Translated from the original by Alexia Krinitis
Out of interest, which springs from my theological studies, I carefully read all the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ magazines; among these editions, the Watchtower Study Edition is very important. It is really hard for anyone who is not a member of this judaizing heresy to realize the importance of that magazine for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are taught by their leadership that God Himself speaks in its pages using the Organisation as a channel of communication. From time to time, articles in this magazine have encouraged the Jehovah’s Witnesses to pray on knees before reading it and to obtain the last copy even upon death penalty!...
I was waiting the latest edition of Watchtower Study Edition, which is the first for the 2016. However, there was a surprise for me. The Watchtower Society always publishes to their official website the Watchtower Study Edition, which is addressed to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few days later The Watchtower for the non- Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, this time there was The Watchtower published first and actually there was a number on it: “The Watchtower No1 2016”. These changes really caught my attention, because they have never happened in the last six years that I study the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, I carefully read the information on the inside of the cover: “The Watchtower (ISSN 0043-1087) Issue 1January 2016 is published monthly with an additional issue published in January, March, May, July, September, and November by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.;”.
What does this information really mean? The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is reducing the circulation of its most important instrument for spreading its dogmas, teaching its members and recruiting new followers: the magazine Watchtower, which it has never stopped publishing since 1897! This decision is history in the making for both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and those of us studying this sect, despite the efforts of the Organisation to play down the importance of the change.
In case our readers are not familiar with, up to December 2015, The Watchtower magazine was issued twice a month; on the 1st of each month, the issue for the non- Jehovah’s Witnesses was published on their official website followed by the Study Edition for the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the 15th of each month.
Needles to say the Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been informed about that change. Their elders in the Kingdom Halls have informed “the other sheep” that the Watchtower (i.e. for the non- Jehovah’s Witnesses) will be published every second month. As a reason for this change was given the fact that “the faithful and discreet slave” provides the Jehovah’s Witnesses with hundreds of books, booklets, leaflets and other publications so they have plenty of “spiritual food” (note: the quotes are typical expressions of Jehovah’s Witnesses). Since Jehovah’s Witnesses have so rich “spiritual food”, this “spiritual arrangement” was necessary so resources will be saved and used for the preparation of “food” for all of us who have not heard “the Kingdom message”. Apparently, the Watchtower Society believes we are locked away in the caves and we have never heard of the Gospel.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained never to question and never to think on the decisions made by their Organisation. They say “the Organisation knows” and at that point they bring the cognitive procedures of their minds to a halt. As a consequence, they honestly believe that the publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are truly rich and so interesting that even the non- Jehovah’s Witnesses are more than happy to read them. Moreover, it is strictly prohibited for the Jehovah’s Witnesses even to browse through a magazine or a book issued by anyone else but the Oranisation; a Jehovah’s Witness might even get disfellowshipped if she reads anything else. As a result, they completely ignore the publications of our Holly Church of excellent theological quality that is read by many people regardless of their religious believes. For all these reasons, the Watchtower organization did not have much difficulty in minimizing the historical decision of downsizing the circulation of the Watchtower magazine.
The true reason
However, what could the true reason be behind this important change? Let’s ask the question in a different way as free-thinking Christians: when does a publishing company downsize the circulation of their magazines? When the revenues have declined! It is as simple as that!
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is trying really hard to convince the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest of us that the number of its followers keeps rising, more and more Kingdom Halls are being built around the world and to cut a long story short that the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the only true religion that currently blossoms. The cover story of Awake! November 2015 is “Is Religion Dying?” In this specific context “religion” means everybody else but the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However, reality is somehow different and it does not support the above claims of the Watchtower Society; neither it confirms the creative statistics the Watchtower includes every year in the “Year Book of Jehovah’s Witness”. A large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses submits the letter of disfellowship which is the official statement they are not a Jehovah’s Witness anymore. Actually, if it had not been for the tyrannical and anti-constitutional practice of Disfellowshiping, which cancels the great social achievement of religious tolerance, the number of ex-members abandoning this sect would be much larger. To those, we should add a large number of Jehovah’s Witnesses whom I consider to be a case of crypto-Christianity; these are ex- Jehovah’s Witnesses who have not officially left the Organisation out of fear for the social impact on their lives. These people secretly come to the Church, they study the Bible with us and slowly they are shaking off the heretical teachings of the Watchtower. They only do the bare minimum of the “field service”, i.e. preaching from door-to-door, without recruiting new members to the heresy.
