Tag Archives: Watchtower

Almost Banished From the Kingdom Hall

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From Pixabay

Yesterday I visited the local kingdom hall, as I do about once a month. My purpose in visiting is to try to influence JW’s with either the truth of the Bible, or my personal relationship with God, or both. A while back I was forbidden by the elders to share my “personal opinions” with parishoners, and I have been abiding by their rule, keeping my conversations limited to small-talk and personal caring about their lives.

So after the meeting last night, two of the elders asked me to talk with them outside. This was the third time I got a talking-to; see my previous posts about those experiences, here and here. This time they were telling me that they were going to forbid me from attending any more. If I showed up at their kingdom hall, or any of the others that meet on the same property, I would be trespassing. When I asked why, they explained that they had gotten word “from the body” that I was sharing my opinions. I told them that I had indeed not been doing that since being directed not to do so. And I questioned their source, asking “What do you mean, you have gotten word from the body? You mean, all the members of the congregation?” They backpedaled, saying they meant the “body of elders.” (I believe I caught them in an attempted deception there, what they call “theocratic war strategy.”)

Then they changed their tactic, saying that they had been observing that I had “not been participating” in the meetings. So I called them on that, saying that I had my Bible open during the whole meeting, and that when I raised my hand attempting to participate, I was never called on. Well, they explained that what they meant was that during the prayers I was not bowing my head. I told them that I was indeed praying, and that prayer does not require that one bowed their head or closed their eyes. “Wow,” I said, “You’re judging based on the outward appearance!” They replied that they had to, to protect the flock. I said “No, you don’t, and in fact Jesus tells us NOT to.” (Later I thought of the obvious question I could have asked: “How do you know my head wasn’t bowed, if your head was bowed and your eyes closed?” I guess the Lord didn’t want me to use that one.)

They then said they were questioning my motives for being there. Boom. There it is. I called them out for questioning the motives of my heart.

“You’ve been coming here a long time,” they said, implying that I needed to commit. I went to Acts 26 (which was the chapter right before Acts 27 and 28 from that night’s study). Agrippa asked Paul “Do you really think you’re going to convert me in so short a time?” Paul’s response is that whether a short time, or a long time, he wanted everyone there to be like himself, but without the chains. Paul was willing to take as much time as was needed for someone to be persuaded.

They had no good answers to my arguments, and I think they realized that, so one of the elders made me a proposal. He proposed that I write a letter to them explaining my motives for coming to the kingdom hall meetings. I gladly, even enthusiastically, agreed, (Challenge accepted!) and provided my email address to one of the elders so he could contact me with his email info.

As strange as this experience is, I have to think that God is at work in it. I have to be prepared for the worst case: They disregard my letter and I’m barred from the kingdom hall for life. But I’m also hoping for the best case: They actually read my letter and re-extend their invitation to me. There are, of course, other possibilities in between those two, including their reading of my letter and not reinstating me. In that case, I pray that each elder would personally be affected by my letter, and that it would be one seed that helps them get free from bondage to the Watchtower.

Even if the elders throw away my letter unopened, I will post it online, here and elsewhere, so that it can be used by God in other ways.

Okay, so on with letter writing! Please pray that my faltering efforts will be used by God in mighty ways!

 

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Random Thoughts About the 2018 Jehovah’s Witness Convention, Part 2

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More thoughts about my experience attending the 2018 Jehovah’s Witnesses convention:

(This is part 2; see part 1 here.)

I was able to have a good conversation with one of the attendants (ushers). He showed me (on his phone) the trailer for the Jonah film that would be shown in full the next day (Sunday). I brought up my concern about the “great crowd” believers being denied so many kingdom privileges, including having Jesus as one’s mediator. He (predictably) thought I was wrong. I told him that it’s spelled out very clearly in the Insight on the Scriptures book, which is accessible at the JW website, and also in several Watchtower articles. He still insisted that I must have misunderstood the information I had read. I encouraged him to research the subject, and we went on with just friendly talk. I hope he has or will research on the subject of mediator. I prayed that he would not forget, and would not be able to shake the subject from his mind and heart.

During the lunch break, I had a couple of good, friendly conversations with other attendees. I also asked several security team members whether there had been any protesters that day or the day before, but they said there had been nothing.

