Russia’s Ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses could Martyrize a vastly Corrupt Religion
by Chris Stevenson
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) seem to be a group of peace-loving followers headed by a publishing company that imposes extreme rules and restrictions on them in order to guarantee a perpetual readership. Kind of like a Reader’s Digest gone mad (who doesn’t get the option to cancel their subscription? Try a publisher whose myopic views are so strong that he decided to form a religion based on them). Yet that is Not the reason the Russian Supreme Court recently (4/20) ruled in favor of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government by declaring them “extremists.” Since the Witnesses don’t join the military or vote they are seen as of no value to Russia, unlike the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).
Much to the chagrin of many non-JWs and former members, that Russian SC’s tag of “extremists” has nothing to do with the rules imposed by the Watchtower on their members. Putin knows his beloved Orthodox Church has some of the same child sexual abuse problems that the Watchtower has vastly accumulated itself with. Given that, it is very hard to make old-line veteran Witnesses understand how “worldly” their parent company is, if Russia just tags them extreme based solely on their non-political activities, it could backfire and make them look like martyrs instead of the monsters Putin is pitching. This would be a great time for the Watchtower to use this ban to play up their persecution card, and bring unwanted attention from the international human rights community. Except they aren’t the only religion being singled out in Russia. As of last summer (7/2016) their ban was targeted toward evangelists faiths.
Recently for example I posed a question to an old friend I haven’t seen in years named Jeannette whose family had been attending Witness meetings since the 1940s according to her. After a few minutes of small talk I asked her if she followed the Australian Royal Commission Hearings on Child Abuse last summer and the follow up last month. This was at a Greyhound bus station in Buffalo where JWs are often seen babysitting their literature cart.
Understand this was in my estimation a question of a serious nature to her, and even with our longstanding friendship she started her response with “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it “
Mature looking adults act like pouting children holding their little hands over their ears to block themselves from hearing unfavorable information about a group that told them it was the greatest truest religion in the world. It is to laugh, but there’s nothing funny about critical thinking being considered oppressive, slanderous, or treated as if outlawed. If your religion already predicted a wrong endtimes, rapture, or Christ-return date, then you are following an outdated belief.
According to a 5/21/15 article in Forbes by Paul Coyer: In the newly open environment of the 1990’s, a flood of Western missionaries, including evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., set up missions in the former Soviet Union, and in the spiritual vacuum that accompanied the fall of the atheistic Soviet system these missionaries found fertile and receptive ground, causing the ROC to fear that its opportunity to rebuild its social influence would be short-circuited and it would be merely one of many religious bodies in Russia – not the dominant religious institution and culture shaper. In response, the ROC successfully pushed the government to pass a law in 1997 that restricted the freedom of religious practice of faiths considered “foreign” in origin and put the ROC back in the driver’s seat in terms of its ability to shape of the emerging national culture…
Over the past decade and a half, Putin has ordered state-owned energy firms to contribute billions to the rebuilding of thousands of churches destroyed under the Soviets, and many of those rich oligarchs surrounding him are dedicated supporters of the ROC who have contributed to the growing influence of the church in myriad ways. Around 25,000 ROC churches have been built or rebuilt since the early 1990’s, the vast majority of which have been built during Putin’s rule and largely due to his backing and that of those in his close circle of supporters. Additionally, the ROC has been given rights that have vastly increased its role in public life, including the right to teach religion in Russia’s public schools and the right to review any legislation before the Russian Duma.
The glue that holds together the alliance between Vladimir Putin and the ROC, and the one that more than any other explains their mutually-supporting actions, is their shared, sacralized vision of Russian national identity and exceptionalism. Russia, according to this vision, is neither Western nor Asian, but rather a unique society representing a unique set of values which are believed to be divinely inspired.
Scenes like this, taken from one of the Watchtower’s drama-videos are made to induce an “us against them” bunker mentality within Jehovah’s Witnesses and validate treatment such as they are currently getting in Russia as a “sign of the last days,” and they are the “only true” faith– cs
The easiest way to understand the shutdown of the JWs is to view it as it is, a program initiated by Russian conservatives backed by their own anti-terror law. Extreme measures against what outwardly seems to be a religion of peace. Not lost on Watchtower opponents are the lingering effects of individual worshipers who fall out of favor with the American church, especially it’s children. Indeed the Watchtower has come across even more hardline and conservative when they detach themselves away from granting resources and aid to thousands of children who have been victimized by men-many holding unaccredited titles as “Elder” or “Ministerial Servant”-none of them having any knowledge or expertise in law enforcement or the medical industry as doctors.
