Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses are a people known widely throughout the world. They are well-dressed people who come knocking at your door on different occasions offering religious literature for sale or trying to introduce their beliefs through carefully prepared conversation. People young, old, rich, poor, well educated and non-educated have embraced them. Their enthusiasm as proclaimers of God's Kingdom has impressed even their harshest critics. Their love toward one another makes some non-witnesses hope and pray that more people would act in that manner.
Yet, some may still wonder, who really are the Jehovah's Witnesses? What is their history, their practices and their beliefs? Why are they the most attacked new religious group today? Even many former group members have written books or created web sites that project a negative perspective on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the fact that this group has such a large following, it is not surprising that they would be attacked or their faith be denounced. It has been proven that the bigger in numbers of a group, the more controversial the group, and the larger the tension between them and society. Also, the more individuals who belong to a group, the more individuals there are who will denounce that faith and become active apostates.
These apostates publish books and establish web sites proclaiming the wick ness of the group to whose teachings they once adhered. When looking at it with this point of view, it seems natural that the Jehovah's Witnesses would be heavily criticized. However, the fierceness of attack is still frightening. My thesis is that based on the questionable characteristics and backgrounds of the Jehovah's Witnesses leaders and teachings, this criticism are not unfounded.
Information on the teaching of the religion and the leaders themselves can be found in the following books: Jehovah's Witnesses, Teachings of Jehovah Witnesses, Crisis of Conscience, What You Need to Know About Jehovah's Witnesses, Counting the Days to Armageddon, and Jehovah's Witnesses: Answered Verse by Verse. In order to examine the controversies we must examine their history, organization, practices and their beliefs. We must first start at the beginning at the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses with its founder Charles Take Russell. The Allegheny, Pennsylvania boy had been reared in the Reformed faith of the Covenanter's. At first he took their doctrines seriously, especially the doctrine of hell. "However, when Russell found himself unable to answer certain questions of a sceptic, he, himself, passed over into a frigid unbelief.
It was then that he met the Seventh-day Adventists, and his faith in Christianity, and especially in the Second Advent, was restored." 1 Russell had no formal Bible training, but borrowed and built upon various teachings that were popular at the time. In 1879 Russell started his own magazine (now known as the Watchtower) to promote his doctrines. Russell's sensational end of time predictions drew many people and the organization grew. An example of this would be Russell's prediction that in 1874 the second coming of Christ would come. This prediction he borrowed from N.
H. Barbour who believed that Christ would return invisibly to the work in 1874 and that 1914 was the year the world would be destroyed and the Millennium would begin. The Millennium is a 1, 000-year period, beginning after Armageddon, when Christ will rule over the earth. During this time, the dead will be resurrected, humankind will attain perfection and paradise will be restored. Russell wrote a new Bible for the followers of his day, which he claimed came to him directly from God. Russell claimed that to read and understand the Bible you needed an interpreter.
He claimed to be the only one with the truth and outwardly condemned all other Christian religions. This caused other ministers to work at exposing Russell's false teaching and his questionable character. One such minister was Reverend J. J. Ross, who published a pamphlet revealing that Russell never attended a higher school of learning, knew nothing of philosophy, systematic or historical theology, and was totally ignorant of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek.
Russell sued Reverend Ross for defamation of character but lost his suit when he perjured himself when he lied under oath about his knowledge of the Greek language. In the end Russell admitted the statements by Reverend Ross were true. Russell's domestic life was far from perfect. In 1897 he was separated from his wife, and in 1913 Mrs. Russell brought suit for divorce on four grounds. The most serious charge was the charge of adultery.
He then tried to defraud his former wife of her alimony. The scandal threatened to destroy the movement. Again in 1913 Russell sued "The Brooklyn Daily Eagle" for libel when the paper reported that Russell attempted to sell ordinary wheat at an outrageous price of $60 a bushel by claiming it was "Miracle Wheat." Russell again lost his suit. In spite of his questionable character, people continued to be attracted to Russell's prophecy and his dramatic warnings "that the year 1914 would mark the over throw of human government and the full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth." 2 The year of Jesus Christ's invisible return (his Second coming). When 1914 came and went Russell changed the date to 1915. With Russell's death in 1916 his followers were left doubting and disillusioned by his failed predictions.
Russell's successor, J. F. Rutherford, followed his leader in matrimonial infidelity, but he held his problems more private knowing the consequences of publicity for the leader of the Jehovah's hosts. He also used the threat of Armageddon to intimidate the members of the Jehovah Witnesses.
He predicted that in 1915, God would destroy churches and then by 1920 every kingdom would be swallowed up in anarchy. He taught that the only way to escape judgment and destruction was to join the Watchtower organization. This motivated Witnesses to work hard selling Rutherford's books and other Watchtower literature. Again the prediction failed, so Rutherford set a new date of "1925 predicting that select Old Testament saints including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would rise from the grave and come to live in San Diego." 3 The Watch Tower Society built a Spanish mansion call Beth Sarim to house these saints. However, until the saints arrived, Rutherford moved into the mansion. Throughout the Great Depression Rutherford drove an expensive new car while Witnesses sold Watchtower books and pamphlets door to door and for a salary of $10 to $15 a month.