As mentioned above, in the statistics published in the “Year Book of Jehovah’s Witness”, the Watchtower uses info graphics to support the idea there is an impressive increase in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, if we read those statistics more carefully, we will realize the reality is somehow different. For us to understand correctly this information, we should take into consideration some important factors. For example:
· Is the population of a country increasing or declining?
· Does the increase of Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the increase of the population?
· Is the increase of Jehovah’s Witnesses steadily from year to year? Is it smaller? Is it bigger?
In France, even though the population keeps increasing the last three years, Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasing by 1% every year for the last three years. Such is the case of Italy. Even though from one year to the other, the Jehovah’s Witnesses see a positive percentage, actually this is a decline. In The Netherlands, the situation is even worse for the Jehovah’s Witnesses: The population is increasing, but there is a decline among Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Greece, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses keeps falling the last years. This information is easily accessible to anyone, since The Watchtower publishes the “Year Book of Jehovah’s Witness” to its official website.
There are some countries where the Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasing. The majority of them are in the Sub-Saharan Africa; countries that have just come out of violent civil wars and genocides (some of these countries are still living under these tragic conditions). Some “Christians” in name only participated in these atrocities, thus pushing their fellow citizens to this heresy. I intentionally describe this situation, because we, the Christians, have to accept our own responsibilities for the people who seek an answer to their spiritual needs among the cults.
Even though the Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot hide the decrease in their numbers, how many they really are remains a well-kept secret known only to their leaders at the U.S. headquarters; not even the “circuit overseers” know about it. The sect uses the number of its members the same way it uses its dogmas: according to the message the Watchtower Society wishes to send, it counts them in a different way and it does not have a problem to send two contradictive messages at the same time. Some examples: The Jehovah’s Witnesses tell us their children are not yet Jehovah’s Witnesses because they have to choose their religion when they are able to decide on their own; however, the Watchtower Society does not hesitate to count children as its members, when it wants to announce the number of people who attended its conventions and meetings. In a similar way, the Watchtower Society announces the number of attendees at the annual Memorial of Christ’s death (a ceremony which is supposed to represent the Last Supper but has nothing to do with the Divine Liturgy of the Church); however, this number does not really mean anything, since not everyone attending the Memorial intend to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Curiosity, studying of this sect, ignorance are only few of the reasons for someone to attend this symbolic ritual. Another strange belief regarding its members is that those who sin secretly someday will be caught and they will be disfellowshipped; until that day comes, these people are not members of the “church”, Jehovah’s Witnesses just do not know who the sinners are (yet)! However, until the “sinless” Jehovah’s Witnesses find out who the sinners are (as if there is a living person who does not sin), they count them as members of the Organisation.
These examples are enough to help us understand why it is very difficult to know the exact number of Jehovah’s Witnesses without any access to official data. The Watchtower Society has admitted that in the annual statistics, it counts twice the “publishers” (“Peak publishers” is the highest number reporting for any one month of the service year… In this way some publishers may be counted twice”, Watchtower, Study Edition, 15/8/2011, p.22 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011609).
Having studied the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have concluded the Organisation counts as official members those Jehovah’s Witnesses who submit the Field Service Report Card. These are the members who sale the religious product of this corporation, they support it financially, they recruit new members. They are the Human Resources of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society according to the science of Business Administration. Consequently, as all companies do, Watchtower Society wants to evaluate its employees and their productivity.
There are many reasons which cause the decline of Jehovah’s Witnesses globally. However, three of them are the most important:
1. The global rise of education.
2. The great development of Internet.
3. The re-opening of the Church to our societies with modern and theological speech.
Thanks to the above mentioned circumstances, people find spiritual shelter to Mother Church, they truly know their religion, they can discuss with members of cults, showing the misinterpretation of the Holly Bible and most important, they are familiar with dictatorial practices such as the disfellowship and the rejection of blood transfusions. As a result, they are not vulnerable to the recruitment efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It is common sense that this decline of Jehovah’s Witnesses has impact on the financials of the Organisation. To make things worse for the Watchtower Society, the global financial crisis, which particularly affected U.S.A. and Europe, had negative consequences. Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly vulnerable to these social and economical changes because, with grave responsibility of their leadership, they are discouraged from pursuing higher education, a situation which has consequences in their careers. Thankfully, younger generations do not listen to this “guidance” and they educate their children. Also, Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from accepting job positions with more responsibilities, something that would improve their income. The reason behind this is these job positions usually come with long working hours and that would prevent them from achieving their “spiritual goals”. The truth is that being a Jehovah’s Witness is actually a part-time job, only without a salary and it is very stressful when one has to combine it with a full-time job.