Just over the past year another European nation has been subjecting JW representatives to intense scrutiny over some of their most obtuse and archaic policies such as their refusal to report their pedophiles to their respective authorities, the Australian Royal Commission on Child Abuse (some 1,006 cases of child molestation has been occurring in Australian congregations alone between 1950 and 2014). Also called into question is their practice of shunning or disfellowshipping as they call it.
The Watchtower Society has historically seemed like an organization controlled by a secret cabal of decision-makers beyond their Governing Body at least over the past couple decades. If the safety of children-and that would have to include children in Jeannette’s own family-since she told me she just became a great grandmother-can be so quickly and casually compromised, then this would have to make current Jehovah’s Witnesses the most cognitive-proof group of religious followers in the known world.
This “live forever in paradise” (the reward the Watchtower promises to their faithful JWs, and the means-to-an-end to their odd and robotic behavior) has become a defacto TV drug with those long list of side effects you see at the end of the commercials. Black JWs like her are a walking psychological study if you can mesh together a total reluctance to fight in wars for their country or community while concurrently becoming sensitive and irritated over questions regarding their headquarters. Few if any know of the Watchtower’s true history with blacks, in their beginning Russell often wrote openly about how inferior he felt they were, even prohibiting for some time for them to “pioneer;” (known as colporteurs during this period) the highest rank of their door-to-door service. He thought their dark skin a sign of extreme imperfection having to do with sin. Only after much protest from assimilation-crazed black JWs-not to mention the great migration of blacks from the south filing into New York City-did the Watchtower experience a spiritual awakening (visions of dollar signs) and allowed them to pioneer.
Most JWs seem happy with their cookie-cutter solutions to complicated life problems; good vs. evil on steroids. It’s a well-worn white conservative viewpoint laced with the Bible, their bible (lower case intentional). Once you step outside and find yourself looking in as I have, it’s like you were blind before and now suddenly have been granted sight.
Russell you see, once financed a failing magazine, Nelson H. Barbour’s Adventist Herald of the Morning. He met with Barbour in 1876 in Philadelphia, and began financially backing Herald as well as took on a role of assistant editor. With Barbour still editor-in-chief the two soon became a two-headed, wrong-second-coming-date tag-team. Since of course they both agreed Christ was already here, but “invisible,” they picked a rapture date and set it for 1878. Amazingly enough there was no such snatching away of bodies into heaven. After about three years of pushing a catch-phrase invented by Barbour (years before he met Russell); “invisible return,” Russell decided he had enough of losing money and readers. Best way to fight back, distance himself away from Herald, start his own magazine, and start a religion based on the opinions and false-parallel research printed in his journal, and make them read. Thus Russell’s concept of turning his subscribers into a cult, an outwardly friendly cult, would soon materialize.
Today a JW may act as if just because you were baptized into that religion they own you. They love comparative illustrations. Picture yourself as a proud mother (or father) of a son who gave the Memorial talk or Special Talk (The Memorial is the only holiday they celebrate, scheduled near Easter) this year, in a parallel universe in July of 1879 a young Charles Taze Russell is run over by a stage-coach while crossing the street on his way to print his first issue of Zion’s Watchtower, 138 years later the same mother is proud of her son because he just received his doctorate.
I have no doubt the Watchtower wish’s Russia’s ban on them was invisible, but it’s not. As the saying goes, their lawyers are working on it. I state again Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ban on the Jehovah Witness faith has nothing to do with the glut of news about the Australian Commission on Child Abuse hearings or their protecting pedophiles as directed by their parent organization the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society or any of the other issues they are being taken to task for that violates the rights of their members. This turns out to be just another demonstration exposing one of his own insecurities, in his mind the Witnesses are a threat to gain more attention and followers than his beloved Russian Orthodox Church. What should be a worldwide examination of obtuse policy put under a giant magnifying glass, has been reduced to a holy-testosterone contest. It would be a terrible thing to see what is perhaps the world’s most unnecessary religion gain sympathy from a government ban based on the wrong purpose, as opposed to a ban based on their own historical abuses and hubris.
Chris Stevenson is author of “The MAO Syndrome: A Timeline of Newspaper columns Tracking Hate, Fear, Loathing, Obstinacy, and Stubbornness of many on the right & some on the left who are simply Mad At Obama.” He is also a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook. Watch his video interviews for Griot Nation (GNN). Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him by email; firstname.lastname@example.org