits, workers comp., social security, perhaps a pension. Very few religions ask more from their followers, while repayment is so little. The best of these men knew how to create anticipation in people, like their founders who megalomaniacally blurted out end times dates and predictions of the return of ancient prophets as if they were Elvis.
In 1929 The Watch Tower Society bought property and built a house under the direction of Joseph Rutherford, Beth Sarim, in California for the return of King David, Abraham, Samson etc. Rutherford himself moved in when the Bible prophets were a no-show-cs
For minority groups the Watchtower couldn’t have caught them at a worse time, a time of social upheaval for blacks in particular found a lot of them moving up north now being recruited by JW ministers. Whereas the early Watchtower articles revealed a condescending racist attitude towards blacks in particular, black prospects began to give them their full attention during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. This was pretty much across the board for black church-goers seeking what author/filmmaker Jeremiah Camara (“Contradictions”) calls “a scratch-off, a win” from the decaying conditions surrounding their blocks. “All we have is Jesus, the lottery, and liquor.” This characteristic was evident in many of them before they joined, or if their parents chose another religion while they were still children or became Atheists. You’ll find them to be good manipulators, knowing how to turn the now into the future. I just so happened to have grown up with one of them. He is what they call a Circuit Overseer today. As a young boy Alvin Thompson practiced his trade of rambling-talking, manipulation and guilt-mongering. We would at times sit together before that meeting started and watch the one or two of the congregation committee walk by, and he would every so often say to me “I always wanted to be one of them big time brothers.” As we grew older the committee of three would now become elders, but Al’s words were the same. He wanted to be a “big-time brother.” This is important because a trait that developed in him where he would be more drawn to a position or title more than money-even a dummy-position intended to keep his mouth shut-would in time manifest itself. I think some people who have been damaged by strict over-assuming faiths can trace the success of their victimization to an Al-like person once they dig the bottom of the barrell.
Fast forward some 15 or so years later and Al is now living in Rochester, NY by way of Brooklyn Bethel and marriage. I moved to Rochester from Buffalo four years later one summer, and for a couple months wound up in the same congregation as him. Al is now an elder, and finally “one of those big time brothers.” He was a man co-presiding over the most dilapidated Kingdom Hall in the city, the men’s room amounted to a small space in the basement with a hole in the floor (there were rumors it was for urinating). The ladies room at least was in better shape, with more room for women with babies, but not much better. And air conditioning? What’s that? The Presiding Overseer was I believe, the only white brother in the congregation; Gary Mills. To give you an example of his detachment, Mills had a good job at Kodak and he was walking around bragging about how he cut his work-hours in half so he could spend time as a full time regular pioneer. “Taste Jehovah and see,” he was known to say quoting a scripture out of the infamous New World Translation of The Holy Scriptures. The neighborhood the Hall was located in was the hind-end of urban Rochester, most of the brothers earned under 10K a year. What did Mills want, for us to cut down to $5,000 a year? He had tenure and had gone from something like $80 grand per year to $50,000 and wanted us to think he made this big sacrifice. It was 1984.
Soon the Circuit Overseer John Caister decided the area Halls were too segregated, and initiated a massive split tossing everyone around as if we were in a big giant salad bowl, and (mercifully) closing down our crumbling building. It was around that time that I met a sister who was married to an abusive non-JW piece-of-shit. I would eventually move behind her and she told me about a time when her husband had beat the tar out of her, and she went to the elders for help. The elders she talked to were Gary Mills (“Taste Jehovah and see”), Dave Loftus (another white elder whom by the time I moved to Rochester was the City Overseer, and serving in the Monroe congregation), and my friend Al. Waiting to hear of the great way the elders rescued her from this ghetto-urchin she said “I do” to one day, she instead recounted some words from Al that stunned me. Al told this beaten and battered sister “you got to take it” while the other two looked on. I was almost floored at just hearing that. Even though I would eventually learn of Rochester having a lot of black elders either scolding or giving black sisters misinformation in front of silent white elders, this would still stick out as highly disturbing to me. I confronted Al about this later on, and he reluctantly admitted it. Taste blood and see… hmmm.
You see, I would later learn firsthand about the sister’s husband one evening just walking by her porch in a driving rainstorm with him in front of her backdoor calling her out of her name with her frightened younger kids clutched to her while she tried to tell him to go away. I was on my way to the Ministry School meeting, but not before I hopped on the porch and stood directly between him and her door. Now to be honest with you, this was over 25-years-ago, so I can’t remember the words exchanged. But I vaguely remember telling him to stop using the b-word, scaring her kids (it really bothered him that I called them her kids) and it was time for him to get moving, he responded with threats of cutting me, blah blah blah. All I could see was a thin man in a big leather coat, snakeskin shoes with one hand in his pocket staring me straight in the eyes before backing down the stairs and almost slipping down on the wet pavement. He angrily rushed to a car parked out in front with a driver who no-doubt drove him around on babymama-cursing-out errands.
