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13 Μαΐ 2017

HIGHER EDUCATION AND "THE WATCHTOWER"



Translated from the original by “M.L.”


This article is the result of a small survey I personally conducted, after coming across the autobiography of Mr Eleftheriadis Onesimus, a former Jehovah’s Witness, posted on this blog.

In the article entitled "The cruel adolescence of a former Jehovah's Witness under the illiberal and oppressive environment of the Watchtower" (you can see it here: http://antiairetikos.blogspot.gr/2010/04/blog-post.html), there was a comment by someone who called himself "Christian Witness of Jehovah" and "Christian reverend", which, among other things, was saying this: " The Watchtower as a religious organization of the Universal Brotherhood of Christian Jehovah's Witnesses believes in education and encourages parents to educate their children”. This comment has received very strong criticism as being inaccurate, so I decided to see for myself if the Watchtower actually encourages education and studies of its followers...

To make sure I would not be misinformed, I decided to study articles and texts of the Jehovah Witnesses themselves. I did not look for any evidence and documents of former members of the organization or opinions of the Orthodox Church, or other Christian denominations. Moreover, I wanted to read contemporary articles in the Watchtower on this subject and not of past decades. The reason is that the Watchtower itself is changing its teachings (they argue that this is due to a better understanding of the Scriptures). I wanted to be sure that I would find out what the Watchtower believes in our era about this very important issue with its major implications for our society.

With this consideration and criteria, I visited the online library of the Watchtower and typed in the search box the phrase "higher education", which produced 46 results. It might be noted that the online library is not complete, since it contains publications of magazines and books from 2000 onwards. Of the 46 results, I read the articles: "Why Put Jehovah's Service First?", the Watchtower 15/6/2012, pp 20-24, "Christian Families-" Keep Ready ", the Watchtower 15/5/2011, pp. 11-15, "Make Your Way Successful"-How? ", the Watchtower 15/6/2011, pp 29-32," Temporary Residents "in a Wicked World", the Watchtower 15/11/2011, pp 16-20, " Consider the "End Afterward", the Watchtower 1/9/2008, pp 8-11, "Repudiate" Valueless Things "and" Young People, Remember Your Grand Creator Now " the Watchtower, 15/4/2008, pp 3-7 and 12 -16 respectively, "Parents-What Future Do You Want for Your Children?" the Watchtower 1/10/2005, pp. 26-31.

These articles present with clarity the Watchtower view on basic and higher education. The teaching of the "faithful and meek slave" could be summarized as follows: The basic education and high school training is essential, as they help members of the Watchtower to better serve Jehovah. Higher education, however, provided in Universities, is not encouraged and is presented as dangerous for Jehovah's Witnesses, being part of the satanic world! We read about examples of happy faithful witness, who rejected without a second thought scholarships for higher studies in order to devote themselves to “pioneering” (a euphemism for preaching from door to door). We also read stories about other believers of Jehovah, who opted to study, but were feeling guilty because they spent less time on "spiritual things." Progress in education and science is equated more or less with prostitution and drugs!

But could all this perhaps be an exaggeration from my part or something I did not understand correctly? Let's read some very telling excerpts from the above articles, with my personal thoughts and comments on them, following. This way, it will be easy for each reader to draw his own conclusions about the Watchtower stance on education, since my comments follow separately (underlining in the articles by me).

"Temporary Residents" in a Wicked World ", the Watchtower 15/11/2011, pp 16-20:
"Vigilant Christians refrain from using the world to the full with regard to higher education. Many people in this world consider higher education an indispensable stepping-stone to prestige and an affluent life. But we Christians live as temporary residents and pursue different goals ... Consequently, young Christians are encouraged to pursue spiritual goals, getting only as much education as is required to meet their basic needs while focusing on preparing themselves to serve Jehovah ... ".

