Source of Information about JW’s?
Q: Wouldn’t it be better to get all of our information about Jehovah’s Witnesses from the Witnesses themselves rather than from unbelievers who may be prejudiced against their work or who may provide biased propaganda against them?
A: The Witnesses themselves will tell you the same thing as what you suggest. I remember a tract they used to publish that said something like, “Would you ask prejudiced scribes and Pharisees about what Jesus believed? Then why go to prejudiced sources to find out what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? Ask the Witnesses themselves!” On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable argument, but it’s actually fallacious.
While I agree that “biased propaganda” may not be the best way to learn about a controversial group, let’s not ignore the fact that biased propaganda can be as easily served up by members of such a group as by its critics. Having been a part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization for many years, I can testify from personal experience that their recruiting methods are deceptive. Many facts about the group are withheld until the recruit has accepted the authority of the organization.
For believers to present only the positives about their group without acknowledging the negative aspects is no less a form of dishonest bias than it is for opposers to present only the negative, ignoring the positives. Does it actually seem reasonable that only the members of the group are capable of offering honest, unbiased information? And anyone who presents negative information about the group is presenting “biased propaganda”? That sort of reasoning is just a way of “poisoning the well” - casting any contrary information in a negative light because of the source rather than because of the content of the message.
In fact, members of the group who are engaged in recruiting have a vested interest in NOT presenting an honest, unbiased picture; they are trying to “make a sale,” as it were. On the other hand, opposers may be people who have genuinely been injured by the group, and they may be willing to provide information that the group would just as soon sweep under the carpet. The only way to make a truly informed decision would be to listen to both sides of the argument and make a decision after hearing ALL of the arguments.
Here are some examples: in their two primary study books for new converts, you’ll find a brief reference to the fact that “true Christians” (and by that term they mean only Jehovah’s Witnesses) do not accept blood transfusions. But you won’t read anywhere in those books that you will be expected to die or let your children die rather than accept a transfusion, and that if you violate this rule, you will end up outside the organization, shunned by all of your family and friends who are Witnesses. Isn’t that something you’d want to know about before getting involved with this group? But you most likely won’t be informed about it in any detail until you have already accepted the authority of the organization. Unless, of course, you come to sites like this one, where such matters may be exposed by “unbelievers”.
Here’s another one: if you study with the JW’s, at some point they will tell you that they disfellowship immoral people from their organization, in order to keep their congregations “clean”. They probably won’t go into great detail about what this means for the disfellowshipped person. They won’t mention that even his own family members – mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister – if they do not live in the same home with him, will be expected to have nothing to do with him, except for absolutely essential family business matters. Any family member who violates this shunning edict runs the risk of being disfellowshipped himself. And they also won’t mention that, in addition to various forms of immorality, one can be disfellowshipped for a great variety of offenses such as smoking, celebrating holidays, voting, accepting a blood transfusion, or even disagreeing with the organization’s doctrinal position on any teaching. Or for exposing any sort of wrongdoing in the organization publicly. They also won’t likely tell you that disfellowshipping decisions are made in secretive, “star-chamber” type hearings held behind closed doors, with no witnesses allowed and no records of any sort permitted to be made by the accused. This, of course, is 180 degrees from the Biblical example where matters were heard ‘at the city gates’ in full public view. The Witnesses won’t usually tell you these things until well along the way to full indoctrination. Many do not find out about these rules until after they are baptized, and themselves subject to disfellowshipping if they object to these procedures. That is the danger involved in ‘getting information about religions from the followers not the unbelievers’.
If you were trying to buy a used car, and the dealer advised you that there was a lot of “biased propaganda” going around because some people didn’t like him, would you be suspicious? What if he admonished you not to speak with any of his former customers, and to ignore the biased articles that had appeared about him in local newspapers? Furthermore, he tells you that the government is “out to get him” and therefore you shouldn’t pay any attention to the number of times he has been successfully sued by former customers and others. Would any red flags begin to go up? Can you see where you might actually be protecting yourself by investigating this dealer before doing business with him?
If you join a religious group you have not fully investigated, you are allowing a stranger to control your soul. If you rely for information only on those who have an interest in recruiting you, then you are setting yourself up to be deceived. Swallowing whole the propaganda from either side is not likely to result in coming to know the truth about any matter.