Jehovah’s Witnesses have a huge problem with pedophilia in their religion, as many victims who grew up in the organization will attest. Witnesses are now facing several lawsuits from one firm in the U.S. alone, and have settled many dozens more.
The Australian Royal Commission also revealed the extent of the problem, with over 1000 known pedophiles in the religion in the past few decades in that country alone, with not one being reported to the police by elders. Not one.
If you were to try to confront Jehovah’s Witnesses about this issue, you may very well get the response that pedophilia happens everywhere, in all religions and organizations. The implication is that they’re being unfairly singled out, or “picked on,” when you talk about the problem of pedophilia in their religion.
It is certainly true that pedophilia happens everywhere, and that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not alone in this issue. There is, however, a difference with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you might consider this when trying to formulate an answer to them.
Spirit Directed and Appointed
Jehovah’s Witnesses firmly believe that they are being directed by god’s holy spirit, and that the elders and other overseers are appointed at the direction of this holy spirit:
“As we saw in the two preceding articles, our speaking with boldness and our using the Word of God skillfully in the ministry demonstrate that we are directed by God’s spirit.” (February 15, 2010, Watchtower)
“We are wise to take stock of ourselves to be sure that our words and actions give evidence that we are directed by holy spirit and are producing its fruitage.” (December 15, 2011, Watchtower)
“Jehovah uses his spirit to lead his organization in the direction that he wants it to go.” (April 15, 2010, Watchtower)
“The whole process of such recommendation and appointment [of elders and others] is directed, or guided, by holy spirit.” (January 15, 2001, Watchtower)
The point is that Jehovah’s Witnesses say they’re different from other religions, they’re special or more righteous, because they have this direction from god. They don’t claim to be just another club, school, or civic group. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have backing from god himself, which is all well and good, except when they also then claim that they can’t be held to any higher standards when it comes to child sex abuse.
You can’t have it both ways; you can’t claim you’re special because you have direction from god when it comes to what you teach and believe, but then say that you’re not special when it comes to something as horrific as child sex abuse.
Controlled to Do What?
The book “Shepherd the Flock of God,” the handbook or guidebook used by elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even went so far so as to say:
“Revelation 1:20 depicts Jesus as holding the anointed elders in his right hand, thus, by extension, indicating that he controls all bodies of elders for the purpose of accomplishing Jehovah’s will.”
What, then, does it mean when it’s an elder himself who is doing the molesting? This has been reported in many cases, that it’s not just some rank-and-file member of the religion who has been caught molesting children, but an elder, someone whom Jehovah’s Witnesses claim is being controlled by Jesus. Remember, “controls all bodies of elders” are their words, not mine.
Consider the implication of the words that Jehovah’s Witnesses choose to use in their own literature; they claim that they are so special, they have such a close connection with god and such a close channel of communication that Jesus actually “controls” the elders.
So, Jesus is controlling them when they rape little children? When they mercilessly grill child rape victims, or tell them to “respect” their own rapist? (See this post.) I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t appreciate that thought.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will often say that this isn’t the case, that Jesus controls them and the holy spirit directs the elders when they’re doing the right thing, but not when they’re doing anything wrong.
This was hinted at by governing body member Geoffrey Jackson during the Australian Royal Commission when he said:
“So just the same with elders, they are referred to as being appointed by holy spirit, as you probably are aware, we believe that means that when an elder is in harmony with what the Bible says is required of an elder, then he is appointed by the holy spirit.”
However, again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that Jesus or the holy spirit guides and directs and even controls someone when they do something right, but when they do something wrong, suddenly claim “Oh no, that’s all free will and their own choice and human imperfection and nothing to do with Jesus…”
Another reason for arguing this reasoning of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that it calls into question the authority or leadership of elders in all matters, if they’re going to be choosy on their claim that Jesus directs or controls them. Jehovah’s Witnesses are repeatedly told to obey the elders because of this appointment by Jesus and Jehovah, for example, the November 15, 2013, Watchtower simplified edition said:
“Paul wrote to the elders in the congregation of Ephesus and told them: “The holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God.” (Acts 20:28) Elders today have also been appointed by holy spirit. Why can we say that? Because they have been appointed based on requirements written in God’s inspired Word. So when we obey the elders, we show respect for Jehovah and Jesus, the two greatest Shepherds. (Luke 10:16) This is the main reason why we willingly obey the elders.”
If Jesus is picking and choosing when he directs and controls the elders, as Jehovah’s Witnesses might say when it comes to child molestation, then who’s to say that he’s not picking and choosing when he’s giving them direction at all other times? You should be able to easily dismiss their authority or call it into question over any and all matters, including doctrinal teaching, counsel about supposed immorality, and the like.
Claims of True Religion
The other response to Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to child molestation is how they often claim that they’re the only true religion, and it’s the basis for these claims that then becomes suspect. Consider this, from the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach,” under the chapter Worship That God Approves and subheading How to Identify the True Religion:
“God’s people show genuine, unselfish love for one another. Jesus said: ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.’ (John 13:35)”
Note a few similar quotes from Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“Millions of people throughout the world have evaluated the facts and have become convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are practicing the true religion. They have reached this conclusion on the basis of what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach and how they conduct themselves, as well as on the basis of the benefits their religion has brought.” (June 1, 2001, Watchtower)
“Something else that helped me was attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There I experienced Christian love, and I was impressed because these people try to live by the Bible’s high moral standards. What I saw convinced me that Jehovah’s Witnesses practice the true religion.” (July 1, 2011, Watchtower)
So what do Jehovah’s Witnesses say will help you to “identify the true religion”? By the unselfish love the members have for one another; yet, how loving are they when they rape and molest little children, refuse to consider the testimony of other rape victims, and silence those victims as well? (See this post about the Australian Royal Commission for more information.)
If the true religion shows genuine, unselfish love, and Jehovah’s Witnesses show no such love or even courtesy to child rape victims, what does that say about their claim to be the true religion? Yes, pedophilia happens in other religions, but Jehovah’s Witnesses dismiss those religions as being false, while claiming theirs is true because they’re so “loving.” Yet, if they’re just as unloving to their members as these religions, the ones that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be false, what does that say about the JW claim to be the one true religion?
The bottom line is, Jehovah’s Witnesses say they’re special in that they have direction and control from god, and they’re the one true religion because of how loving they are, but then cry that they can’t be considered any more special than another religion when it comes to child molestation. If there is nothing special about this religion when it comes to pedophilia, how can there be anything special about them in their teachings and beliefs? If Jesus isn’t controlling and directing them when they molest children, how can I be sure he’s directing them or having anything to do with them at any other time?
If this argument doesn’t help you to convince Jehovah’s Witnesses that they need to reflect deeply on either their policies, or their claims about the religion, maybe it will at least help anyone else who has lingering doubts about the truthfulness of the religion itself.
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