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Groom’s Procession (not the one I saw), from sareez.com

Later in the afternoon, when I left one of the “talking head” sessions to get a break from the tedium, I saw a procession coming down the street, with people banging on drums and playing loud music. I thought it was going to be a protest group, but it was an Indian wedding procession, joyfully celebrating the groom traveling on horseback to the wedding site. How fun! I joined in the song and dance for a few minutes, something that I’m sure none of the JW’s would be caught doing. Actually, I don’t know. Can anyone provide insight as to whether JW’s in India participate in their traditional wedding revelry? There didn’t seem to be anything pagan about it, but well, you know how the Watchtower is. Please comment below if you know anything about it.

At the end of the day, we finally encountered “protesters”. At least, that is how the attendees saw them. Just outside the main doors of the convention hall, on the public sidewalk, there was a man and (I assume) his wife and daughter. They all held signs, saying things like “Jesus is Lord.” He was preaching with a bullhorn. I snapped a picture of them, which you can see above. He’s in the white shirt, his daughter is to the right in a blue shirt, and you can see part of his wife at the far left. The great thing was that he was not obnoxious. The bullhorn was not too loud. He was not shouting. He was using scripture, and all the right verses that make JW’s think, verses that I use with my JW friends. I chatted briefly with the wife, letting her know that I was praying. I was so encouraged that this family had a burden to preach the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses. More power to them (aka God bless them).

Almost every JW I talked with asked me, “Are you enjoying the convention?” or “Are you enjoying the talks?” Without exception I gave them my standard answer: “I’m really glad I came.” I highly recommend this response. Using it will enable you to give an honest answer that will always satisfy your JW friends. It’s good for kingdom hall use as well. If you go to a convention, be sure to take a lunch and plenty of snacks to keep you awake. Coffee was essential for me. Hard candies to suck on work well too. Do your best to endure the talks, because the opportunities for conversation before, in between, and after are priceless!

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Is the Watchtower Using (or Creating) Apocryphal Material?

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Take a moment to read this excerpt from the fifth chapter of the book of Second Kings in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament of the Bible):

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.

(2 Kings 5:1-4)

See the mention of the young girl? Here’s an unnamed Bible character with only one line of dialogue. Even though she’s only a minor character in the epic drama of scripture, I’m sure she is mentioned here as a glimmering example of faithfulness to Jehovah.

So part of the Bible study that I observed in my most recent visit to the kingdom hall included a lesson based on these verses and that young girl. It began with a video, entitled “Jehovah Will Help You Be Bold,” produced by the watchtower society, with children being the target audience. The video told the story of how this young girl had to work up her courage to speak to her master, Naaman’s wife. Several other supporting characters were also depicted (including several servants, and two of Naaman’s children), and when Naaman returned cleansed, he embraced our heroic young girl, while the supporting characters ditched their idols in favor of worshiping Jehovah. The story has drama, suspense, humor, and heart. It takes effort to not tear up at least a little at the end.

The problem with the story is that it does not appear in scripture at all.

Let me say that another way. The story depicted in the watchtower video is not part of the ancient text of inspired scripture. It is entirely made up by some modern person, likely in our current decade, if not this year of 2018. Oh, the young girl is real; refer again to the verses quoted above. But what you read above is all there is; the rest is totally contrived by the watchtower. There is no mention of the other servants, or of Naaman’s children, or that the girl’s story was about having boldness for Jehovah.

I have several problems with this. First, I generally have a problem with anyone who embellishes the scriptural text, making up their own contrived stories based on nothing more than speculation. (News flash: there is no innkeeper mentioned in the Christmas story, and definitely no drummer boy!)

The second problem I have is that the watchtower itself warns against using apocryphal stories. See my blog post from back when, about the watchtower’s use of a fictional donkey in the story of Mary and Joseph’s travels, while chiding “christiandom” for using apocryphal stories. Hypocritical much?

And finally, the use of this contrived story is just so unnecessary! If you want to teach children (or adults) about being courageous, there are plenty of other clear examples in scripture, which could have been used without any need for embellishment! How about queen Esther? Daniel and his three friends? The apostles on trial? David versus Goliath? The list goes on and on. How does the governing bully justify their embellishment of the text of Second Kings 5? I would love to ask them, but we all know what happens when we ask questions, don’t we? (See my post about writing to the headquarters, for example.) Harumph.

