Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention

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The view from my seat, about 1/3 of the way back from the front.

This last weekend I attended one of the three days of the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, which was titled “BE COURAGEOUS”!

There are so many things I want to say, and they’re all competing to be picked first.

Okay, the first thing I want to say is that it was so thoughtful of the organizers to provide something right up front for the grammar police. The title of the convention, which I copied and pasted above, has the exclamation point outside of the quotes. Wrong. The exclamation should be part of the quote. Whew, got that off my chest.

Next, I attended one day of the convention, the Saturday. One day. I cannot imagine attending any more than one day. The boredom is excruciating. The points are so redundant and rudimentary. The music is amateurish. The series of talking heads is nearly unbearable. The morning consisted of a “symposium” of eight talks, followed by another symposium of five talks, followed by a baptism-related talk. Then the afternoon featured another symposium of five talks, followed by, surprise, another symposium of six talks, and finally wrapped up with a final talk. Granted, there were some brief videos interspersed among the talks, but they only served to make the whole day slightly less torturous. At times I felt like saying out loud, “Thank God, a video!” During the final talk of the day, I had to escape and walk around outside for a while. I was reminded of the song lyrics “All you can eat for a dollar ninety-nine, but one dollar’s worth was all that I could stand.” I cannot imagine enduring three days of it. But that leads me to my next observation.

There was a whole lot of buzz at the convention about a video that was scheduled for the third day (Sunday) of the convention. Almost everyone I talked with mentioned the “Jonah” movie. There is even a trailer for it, which one man played for me on his phone. (You can see the trailer at their website, jw.org.) Part of the excitement, I’m sure, is the desperate desire of the poor “great crowd” believers to experience a break in the boredom that the video will provide. The schedule shows the length of the film to be 50 minutes, nearly a whole hour of drama (dare we call it entertainment?) breaking up the parade of talking heads! The JW’s were almost giddy about it! My impressions from the trailer is that it will be a pretty high-quality production; it’s obvious that the Watchtower has invested a significant amount of money into it. With its special effects and professional-sounding music, it’s pretty slick. Once again, I’m dumbfounded about the artistic licence taken by the watchtower. Like they have done before, they have added a character not mentioned at all in the biblical account, in this case a sister of Jonah named Joanna. Her name is mentioned three times in the trailer, which seems deliberate to me. What’s up with this habitual use of fictional characters? (For two other examples, see my previous blog posts, one the story of Haman, the other a fictional donkey serving as Mary’s transportation.) The crazy thing is, whatever the watchtower tells its members, they believe, absolutely, unquestioningly, and immediately. So after this convention, I predict that all the JW’s will believe that Jonah had a sister named Joanna, and that she is mentioned in the biblical account. Just like Mary and Joseph’s donkey. (Again, if you haven’t read my account of my run-in with the JW’s about the donkey, see my previous post. If nothing else, it’s good for a laugh.)

Okay, back to my random thoughts and observations. I sat about a third of the way back in the exhibition hall in the Sacramento Convention Center (see my pic above). The crowd count announced for the day was about 4,600 attendees. Compare that with the nearly full Cow Palace (San Francisco) in years past. I think we can safely conclude that there’s downsizing going on, at least in Northern California. To what will the watchtower attribute the decreasing numbers? Will they say that the number of “worthy ones” being drawn by Jehovah ebbs and flows over the years? Or will they say the door of opportunity for repentance is getting narrower, or is about to close altogether? Or will they use this as an opportunity to put pressure on the members to increase their preaching efforts, essentially blaming the workers and guilting them into working harder for the kingdom? Perhaps none of these. They may simply not mention it, ignoring the trend, or somehow spin it to look like success. After all, whatever explanation, or non-explanation, the governing bully gives, the members will believe it. And if they don’t, who would dare to question them anyway?

My blog post is becoming lengthy. I’ll stop here and write a part two. Please share your thoughts about this post, or your own observations of the convention in the comments.

 

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