Thursday, 13 September 2007

Who's the boss?

The process of emphasising human authority and the intensifying of human control by means of centralised authority which Rutherford had so ably developed over three decades, was carried along with even greater ability by his successes. Their language progressed beyond the blunt, even openly dictatorial, expressions typical of his presidency. It employed far more sophisticated, complex argumentation and smoother, more appealing speech. Yet it achieved the same degree of intellectual into negation and sought to impose the same sort of guilt complex on any who did not promptly line up with whatever teaching proceeded from the central headquarters in Brooklyn. (In Search of Christian Freedom, 100)

Franz compares this with an analysis of Paul Johnson’s account of the view of the church held by Cyprian in the third century. According to Johnson Cyprian view was that the only unambiguous instruction the Bible contained was to remain faithful to the visible church and debate its rules. Now, sectarian movements such as Jehovah’s Witnesses (and to a certain extent all Protestant denominations) are very fond of decrying the institutional church’s “fall” in the third and fourth centuries, since this for them represented a decline both in terms of individual freedom of interpretation and in terms of moral compromise as the church courted and then married the state, forsaking Christ, her true spouse. In the case of the Watchtower, this decline and fall took only a few decades, rather than the few centuries it took the church.

Although the Watchtower acknowledges that the real ‘mother’ of Christians, to use Cyprian’s terminology, is not an earthly organisation but a heavenly one, the spiritual mother is said to have a "visible channel of communication" or congregation members and that Channel is the earthly organisation. Which, in plain words, means that when "mother" talks it is through the "visible Theocratic organisation" and so if one wishes to listen to the "heavenly mother" he or she must do so by listening to the visible organisation of the Watch Tower Society. In effect then whatever is left of the invisible spiritual heavenly mother becomes applicable to have supposed earthly channel without whose direction members cannot understand the Bible. (101)

The language from the article he quotes at length (Watchtower, May 1, 1957) could have come out of a conservative Catholic polemic against Protestants in the 16th century!

“Some who call themselves Christians and to claim God as their father boasted that they walk with God alone, that he directs their steps personally. Such persons not only forsake the teaching or law of the mother, but they literally throw blogs woman out into the streets. The light of God’s truth is not for them… Today, also, God requires and exacts from his children obedience, honour and respect. These must be rendered not only to the living God himself, but to his wifely organisation as well.” (quoted by Franz on 101-2)

[By the way, doesn’t “his wifely” seem like a slip that implies that God himself is the husband of the church – which orthodox Christianity, contra the Arian JWs, insists is true since the church is the bride of God the Son, second person of the Trinity! Whoops, Watchtower… ; – ) ]

There is more of this in JW publications from 1967, 1976 and 1981… Dissent is of course not tolerateed, either in print or in person - there is no intellectual space for freedom of interpretation or discussion, and in practice extreme sacntions are applied by the organisation to any who demur.