Even given that most women-beaters are known for their cowardice when confronted with a chance to equal their brutality against another man, I knew this guy was still a huge threat to his estranged wife. And Al knew it was wrong to tell her to “take it.” He was trying to impress the two scared white elders, and it wouldn’t be the only time he would give out misinformation to black females within his own congregation who entrusted him with their spiritual well-being. You see Al-though trying to dazzle Mills and Loftus in his early days in Rochester-was trying to move up and become an elder, he would later brag to me that the key case that got him appointed was when he went along with Loftus and Mills to see two women in his congregation who were roommates. In his estimation he outed them as lesbians in front of the two elders, and his selling point was “one of them was wearing a negligee.” Before you fall out of your chair screaming with laughter at this brilliant detective work, understand this was among the key things that got the two of these women excommunicated or as Jehovah’s Witnesses called, disfellowshipped. Along with his required 15 hours a month in door-to-door Al was now a “big time brother.” I really don’t know nor care whether or not the two of them were munching on each other’s cream donuts. What became known was two sisters in the hood were left without the honor of association in a cold crumbling tenement of worship that neither Al, Gary nor Dave expended any energy trying to improve. Nosy people know how to use strict religion to their advantage. In this case nosy for the purpose of ambition and advancement.
As a matter of fact this was not the first incident of spousal abuse in that congregation where several of us banded together to protect the wives. There was an incident where Brother John Stanford helped a sister and her children move to a downtown hotel with some of us keeping watch outside. She was just frightened he was going to find her. This guy was a big muscular fireman with a hell of a mean streak, a former Witness himself who was already out when I joined the congregation. On another occasion some of the sisters hid the wife of a close friend of mine who had an alcohol problem to an undisclosed location. The overall view then was pretty much what Brother Caister told us in one of his talks after he left the circuit work and joined our Hall; in cases where the sisters are getting beaten by the husbands, the first priority was to get them out of the point of immediate danger. You can decide for yourself what has happened to this type of instruction today if the Watchtower Society is bent on making the woman think she is not being a good enough wife.
The Watchtower as of late is dishing out bad information regarding battered wives, people are still talking about the 2/15/12 Watchtower that claims to give good advice for wives undergoing spousal abuse. While their solution is along the same line as Al’s and not worth repeating, the scripture I remember using back when I was an active member when confronting men who thought this was okay, is simply Ephesians 5: 28,29. You will find that this is not a popular scripture among Bible-hacks in general. I will quote the New International version because it’s not safe to post from the Watchtower’s New World Translation because there’s no telling what they will change the wording to at any given time. “28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—” Note where I added bold text to highlight this clear and logical reasoning. Abusive husbands in various religions have misinterpreted several scriptures to justify their own violent nature and acts, but have yet to find a way to manipulate this one. They can’t. In a collection of 66 schizoid books espousing every range of human interaction from tender love to mass-murder, this is the perfect scripture. Ephesians strongly implies that unless husbands intend to start beating and whipping themselves, hands off your wife. Unlike the Quran (Surah Nisa 4:34), the Bible has no scripture whatsoever outright advocating or even mildly suggesting a husband having the right to hit his wife.
As big a problem as spousal abuse is, it pales in comparison to what has become the Watchtower’s two biggest problems; 1-Pedophilia, 2-Their outright Refusal to report pedophilia to the authorities. Pedophiles seek safe-havens. A safe-haven is a powerful organization that will go to any length to avoid embarrassment, and sadly today the best of those organizations are religious. Part of the safety these perverts benefit from is through the lack of outrage from the majority members of that faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses for example exhibit signs of individual and collective mind-control that resembles they have been to a CIA training camp and later set free to carry out the rest of this Watchtower matrix on their own. The starting point to this control is the Watchtower’s knowing how to use time, in particular the present or now. The Watchtower Society has skillfully and persuasively positioned themselves between two groups of people that have literally carried them way past their expiration date; blacks and young people. It’s commonly known they discourage college education, in the old days it was way better, Armageddon was near. At one point (1992) they relaxed that policy and then conservative hardliners gained positions on their Governing Body and restored the higher education prohibition.
I have written before about the duality of their hating to see their members get a college degree, while hiring obviously college-trained attorneys, accountants and doctors when their individual needs arise. “You don’t drop off of a turnip truck and start balancing books,” said talk radio host Rick Fearon of “Six Screen of the Watchtower” in one of his broadcasts. Historically it’s been easy for the Governing Body to control blacks, especially African Americans. I wouldn’t doubt if they take note of how commercialism and pop-culture controls young blacks, just look at how quickly that “Knockout” game has spread. It’s young black boys pushing it.
