During the 2016 summer conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the audiences will be shown a series of videos that are nothing short of disturbing, hysterical, and downright manipulative. The setting is during the “great tribulation” and before Armageddon.
For those not familiar with the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they teach that Armageddon is technically god’s war with Satan, but as casualties of that war, everyone on earth who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses will also be killed. Before Armageddon happens, there will be a “great tribulation,” which they feel will occur when the governments of the world turn on religion and try to ban it as a whole.
Once it’s discovered that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not stop practicing their religion for anything, those governments will turn on them. Jehovah’s Witnesses may then need to practice their religion in secret for some time, but once the governments begin to persecute them, Armageddon breaks out. They also believe that all these things will happen any day now, any minute now. This promise/threat of Armageddon and the end of the world is something the religion’s leaders have been holding over the heads of their followers for decades, although they’ve had to repeatedly change their “understanding” of when and how it would happen.
To ramp up their fear-mongering that the “end times” is closer than ever and will mean some very scary scenarios, through which you can only be protected by being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, consider the series of videos shown at the convention:
There are many, many things to pick apart from these, not the least of which is that no one in the videos has any clue what to do when the end of the world comes. They have a secret knock for those coming to the bunker; three knocks, answered with two knocks, answered with one knock. Really? That’s the standard knock that six-year-olds use for their clubhouses.
Cardinal sin number two is that one man apparently went to other locations to check on them and… wait for it… worked from a list. A list. A paper list, that he hands to another man while in the bunker. It occurs to no one that if the Gestapo does break down their door, they’ll now have that list in their possession? Maybe the man put it in some type of code, but if their super-secret, ultra sophisticated 3-2-1 knock is any indication of their experience with these things, I’m thinking he just wrote it in Pig Latin and thought it was clever enough.
The pain of their naiveté aside, what is most disturbing is the heavy-handed way Jehovah’s Witnesses are portraying this situation, complete with a bust-in by cops at the end (oops … spoiler alert). They are no longer simply “hinting around” that things might be difficult during this “great tribulation” and that they should be afraid for their lives; they’re now showing it right there on the big screen, complete with a basement bunker, bottled water, secret knocks, loud noises outside, fear on their faces, praying, scriptures, and melodramatic music. They spend the entire time inside talking about how they needed to do more of what the religion demanded of them in order to arrive safely at the bunker. They also talk about one young man, Kevin, who hadn’t answered the religion’s incessant demands to preach, and preach, and preach before this “great tribulation” began, so that now he had disavowed the JWs altogether and was forsaken outside.
I’ll be picking apart the ridiculous counsel they include for what Jehovah’s Witnesses need to be doing now to be saved during this hideous time in the future, but in the meantime, consider the video as a whole. Jehovah’s Witnesses may not like the word “doomsday,” but this certainly applies to their thinking; they are emphasizing their teaching that the world will soon end in some cataclysmic event, compete with a police state and Nazi-like searches. Most experts agree that one mark of a cult is “unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.”
If you were to ever talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses about groups such as the Branch Davidians or the People’s Temple, they would probably scoff and wonder how those people could be so blind so as to follow some grossly imperfect human who led them into thinking that the world was ending and they needed to seclude themselves in a compound or sanctuary. However, use the term “the great tribulation” with them and you’ll get a different response, because of course their doomsday prediction is different. They know the truth, when these other groups were just making things up as they went along. They have god’s backing, when these other leaders simply claimed to have god’s backing.
The leaders of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently used fear tactics to keep their members in line and keep them in the Kingdom Hall, and this year they are nursing this fear to a whole new level. They have said that active JWs should consider shunning inactive ones, even their own parents. Knowing that you can lose your entire family is one reason that many people either stay inside or just fade away gradually, but it looks as if that latter choice will no longer be an option. Again, they don’t stay in the religion because they want to, but because they’re afraid to go. Now they’re being presented with an “end of the world” demonstration, outright saying that if they aren’t loyal enough to the organization, they could be left outside with poor Kevin.
Remember that David Koresh and Jim Jones didn’t start their cults locked in a compound, ready for death. They gradually built up to those fateful days with insistence on blind obedience and fear-mongering. If their followers had courageously asked some tough questions of them and been willing to walk away when they didn’t get answers, hundreds of lives would have been saved. I can only wish some Jehovah’s Witnesses would have the courage to do the same today.
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