As a freelance writer who often provides content for PR campaigns, I know the importance of choosing your words carefully. The right words can give a story greater weight and impact, such as saying that a celebrity “broke their silence” about an issue, versus saying that he or she “spoke to the media.” Breaking your silence sounds noble, versus speaking to the media, which sounds like an obligation. Using certain words can also make things sound so much better than they really are, such as “enhanced interrogation techniques” versus “torture.”
Another consideration is using words that are dishonest or even outright lies, as this is a practice that is almost sure to come back and bite you. Yet, that’s exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses did recently when they said in the September 1, 2015, Watchtower that they have not “wavered” from their refusal to “petition men for support.” They lied. Big time.
Let’s first note how Jehovah’s Witnesses finance their work. They state in that magazine that they never “tithe, take up collections, or charge a fee for our services or publications. We are not paid to preach, to teach in the congregation, or to help build places of worship.” This is certainly true; there is no collection plate passed at meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and they don’t tithe or outright pay anyone for anything, although some traveling individuals and those who work at their headquarters are given accommodations and perhaps a monthly stipend.
Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses instead have “contribution boxes” at the back, where a person may, or may not, donate money. These boxes are also placed at their assembly halls during conventions. You can also find out more about how they make money in other ways by visiting the post Conventions, Kingdom Halls, Relief Funds, and Other Financial Scams and Schemes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A person may also send in donations directly to their headquarters, name the organization in their will, deed them property, name them as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy, and so on.
What is a Petition?
Let’s next note the meaning of the word “petition.” According to dictionary.com, it can be defined as “a request made for something desired, especially a respectful or humble request, as to a superior or to one of those in authority; something that is sought by request or entreaty; to beg for or request (something).”
So, a petition can be a request or entreaty, plain and simple. This is where the lie comes in.
The leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses “request” money all the time, and there are plenty of “requests” for money at their assemblies and meetings and in their literature. As an example, as I bring out in this post, it only took four paragraphs into the opening letter of the 2015 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the governing body of the religion to start asking for money.
As I bring out in this post, a request for money was placed in the December 15, 2014, Watchtower study edition before the articles used for bible study. The magazine devoted a full page to talking about how Jehovah blesses those have a “willing heart,” and about how those in ancient Israel brought their valuables to the tabernacle when it was being built. It then had another page devoted to ways that a person could contribute, including the methods mentioned above.
Just recently a video made by Jehovah’s Witnesses was also unveiled, showing young Sophia putting her small coin into the Kingdom Hall contribution box rather than spending it on a treat for herself. You can read about it in this post.
The list could go on, but the point is made. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t come out and say, “We need money!” or, “Will you give us your money?” Instead, their requests are made in the form of encouragement to give, promises of god’s blessing, saying that donating is part of your “sacred service,” colorful cartoons aimed at children, and a list of ways you can give them your donations. They offer the strongest suggestions possible as to how you can give, and note repeatedly that your giving should include “valuable things.”
If a JW were to ever say that these things aren’t really “petitions” or outright “requests,” I would respond by saying, “hogwash.” Just because they don’t use the words “petition,” “request,” or “beg,” doesn’t mean that’s not what they’re really doing. Jehovah’s Witnesses may word things very carefully, but how else are you supposed to take a two-page article about giving that includes specific instructions on how to do it, and “encouragement” from the governing body themselves? While you are not obligated to give money in order to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, while you may not be put on the spot with a collection plate passed in front of you, that’s not what the word “petition,” the word they themselves used in their own literature, actually means. Jehovah’s Witnesses are requesting and downright begging for money, in every way possible except coming right out and demanding it. If a child left this many hints about wanting a new PlayStation for Christmas, including ways their parents can afford it and a list of stores where they could buy it, I’m sure people would agree that the child was “petitioning” his or her parents and “requesting” that system pretty directly.
JWs can paint a pretty picture all they want, but a celebrity “breaking their silence” means they made a statement to the media, period. Waterboarding is torture, period. Consistent strong suggestions for money, saying that god will bless you if you give, and showing children cartoons of how to donate their quarters to the religion is petitioning, period. That habit is questionable enough, but lying about it after the fact is downright despicable.
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