I’m hoping that this can be a talking point sometime soon with any one of my JW friends. Right now I’m walking on thin ice, though. I feel like a man with an ice cream truck, but all the children have been told that I’m the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ugh.

Ice cream, anyone?

 

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I’m In Trouble With the Jehovah’s Witnesses Elders–Again.

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From Flicker Creative Commons

This week was my monthly visit to the local kingdom hall. Remember the time when I almost got kicked out of the hall because of an imaginary donkey? You can read about it here. That was surreal. This bit of trouble was more straightforward. Rather than being called into the “principal’s office” (aka boardroom), this time two of the elders ambushed me outside the front door of the hall, before I had a chance to enter. Apparently they were thinking of not allowing me in. I could tell that my favored status teetered on a fine edge.

The interrogation began with one of them accusing me of sowing seeds of doubt among the members. I reminded them of my previous commitment to keep my opinions to myself, and pointed out that I had been strictly limiting my conversations since then to small-talk. The elder corrected me, citing his own conversation with me at the recent annual memorial. (See my account of that meeting here.) He claimed that at that time I expressed to him my disagreement with the JW disfellowshiping policy. I in turn corrected him, pointing out that that convo with him was strictly about the policies of the church of Scientology. (I distinctly remember him saying something about crazy teachings of various groups, which prompted me to bring up the recent TV series about Scientology by Leah Remini.) I had told him my concerns about various teachings and practices of the Scientologists, including, but not limited to, their practice of “shunning and disowning family members.”

Here’s the crazy part: In my conversation with the elder, I had said NOTHING about the Watchtower or Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had not even used the JW language of “disfellowshipping.” It was only the elder himself who had connected the dots, and who now accused me of criticizing the WT policy of disfellowshipping.

The other elder then questioned my motives. Why was I attending the kingdom hall? Was I here to learn, or did I have some other purpose? I told him that I wanted to learn, to gain accurate knowledge of their teachings, so I could talk more intelligently with all my JW friends. Then they asked me again whether I was truly there to learn. I replied that if I ever stop learning, I would be in a bad state. They finally seemed satisfied with my answers, and let me into the hall.

My interaction with these two elders told me several things. First, God is at work in that elder who accused me of criticizing the disfellowshipping policy. Somehow (by the work of the Holy Spirit?) he in his own mind made the connections that I prayed he would, making the huge leap (for most JW’s) between the policies of other religious groups to his own. Second, I’m still protected by the “Holy Spirit Bubble.” They allowed me in! Only God could keep me there for this long. After I sat down, I came up with so many better things that I could have said, but what I did say to them convinced them! And these are intelligent men, not dummies. One of them is a pretty good public speaker. Which leads me to my next point–I’m convinced that I have a purpose there. I’m still not clear what that is, but I know I’m supposed to be there. This was confirmed by the reception I received from the members. After the meeting so many people approached me, seemingly more friendly to me than ever before. One lady (let’s call her Tammy) even said that she had been thinking of me the day before, wondering if I would be returning to the hall (I missed my meeting last month). She was delighted that I was back. What a contrast between the genuine affection (yes, I believe it’s genuine) of the common members, versus the stern warnings of the elders.

I don’t know what God is going to do with this. I could be kicked out at any time. Then what? Stand out on the sidewalk holding a sign? (Well, maybe I would. If I did, I would use scripture only. First John 5:1 comes to mind. Or Ephesians 2:8-9. Or John 5:39-40. Or . . . okay, back to the topic.) Attend a different kingdom hall? (Maybe.) Phone some kingdom halls? (Sounds fun.)

Maybe all this time spent in the kingdom hall is preparing me to understand the heart and mind of JW’s in preparation for talking with someone in particular. Hey, that would mean that what I told the elders is true–I am learning about them so I can better understand and talk with my JW friends! It could come full circle. Wouldn’t that be so like God?