In 1942, six years after Rutherford's death the saints had still not arrived so the Jehovah Witnesses sold Beth Sarim. The third major era was under the leadership of Nathan H. Knorr. The new focus was to train Jehovah Witnesses in the interpretation of the Bible. A new Bible was published to support these interpretations thus additional changes in Bible interpretation and doctrine occurred. Under Knorr the membership of Witnesses grew from 105, 000 to about 2.
2 million. From 1960 to 1966 the organization's growth rate slowed. At this point the Watchtower again introduced a new date for the end of the world and Frederick W. Franz who became the leader of the Watchtowers Society after the death of Knorr introduced it in a book. He concluded, "that in 1975 human history would end and the thousand-year reign of Christ would begin." 4 Membership grew by the thousand until 1975 came and went. False predictions created doubts and concern among Jehovah Witnesses members.
Some members left the group but the organization leaders refuses to admit they were wrong. They excused their errors by attributing them to human fallibility. Even President Franz's nephew Raymond left the group and in his book "Crisis of Conscience" writes why the Watchtower Society cannot be God's sole channel on earth. Today, the leaders of the Jehovah Witnesses area made up of a group of men who head an organization called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and meet weekly to discuss up-coming issues. This small group holds absolute authority over 5.
2 million members. A president who rules for life heads the Society. Their headquarters is located in Brooklyn, New York. The headquarters is called Bethel, which means "House of God." There are five committees, The Service Committee, Writing Committee, Publishing Committee, Teaching Committee and the Chairman's Committee. The Chairman's Committee assists the governing body in decision-making.
The district and circuit overseers are below the committees. They accompany Witnesses to home meeting and they visit within the congregations at least twice a year. The congregations meet five times a week in what they call Kingdom Halls. The elders or overseers lead the congregations. Across the globe, 100 branch offices print Bibles, pamphlets and publish two magazines (Watchtower and Awake) semi monthly.
These are mailed to each member of the Jehovah Witnesses. The Watchtower and Bible Tract Society is financed through self-imposed tithes, aside from the money that is earned from the sell of publications. The Jehovah Witness movement seems successful all over the world. They can be found in 232 countries ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe. Only 19% of all Jehovah Witnesses live in the United States, 20% live in Western Europe and 25% in Latin America. Although Jehovah Witnesses beliefs come from the Protestant and Adventist tradition, they do hold many beliefs that set themselves apart.
These cracks in their beliefs add to the controversy of their religion. The following are some key beliefs that make them different: There is only one True God called Jehovah. The Jehovah Witnesses teach that Jehovah, the name of the one True God, corresponds only to God the Father. The Jehovah Witnesses deny that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is a person. They do not believe in the Trinity (The Father, son and the Holy Spirit. ).
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jehovah Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ was the first creation of God. He evolved first as Michael, the highest archangel, and then later was born as a perfect man. After Jesus was buried, raised as a spirit creature, and materialized a flesh body to make him visible, Jesus is now in heaven again and is known as Michael, the archangel. The Jehovah religion states that the Watchtower Society is the only group that can interpret the Bible. The Jehovah Witnesses believe that no one on earth can discover the complete will of God apart for the Watchtower Society.
Only the Watchtower Society and its publications can reveal the true meaning of the Bible. God works only through the Watchtower Society and it alone has the authority to speak for God. There are many other beliefs that cause controversy within this religion. Man is blemished with sin because of Adam and Eve's disobeying Jehovah. Every person is born with sin. When man dies his spirit dies as well and only some will experience eternal life when they are resurrected, in flesh and soul, simultaneously.
Hell is non-existent for the Jehovah Witnesses. Those who don't make it to heaven or the kingdom established on earth will just disappear. Holidays such as Christmas, Easter and birthdays are not celebrated. The Witnesses believe these grew out of false religions. They do celebrate one day and that is the Memorial of Christ's Death during Passover Regarding Salvation, the Jehovah Witnesses believe that there are three classes of people that will be saved by good works.
However, each class is working to gain a different type of Salvation. The first class, which will be made up of 144, 000 Witnesses will go to heaven. Theses are the Anointed Class. "Only the Anointed Class can be born again." 5 The Second class includes all other Jehovah Witnesses called "the other sheep." 6 They cannot be justified in this life or be born again. Jesus and the 144, 000 in heaven will rule these people. The third class, which includes non Jehovah Witnesses who have lived good enough lives, will be given the opportunity to earn salvation after death.
All who are worthy of the second chance will be recreated by Jehovah to live in the new millennium. The rest will just disappear. Between the years 1938 and 1955, Jehovah Witnesses have had more cases go to the Supreme Court than any other group. This has made them the leading challengers of the interpretation of the First Amendment. Two issues that have generated much criticism are blood transfusions and nationalism. Jehovah Witnesses consider blood transfusions to be eating blood.