Comment: The extract (and the full article, as its eloquent title states) reminds us that our world is soon ending, therefore education is unnecessary. What is needed is education, which will allow us to read, write and have an ordinary job. This sounds similar to what my great grandfather used to say: "Letters are useful for one up to a point: so that he does not sign his name with a cross" (fortunately, that view was not embraced by the descendants, and now I am able to write this article). I do not know yet if there have been educational mutinies among the ranks of the "meek slave" and if so, to what extent. It would be very interesting to have access to statistical data about the percentage of Jehovah Witnesses children, born into the organization, who decided to continue with their studies (and of course were not restricted by their parents).

"Repudiate" Valueless Things" the Watchtower, 15/4/2008, pp 3-7:
"... Yet, many who pursue such education [secular education] end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah's service ... ".

Comment: A very interesting view from the Watchtower on education, which they consider a waste of our young age! I confess that at this point, the Watchtower actually does act as a “pioneer”, because it is a really pioneering thought that scientific education is characterized, as a waste of time. Personally, I have never heard or read anyone state such a “pioneering” thought! At the same time, "the faithful and meek slave" does not avoid terrifying the faithful Jehovah Witnesses by stating that if their children study, they will be exposed to "harmful propaganda." However, they do not clarify: harmful propaganda on what? I would like to point out that while reading these texts, I came to the conclusion that the Watchtower deliberately propagandizes against education and manipulates its followers on this important issue.

"Consider the" End Afterward ", the Watchtower 1/9/2008, pp 8-11:
"What Will Be the" End Afterward "?
Young people are often exposed to temptations and pressures to experiment with things that seem popular. Here are some likely scenarios.
▪ Someone dares you to smoke a cigarette.
▪ A well-intentioned teacher urges you to pursue higher education at a university.
▪ You are invited to a party where alcohol and possibly drugs will be freely available.
▪ "Why don't you post your profile on the Internet?" Someone suggests.
▪ A friend invites you to watch a movie that features violence or immorality.
If you are ever confronted with any of such situations, what will you do? Will you simply give in, or will you carefully consider what the "end afterward" could be? You would be wise to ask yourself: "Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned? Or can a man walk upon the coals and his feet themselves not be scorched? "

Comment: From everything I read, this is the most revealing text about the real opinion of "the meek slave" on the education of its offspring. Drugs, prostitution, violence, immorality, the University, are all boiling in the same pot. And what can one say about the call of action to the youngsters to self examine themselves, so that they do not indulge in this dangerous vice, education! The teacher who encourages his student to study is described as "benevolent". This means that his intentions are not bad, but his advice is wrong and dangerous. Teachers are characterized as "benevolent”, almost every time they appear in a Watchtower article. What a fine way to pass the message to the youth to be wary of its teachers!

"Parents-What Future Do You Want for Your Children?" The Watchtower 1/10/2005, pp. 26-31:
«... The education may be practically free, but the price that the students pay is a life engrossed in advancing the present system. Though such a way of life is highly sought-after in the world, is it what Christian parents want for their children?
Then there is the environment. University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior-drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on .... ».

Comment: Once again, the Watchtower terrorizes its followers and especially parents, to whom the article is addressed. Universities are places where immorality thrives, and additionally, if one decides to study, he devotes his life to “the System” (rather than the Lord), a system which according to the Watchtower is ruled by Satan. Also, I am surprised beyond words by the argument against university education because students are cheating!
In the same article:
«In addition to the bad environment, there is the pressure of schoolwork and examinations. Naturally, students need to study and do their homework to pass the exams. Some may also need to hold at least a part-time job while going to school. All of this takes a great deal of their time and energy. What, then, will be left for spiritual activities? When pressures mount, what will be let go? Will Kingdom interests still come first, or will they be put aside? ...
... If you are a young person, ask yourself: 'Am I putting forth my best effort to "accomplish my ministry," to make myself a qualified minister of God's Word? What are my plans for pursuing my ministry "fully"? Have I considered taking up full-time service as a career? "... Christian parents, therefore, wisely provide their children from infancy with the right kind of spiritual environment and training.
... Rather than choose academic subjects that are geared toward a university education, parents and children need to consider courses that are useful in pursuing a theocratic career.
Studies show that in many countries, there is an acute need, not for university graduates, but for people to work in the trades and services ..... Are these desirable jobs? Certainly! Perhaps they are not as glamorous as some might envision, but they do offer the means and the flexibility needed by those whose true vocation is service to Jehovah. "