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My Appearance at Witnesses Now For Jesus West Coast

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Several weekends ago I attended and spoke at the West Coast version of the Witnesses Now for Jesus Conference. The experience (both as a speaker and as one in attendance) was A . . . MAZ . . . ING.

Here’s a link to my speaking session: Click Here! (Watching myself makes me cringe. Is that true of you, too?)

Note: Clicking the link above will reveal my true identity! Oops! Oh well, my cover is blown anyway. My local JW friends pretty much know what I’m up to; they just can’t do much about it because they still think I’m a nice guy. I think I am too, btw. Perhaps I should call myself “The blogger formerly known as UndercoverJW.”

Anyway, the conference was superb. Some of the speakers were formerly programmed by the “mental regulating” of the Watchtower, and have since had their minds rebooted by Jesus. (I’m sure that’s in the Bible somewhere. Oh, yeah, Romans 12:2! Ha! You didn’t think I could support that scripturally, did you?) Others (including myself) have never been Watchtower-programmed, but love JW’s and want to see them set free. Before, after, and in between sessions, fellowship and interaction was lively. We witnessed as one man who had left the Watchtower a mere two weeks prior was baptized in the hotel pool, formerly a “brother” in name only, now adopted as a real son of Jehovah! Some of us had opportunities to talk with current JW’s who attended tentatively, questioning and curious. I believe they experienced the real love of Jesus through us.

Whether you’re a current JW, former JW, or never-been, I highly recommend attending the upcoming conferences in Missouri (July 27 – 28, 2018) and Pennsylvania (Oct 5 – 7, 2018), or next year’s conference in Cali. Here’s their Facebook page: WNFJ

Start asking God now to provide for your participation. He did it for me!

 

 

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Using “Theocratic Language” with Jehovah’s Witnesses

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From Flickr Creative Commons

Do you know what “theocratic language” is? You won’t find much about it in the Watchtower publications, but if you spend any time in kingdom halls, you will hear the term (or variations such as “pure language”) from the platform. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a unique jargon, which some call “JW-ese.” The truth is, any social group, whether it be a culture, tribe, family, club, company, or others, ends up developing, either deliberately or unintentionally, its own unique jargon. Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception. To outsiders the JW’s jargon is strange, quirky, and sometimes even funny. For example, what good reason is there to use the word “fruitage” instead of “fruit”? No one would say “Let’s go to the produce stand; we need to buy some fruitage.” But fruitage it is, both in their New World Translation of the Bible, and in their teaching talks. It’s all I can do to keep from snickering whenever I hear it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, rather than being embarrassed about their quirky jargon, are proud of it. Labeling it “theocratic language” gives it special status. And that’s one of the purposes of specialized jargon–identifying your group as distinct from, and by implication, superior to others. Some of the terms come from their quirky Bible translation (such as “fruitage”). Other terms come from their historic ministry practice (“circuit overseer” and “publishers”). Then there are terms that are used as indoctrinating (and I would argue mind-controlling) tools, such as the use of “the Truth” for everything Watchtower-related and “christiandom” for all other Christian churches, organizations, groups, and individuals.

Some of the specialized terms that JW’s use include:

theocratic, including theocratic language and theocratic ministry school

faithful and discreet slave

going where the need is greater

anointed class

great crowd or other sheep

christiandom

circuit overseer

disfellowship

governing body

torture stake

kingdom privileges

publishers

the Truth

There are many more, as you likely know. I’m tempted to make Bingo cards of them for use during the boring assemblies and conventions.

But there’s a better use for these quirky terms; we can use their language against them. Oh, no, I didn’t just say that! That was antagonistic. Make that: We can use their language to help reach them. Using their terminology is like using their heart language. Ministry to young adults, teens, gypsies, tribal people, businessmen, or any group, would require that we learn about what’s popular with them, including words they use. When they hear something in their language, it gets through to them more quickly and easily.

Here’s an example. Earlier this week I had an opportunity to meet with a new JW acquaintance. While we were getting acquainted, I mentioned that I grew up in Christiandom. As we talked further, I told him about my concern that there are a number of kingdom privileges, or kingdom benefits, that Watchtower teaches are available for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the great crowd believers. When my new friend tried to change the subject to whether Jesus was crucified on a cross or a torture stake, I said that neither one bothered me, and that I didn’t have a problem with either.