The secret to dealing with JW excommunication, I concluded way back when I was growing up that you can’t take disfellowshipping but so seriously. When it came to blood, that was common sense. In any strict religion you have to think for yourself, I was told by older worshipers in silence. Over the decades the Watchtower has only intensified this policy. Family members, blood relatives are being ordered to not speak to another if a such a letter of disfellowshipping has been read of them in front of the congregation. As of summer 2013 a talk at their large convention now officially classifies Apostates as “Human Apostates” and they strongly suggests they are mentally ill. At lot of these classifications are merely a return-fire against the wave of information about the Watchtower and it’s suspect history that average JWs are not allowed to view. The truth is religious shunning of any kind is just some organization of old men shooting a gun with blanks, with various individuals falling down as if dead or wounded because they accepted the blanks as real bullets. Stop imagining blanks are real bullets.
Do not base your self-esteem on someone else’s timeline, especially an organization that’s not paying you. Anyone or anything less is not even important. In 100 years since their prophecies of 1914 and 39 years after 1975 (the 1914 deadline year), I see the Watchtower trying the same games to draw followers pretty much the way they have back in 1931. The more old hat-JWs look back the more it seems they are going in circles. This also means you can expect them to denigrate those who built and sacrificed to establish their organization and that is what they are currently doing.
The prime reason the Watchtower went from not allowing blacks to join them, to blacks suddenly being allowed to join is simple. More members equal more money, blacks represent easy money. During slavery Charles the II of England commissioned the Council of Foreign Plantations (later known as Board of Trade and Plantations from 9/1672) to convert all slaves to Christianity in 1660. It bears mentioning that Apartheid and Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowshipping both started in the same year; 1948. Before 1947 the Watchtower viewed excommunication as a pagan practice, the common timeline between Apartheid and excommunication may be more than coincidental. In spite of shunning being a violation of the UN Declaration Article 12, in 6/87 the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of the Watchtower to shun: “The defendants are entitled to the free exercise of their religious beliefs.” During that same period Margaret Thatcher clashed with Canada’s efforts to sanction South Africa.
Donald Alderman breaks down shunning further (edited by Barbara Anderson): “Harsh shunning practices are part of many religions. For instance, for thousands of years, the people of India were separated into four main hereditary classes or castes into which Hindu society was divided. The lowest of these castes were the ‘Untouchables’ and were viewed as a contaminating influence and thus members of the higher castes would not associate with them. The mere touch, even of the shadow of one of these Untouchables was considered polluting. The Untouchables had to be avoided at all costs. Although India banned treatment of persons as Untouchables since the 1950s, human rights abuse of these people continues in some areas.
Abusive treatment as well as shunning occurred in a political system in South Africa known as Apartheid which generated international concern because one group of humans were segregated and treated as if they were sub-humans.”
When I say to that the Governing Body is shooting blanks when they disfellowship an individual from the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses I am not in denial of the harmful effects such treatment has done or can do to an individual. This is deadly serious. People have committed suicide or contemplated it as a result. The understanding given to me during my years in the cult to justify the very word the Watchtower invented for shunning was a scripture where Jesus is quoted as saying he has come to cause a division; Luke 12: 51-53 “51 Do you imagine I came to give peace on the earth? No, indeed, I tell YOU , but rather division. 52 For from now on there will be five in one house divided, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against the son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against [her] mother, mother-in-law against [her] daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against [her] mother-in-law.” It is this among several scriptures that this has appeal with shun-happy JWs because of the word “division” and it’s application to family. Like other verses, they have taken it and run around the block.
Perhaps the best way to handle this is to just do you. De-emphasize all things and people who attempt to discredit you. It won’t be easy, it takes time. In this particular case don’t focus on making individuals change on how they react to you, in the case of your relatives and loved ones still in that faith help them see what they aren’t being allowed to see. Ask them the questions, ask when did Jesus ever shun his followers, in particular Peter who denied him three times? Ask them about 1914 and how many people from that generation is left? Recent literature and JW lecture overkill on Apostates and shunning family proves an effective method of taking attention away from the generation of 1914 debacle. Let them know about the reports of suicides and mental illness with the organization. And by all means ask them about the Watchtower’s downsizing and why the move to Warwick? Remember, you’re not the one planting the “seeds of doubt,” the Watchtower Society already beat you to it.
I leave you with the most practical counsel I can give you albeit without the emotional high and spiritual guidance many of you are used to, words of wisdom from Roz Shepard: “Ignorance is not bliss. The world contains good, evil, healthy, dysfunctional, trustworthy and untrustworthy people. Being positive is good, but being realistic, informed and balanced is better.”
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, Political Affairs Magazine, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video interviews and commentary on Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the link below.