Comment: Here, the Watchtower is trying to promote the idea that the studying youth will neglect their duties towards Jehovah (and so it would be better for them to not study at all). At the same time, they make parents and children aware of their responsibilities (in the way the "meek slave" understands the meaning of responsibilities) and urge them not to study but to commit themselves to the Watchtower. Moreover, the Watchtower acts as professional adviser and guide in directing its followers away from harmful universities. And as always, it does not fail to remind the service to Jehovah, which according to the Jehovah Witnesses it coincides with the service to the Watchtower.

Elsewhere in the same article:
«... In other words, quality higher education is fast becoming the domain of the rich and influential, who put their children through it to ensure that they too become the rich and influential of this system ...».

Comment: Where did The Watchtower find data for this? How is education (and as we read “fast”!) becoming a class criterion; This may have been the case in previous eras, but how can it be possible in our own times? Moreover, it stands out as weird, that the Watchtower is bothered by class discrimination, having made a two class segregation part of its doctrine: the “anointed brothers”, who will rule together with Jesus Christ in the heavenly paradise and the "great crowd" who will inherit paradise. And of course, it does not fail to remind this distinction with the memorial emblems (ie bread and wine) that only a select few are entitled to receive! I believe that the Watchtower should better leave the sermons on class discrimination to Marx.

We stay in the same article (which exposes the Watchtower overall vision for education):
«... Should Christian parents knowingly expose their children to that kind of environment for four or perhaps more years? Is the risk involved worth whatever benefit the young ones may receive? ... "

Comment: Once again, the Watchtower poses a rhetorical question to parents. A question, which it has already answered, after presenting universities as especially dangerous places for young people. And while the Watchtower has spent a lot of pages in several editions on presenting how dangerous higher education is, possible benefits from higher education are probably non-existent, since they are not named even once! Furthermore, the organization puts upon parents a burden of responsibility, since they now have information about the abominations of the Universities! Information which of course, is derived exclusively from the "faithful and meek slave."

"Footnotes"
"For accounts of those who valued theocratic education more than university education, see the Watchtower, May 1, 1982, pages 3-6; April 15, 1979, pages 5-10; Awake! June 8, 1978, page 15; and August 8, 1974, pages 3-7. "
See Awake! October 8, 1998, "In Search of a Secure Life," pages 4-6, and May 8, 1989, "What Career Should I Choose?" Pages 12-14. "

Comment: These Watchtower references to earlier editions have answered the question of whether I should look up older publications on the subject of university education. Since the Watchtower refers to publications of past decades (something they do not do very often) this means that there is no "new light" and the "Governing Body" has been teaching consistently that higher education is dangerous for youth.
At this point, I would like to ask a question myself to the Watchtower: Why don’t you show stories of faithful Jehovah Witnesses, who went to University and successfully completed their studies without neglecting their religious duties and without risking? If there is such a story, I will be very happy to quote it, because, to say the truth, in my little research, I found nothing on this. The various statements, by people who decided to pursue a higher education, were actually expressing their anxiety and guilt that their choice made them neglect their spiritual obligations (eg "Make Your Way Successful"-How?; "The Watchtower, 15 / 6/2011, pp. 29-32, "I constantly felt on edge. My conscience troubled me because I could not reach the spiritual goals I had set for myself."). Furthermore, there are many examples of young people who rejected scholarships to devote themselves to the Watchtower, thus making themselves happy and their parents proud (see example: "Christian Families-" Keep Ready ", The Watchtower 15/5/2011, pp 11 -15, "Consider the example of a teenage girl in the country of Ethiopia. She did so well in her schoolwork that upon completing her basic education, she was offered a scholarship for further education. Having her eye focused on serving Jehovah, however, she turned down the scholarship. Soon thereafter, she received a job offer that would pay her 3,000 euros a month ... But the girl's "eye" was set on pioneer service ... Why, they [her parents] rejoiced with her and told her how proud they were of her! "

