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Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Russian Church: A Holy-Testosterone Contest

Op/Ed By Chris Stevenson –


chris - bigJehovah’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.

It’s kind of like a Reader’s Digest gone mad, but without the option for members to cancel their subscriptions.

In fact, the publisher’s myopic views were so strong, he decided to form a religion based upon them.

But, that is not the reason the Russian Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government, which declared Jehovah’s Witnesses as being “extremists.”

Since witnesses in Russia don’t join the military or vote, they hold little value for the country, unlike the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

Therefore, much to the chagrin of many non-JWs and former members, the court’s “extremists” tag has nothing to do with the rules imposed by the Watchtower.

And, if Russia just tags them as extreme, based solely on their non-political activities, it could backfire, making 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 their ban was also targeted toward evangelicals’ faiths.

I recently posed a question to an old friend I haven’t seen in years, named Jeannette, whose family has been attending witness meetings since the 1940s.

I asked her if she followed the Australian Royal Commission Hearings on Child Abuse last summer, and the follow up last month, after a few minutes of small talk.

This was at a Greyhound bus station in Buffalo,​ where JWs are often seen babysitting their literature carts.

In my estimation, this was a serious question for Jeannette, but, even with our longstanding friendship, she began her response with, “I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to hear it.”

Sometimes, mature-looking adults will hold their hands over their ears, and act like pouting children just to stop themselves from hearing any unfavorable information about the group which told them it was the greatest, truest religion in the world.

It’s almost like a bad joke to some people, but, there’s nothing funny about critical thinking being considered oppressive, slanderous, or treated as if it’s been outlawed.

And, if your religion has already predicted the wrong “end of days,” rapture, or Christ’s return date, then you are following an outdated belief.

According to a May 2015 article in Forbes, “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 [Russian Orthodox Church] 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…”

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. Russia has used extreme measures against what outwardly seems to be a religion of peace.

And, just over the past year, another European nation has also 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. According to the Australian Royal Commission on Child Abuse, some 1,006 cases of child molestation occurred in Australian congregations alone, between 1950 and 2014. The commission also called into question JW’s practice of shunning, or disfellowshipping, as they call it.

Historically, the Watchtower Society has seemed like an organization that is controlled by a secret cabal of decision makers, beyond its governing body. This began with Charles Russell, the Watchtower’s publisher.

You see, Russell once financed a failing magazine, Nelson H. Barbour’s Adventist Herald of the Morning.

Russell met with Barbour in 1876 in Philadelphia, and began financially backing Herald, as well as taking on the role of assistant editor. However, with Barbour still working as editor-in-chief, the two soon became a two-headed, wrong-second-coming-date tag-team.

And, 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.

Then, after about three years of pushing a catch-phrase invented by Barbour, years before he met Russell, called “invisible return,” Russell decided he’d had enough of losing both money and readers.

So, the best way for him to fight back was to distance himself from the Herald, start his own magazine, and a religion based upon the opinions and false-parallel research he printed in his journal, in order to make them read.

Thus, Russell’s concept of turning his subscribers into a cult, albeit an outwardly-friendly cult, would soon materialize.

I have no doubt the Watchtower’s current publishers wish Russia’s ban on them was “invisible,” but, it’s not.

However, I’m sure, as the saying goes, their lawyers are working on it.

Unfortunately, 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 JWs 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 which violates the rights of their members.

This is just another demonstration of Putin exposing one of his own insecurities.

In his mind, the witnesses are a threat to his beloved Russian Orthodox Church.

As a result, 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 (if not time-consuming) religion gain sympathy from a government ban based upon the wrong purpose, as opposed to a ban based upon 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; pointblankdta@yahoo.com.

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