See all the words and phrases in italics in the previous paragraph? Those are part of the JW jargon, their theocratic language. And notice that even the phrases “doesn’t bother me” and “I don’t have a problem with” are included. Lately JW’s are using those phrases A LOT. When you bring up an issue that they can’t explain, they dismiss it with that phrase. For example: “I don’t have a problem with the promise of living forever on earth. It sounds like you have a problem with it, but I don’t.” In other words, “What you’re showing me appears to indicate that what the Watchtower teaches contradicts what the Bible says, but Watchtower teaches it, and everything they teach is truth from the Bible, so I believe it no matter what you say, end of conversation.” But now, if I use the “doesn’t bother me” language, the tables are turned. I have shown them that others can use the same argument as they. I have shown my new JW friend what it is like to have a valid point dismissed so flippantly. Perhaps he will think twice about using that phrasing on me or others in the future. Not that I wanted to scold him or “put him in his place” with theocratic language. In fact, using the phrase “kingdom privileges and benefits” perked up his interest immediately for what I had to share with him, and we had a great conversation as a result. We even have plans to meet again! Use of my new friend’s heart language connected with him personally, and allowed the conversation, and our relationship, to continue.

Do you want your conversations with JW’s to last more than 5 minutes? First, love them and care about them. Second, treat them with respect. And then, use their heart language to reach them with the real truth.

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Telephone Conversation About the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial.

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Most of the time I keep my cellphone’s ringtone on “vibrate” only. It’s our workplace rule, and I like it better than annoying ringtones anyway. But on Saturdays I often set my phone to actually ring, because it’s okay if an incoming call interrupts the yard work I’m doing. (“Oh, shucks. I have to stop weeding to take this call.”) So this last Saturday evening I heard an incoming call from my long-time Jehovah’s Witness friend Mark.

He called to invite me to the upcoming annual JW memorial (communion service). Not surprising, since he invites me every year. But then he asked me a question, which was very surprising. “Do you still believe that everyone should eat and drink the bread and wine?” he asked. (If you didn’t know, most JW’s pass the elements and do not eat and drink, unless they feel that they’re part of the 144,000 “anointed” believers.) Now, it sounds like a loaded question, and normally it would be, coming from any other JW. They tend to attack Christian beliefs with loaded questions such as, “Do you believe in hell?” and “Do you believe in the Trinity?” It’s their attempt to control the conversation. But I knew that in Mark’s case his question was not an attack. I know Mark, and I knew he was asking me for my honest opinion, not so he could pelt it with his memorized proof-texts, but because he wanted to know my biblical support for my belief.

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In other words, reading between the lines of Mark’s questioning, he’s questioning his own Watchtower-taught beliefs.

That’s huge. And that’s God at work.

We had a pretty long conversation. I brought up the verse quoted above in their own invitation, where Jesus commands us to “keep doing this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). What is the this Jesus is telling us to keep doing? Passing along the symbols without eating and drinking? No, in Matthew’s account (chapter 26), he tells them to “take and eat.” I also brought up that Watchtower likens the “great crowd” believers (those who aren’t part of the 144,000) to the “foreign residents” in the Old Testament. A simple study of the foreign residents reveals that they were allowed to fully participate in the Passover (along with all the other feasts), which is fulfilled in the last supper in the New Testament. If the foreign residents could eat and drink at the Passover, why can’t the great crowd believers eat and drink at the memorial? Finally, Mark brought up the copper serpent in the Old Testament (Numbers 21), of which Jesus claimed fulfillment at John 3:14. Those afflicted with sickness merely needed to look at the snake to be healed. Mark was implying that believers at the memorial would only need to look at the elements to benefit in some way from the experience. I pointed out two things: First, all the believers in the Old Testament story did the same action, that is, looking at the symbol. There weren’t two classes doing two different things. And secondly, if all we as believers need to do now is look at the symbols to benefit, why then do the anointed believes need to eat and drink?

Mark said that he would study about these things more. And unlike all other JW’s I have met, he will actually do so. (Respect to Mark for his rare integrity among JW’s.) Meanwhile, I’m thanking the Lord for a great conversation with a good friend, who happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

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