Many chose to die rather than receive one and parents refuse transfusions for their children. Also, Jehovah Witnesses believe that they owe no allegiance to any nation, person, or flag. Their allegiance is only owed to Jehovah. They do not participate in military duty, do not vote, and do not salute the flag. Courts have had to deal with these issues on numerous occasions. Throughout my research for this paper I have read countless testimonies from individuals who have crit ized the Jehovah Witnesses religion.
A man named Gary wrote one testimony I read. His wife who was a devout Witness developed leukemia and had a 50% chance of recovery if she had a bone marrow transplant. She had both a brother and sister that could have been a donor. However, at the time a transplant was viewed by the Watchtower Society as cannibalism. Gary and his wife, being good Witnesses, decided she would not have the transplant performed.
Gary's wife suffered terribly and died in 1971. He later found out that the Society approved transplants in 1949, banned them in 1967 and approved them again 1980. He feels that their religion cost him his wife's life for no good reason. A man named Paul wrote another testimony. Paul and his wife had two sons but prayed for a daughter to add to their family. Their prayers were answered when a daughter was born into their family.
At five weeks old, the child received a cut on her finger that would not stop bleeding. The doctors found that the child's blood would not clot. The doctors informed the parents that the child needed a blood transfusion to save her life. Since their religion did not permit transfusions they refused.
The hospital contacted the Welfare Department and a suit was filed against the parents for child abuse and neglect. A court order was issued to ensure that the child received the transfusion. A citation was issued for the hospital staff not to allow the parents to remove the child from the hospital. The Witnesses elders came and wanted Paul to remove his daughter from the hospital even though they knew he could be charged with murder since the child would surely die.
Paul refused to do so. The child lived to be six years old when her condition became so serious that even a blood transfusion could not save her life. Paul stated that through his daughter's illness and her brief life, he came to recognize the deception of the Watchtower's teachings. He hopes his testimony will help other Jehovah Witnesses prevent unnecessary tragedies in their families. Frederick W. Franz's (past Jehovah Witnesses President) nephew Raymond wrote one of the most impressive testimonies.
In February of 1982, Raymond Frantz who had been a member of the organization's top governing body, whose parents and grandparents were Jehovah's Witnesses, defected and was. In his book Crisis of Conscience, Frantz states that discipline in the Watchtower Society was too harsh. Franz believes that his dis fellowship from the organization was due, among other things to his insistence on relying on the Bible alone rather than on all of the aids and help that Witnesses are forced to read in conjunction with the Bible. People in the world today are looking to find the answers that will solve the problems in their lives. Something to believe in that will give them the feeling of security, hope and inner peace. Some people are attracted to the Jehovah's Witnesses because they claim to have answers to many of life's problems.
They claim to offer divine guidance, and they stress moral and family values. People truly believe that this organization can help them achieve these things. Instead the Watchtower Society exercises rigid control over them and builds a wall of isolation between Jehovah's Witnesses and the rest of society. The Watchtower Society exerts a control over information that they may encounter both externally and internally.
The Watchtower Society claims that it alone teaches truth and any other source must be viewed suspiciously. This includes one's own thoughts. Witnesses fill their lives and minds with Watchtower information, Watchtower activities, Witnesses friends and family. The Watchtower manages to isolate them from the rest of society without removing them physically.
The Watchtower Society threatens dis fellowship to those who may question its authority. A Jehovah's Witness may attend Kingdom Hall, but he is not allowed to speak to anyone and no one may speak to him. The others are to act as though he no longer exists. This applies even to his own family. People that are go through excruciating mental agony and some have even chose to end their lives rather than deal with the mental torture. This destroys marriages; causes children to be separated from their family and some are never seen by or have spoken to their families again.
It is not my intent to belittle or ridicule individuals in Jehovah's Witnesses. I believe that they are dedicated and sincere about their religion. It is the leaders past and present who have deceived these people with false prophecy and false teachings. These people have been brainwashed and threatened to believe if they leave the Watchtower Society they will be destroyed at Armageddon. The leaders have used the false prophesy of the world ending to intimidate their followers into doing what they are told. They have repeatedly changed their doctrines and contradicted previously held beliefs, all while claiming that it alone has the truth.
This religion takes a person's ability to think for himself, his ability to make rational decisions, and his free will. During my research on the Jehovah's Witnesses the more material I read the more questions I had. How do they convert even the intelligent and God fearing people? Why are Jehovah Witnesses considerably successful in retaining their children within their belief system? Why are Jehovah's Witnesses less likely to attend college? Why are 55% of Jehovah Witnesses women? Why would any parent allow their child to die instead of receiving a blood transfusion when their death would not be necessary? Do they put such little value to human life? If your religion causes you to separate from your family is your religion really worth it? These questions and others were raised throughout my paper. However, the fact is that the Jehovah Witnesses and the Watchtower Society are successful in converting people to their religion and have the ability to maintain their membership.