One more question: since university education harms young people, promotes "the present system of things," and propagandizes dangerous opinions, why do Watchtower publications present Jehovah Witnesses who excel as scientists? For example, see interview with biochemist Dr Paola Kiotsi in Awake! January 2013, page 6. What I can think as an answer to this paradox is that the Watchtower wants to show that educated people embrace the teachings. So why not encourage parents to seek scientific education of their children, why this unequal treatment? Young people who already belong to the ranks of the "meek slave" are terrorized with the thought that University will take them away from Jehovah and lure them to a secular way of life, where only violence, prostitution and drugs exist. On the other hand we see people who joined the Watchtower, after they had completed their studies and their careers, to be invoked as examples to others (Jehovah's Witnesses and affiliates). This is why, at the beginning of this article, I pointed out that it would be interesting to have statistics not about university graduates belonging to the organization, but about university graduates, born within the ranks of the Watchtower, from Jehovah Witnesses parents.

We read several excerpts about the views of the Watchtower on university education. Let's see what they believe on basic education and what criteria should be used for final decisions by young people and their families. We already know, from the beginning of our article, that children should receive basic training in order to better serve the Lord and ensure their livelihood ("Temporary Residents" in a Wicked World ", The Watchtower 15/11/2011, pp 16 - 20). Let's read some more excerpts.

"Why Put Jehovah's Service First?;", The Watchtower, 15/6/2012, pp. 20-24:
“If you are approaching the end of the schooling required of you, you may find yourself in good health and with few responsibilities. Have you seriously considered entering the regular pioneer ranks? No doubt, school counselors sincerely believe that it is in your best interests to pursue higher education and to plan for a secular career. Yet, their confidence lies in a social and financial system that has no lasting future .... “.

Comment: Teachers are presented as people who judge erroneously. We also have the zillionth reminder that our world is ending and that education is worthless. School, however is deemed "essential" and deserves to be followed by “pioneering” work.

"Young People, Remember Your Grand Creator Now", 15/4/2008, pp. 12-16:
"The world wants young people to focus their energies on secular goals. Naturally, those of you who are still in school should work hard to get a good basic education. After all, your aim is not simply to find suitable employment but also to be an asset to the congregation and a productive Kingdom proclaimer. To that end, you need to be able to communicate well, to think logically, and to reason calmly and respectfully with others ....
Young ones receive advice from all kinds of people-including school guidance counselors, who usually think purely in terms of success in the secular world. Please weigh all such advice prayerfully in the light of God's Word and the spiritual food provided by the faithful and discreet slave class. From your study of the Bible, you know that the young and inexperienced are a prime target of Satan. ... ".

Comment: Yet another article, where the Watchtower says that young people should be limited to basic education, so as to be more useful to the organization. Teachers and professors are once more presented as people who give wrong advice and there is a lurking idea that they are instruments of Satan, since young people are reminded to be careful, because they are the Devil’s target! To avoid this trap, what should they do? What else, study the teachings of "the faithful and meek slave." The "slave" knows better and wants only their good, unlike the rest of society (and of course the teachers, do not forget this)!

Concluding the article, I would like to point out this: The Watchtower makes the point that those who study aim only for money and fame. In reality, however, the benefits of higher education far outweigh money and a successful career. It is actually the subject matter of another article, but it is worth noting in brief that higher education contributes to the development of free and critical thought and the refining of the information we receive. And more importantly: it helps the development of abstract thinking. What does this mean in practice? A man with abstract thinking can understand for example, that it is not necessary to be a Jehovah's Witness in order to be a "good man" but "good people" exist among the Orthodox, the Catholics, the Buddhists and the atheists. Christianity is something much grander than being a "good man." Even more importantly, a person who understands abstract concepts is able to distinguish the truth of the Church, as taught by Christ, from the dubious behavior of certain Christians who are using the Church as a way to get rid of their vices. And "he who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:9).

Note: References to all the JW publications are from electronic versions of their official website.

Writer Alexia Krinitis

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