With the low incomes of Jehovah’s Witnesses becoming even lower or disappearing in the case of unemployment, it is impossible for them “to support Kingdom’s activities”, that is the Watchtower Society’s investments, from their own money. Even though the Watchtower Society is on the verge of obsession when it criticizes the Church for the collection plate, it puts unbearable pressure on its own followers for contributions. It even connects the financial contribution to the spiritual progress and honour to God! Moreover, we should keep in mind that the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on our doors or meet us in the streets and they offer us their leaflets and magazines, they have paid them under the pretext of “voluntary” contribution. Let’s read some excerpts from Jehovah’s Witnesses’s books where I have underlined some interesting phrases:
Mature Christians today joyfully use their assets to support Jehovah’s worship. Imitate such ones by following the principle at 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, regularly ‘setting something aside’ to contribute to the congregation and to the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Study Edition, 15/8/2000 σ. 28-29)/
Our wholehearted gift, which includes our material contributions, is a reflection of how much we appreciate the blessings Jehovah has showered upon us (God’s Kingdom Rules!, p. 196-197).
Similarly, the amount of literature a publisher obtains from the literature counter should be based on what the publisher needs in order to carry out his ministry, not on his ability to donate. Donations
are not to pay for literature but to support all aspects (Our Kingdom Ministry, December 2011).
In an anti-christian and anti-ecclesiastical Europe turning against its own origins, where if someone declares herself a devoted Christian, she is regarded to be against progress and civilisation, while seeking help to astrologists and gurus is a sign of open-minded and progressive personality, the Watchtower Society lies to Jehovah’s Witnesses they are the only true “church” which keeps flourishing. The violation of the human rights of the Christians (Christians lose their jobs in the name of a secular state, if they wear the Holly Cross, Christian churches are defiled in France, the cross is equated with the swastika, we, the Christians, are mocked for our faith), is welcomed by the Watchtower Society as expulsion of the "false" religion, as the fall of Babylon the Great, as shamelessly Jehovah’s Witnesses call the Holy Church of our Lord; for them it is a situation that confirms the false prophecies of their Organisation and that Jehovah’s Witnesses will soon live in a paradise on earth.
What the Watchtower Society truly does is leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses unprepared for the difficulties lying ahead for the Christians, creating the illusion in their controlled minds that Jehovah’s Witnesses are safe despite the persecutions even they have suffered from time to time. Moreover, the Organisation leaves them unable to speak up about their faith, to talk in a trully Christocentric way that would ease the pain of the modern man suffering from so many problems. The consequences are already evident for the Watchtower Society, since the drop in the statistics and the financial limitations have lead the Watchtower Society restrict the circulation of the major doctrinal magazine, The Watchtower.
In my opinion, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society will strengthen the efforts of proselytism in an attempt to change the situation in its favour just as any corporation would do. Jehovah’s Witnesses have already published in their official website an “Invitation to Congregation Meetings” which they will distribute. It is the first time, at least in the last 6 years, the Jehovah’s Witnesses will distribute such an invitation; until today, they invited the non- Jehovah’s Witnesses only to their Annual Conventions and to the Memorial of Christ’s death; they invite to their meetings only the people who study the Bible with them. An article in the Watchtower Study Edition January 2016 is also interesting: The Watchtower Society tries to answer the thorny question of why the number of people receiving the “emblems” keeps changing from one year to the next; it is a question “the faithful and discreet slave” must answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses first and foremost.
The reducing of the circulation of the Watchtower Magazing, a detail seemingly unimportant, shows the extent of the difficulties the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has come up against. Let’s pray that one day we will welcome our deceived brothers and sisters to the Holly Church, released from that heresy, and that we will participate all together to the Holy Eucharist.
I studied at the School of Theology in Athens and I continued my studies at the Sorbonne University on post-graduate level. I also hope to receive my Phd. The subject of my thesis is the Holy Communion in the Church and in the sects. I participate voluntarily in a group organised by a parish in Paris to help former members of religious sects. So, I have met a significant number of former Jehovah's Witnesses. I pray for the Union of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. I ask for your understanding, because I do not have time to respond to any comments, but I will be happy to read them. Many thanks to Christos Pal for publishing my article.
Writer Iakovos – Ioannis Sanatamouris