In this post, it’s discussed how Jehovah’s Witnesses are showing a series of “underground doomsday bunker” videos at their 2016 summer conventions. They depict a scenario they feel will happen any day now, when governments turn on religions and then on Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular. A small group of JWs huddle in a basement bunker, praying, reading scripture, confessing their past sins, and waiting for the SWAT team to eventually show up. You can see the videos again here:
There is, of course, some question about whether or not Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever tell their own followers to grab their things and get in the bunker; many ex-JWs find it very implausible. Some have even criticized the comparison to other cults.
I can respect that; I personally cannot imagine the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses telling their members to start stockpiling weapons or to drink some poison. However, is a “doomsday underground bunker” scenario really so far-fetched?
Take the Money and Run
Some weeks back, an ex-JW expressed an opinion that the Watchtower organization simply needs to change a few policies and be allowed to continue as a “quaint” religion. I respect their opinion, although I disagreed with it (see this post for more). That same writer noted people’s disagreements and, commendably, asked how we would imagine the Watchtower actually “going away.” While no one can predict the future, my personal opinion is that the leaders of the Watchtower organization may very well “take the money and run.” They know that they are facing dozens of multi-million dollar lawsuits due to their child molestation policies, and now that they’ve gone through the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry and are facing a similar Inquiry from the UK Charity Commission, they may be facing dozens if not hundreds more.
I have also heard scattered stories of law enforcement getting involved in such cases, as there are areas where it’s legally required to report any instances of child abuse to the police, but some elders have failed to do this. Of course, other elders, ministerial servants (like elders in training), and rank-and-file members are the child molesters themselves, so they too face charges.
Trying to simply close up this religious corporation’s bank accounts and then fly quietly to the Cayman Islands could be very difficult for its leaders, given how many men at various branch offices and local congregations have access to those accounts, deeds to property, and the like. Like a run on business stocks, trying to run on these accounts and property might set off too many alarm bells, and some elders, especially those already having their own doubts, might shut down those accounts, drain them themselves, or even alert authorities.
What better way to avoid this than by telling congregants that Armageddon has started and it’s time to hit the bunkers? The leaders of the religion could tell the elders that they need to transfer all funds and property deeds to a certain location in order to avoid detection and to keep them from being seized by the governments, and with the elders and congregation members in full panic mode, the governing body and their minions could disappear that much more easily.
This scenario could also work to protect them from law enforcement detection; they could tell the elders and others that the police are coming to detain them because it’s Armageddon, not because they need to answer legitimate charges of endangering children. An elder could then sit in jail indefinitely, thinking that Jehovah is going to step in any second now and bring that new system, while not saying a word to police. For those that do wise up and realize they’ve been duped, once they emerge from the bunkers or cooperate with the police or whatever else, they see that the world is still continuing to turn while their old Kingdom Hall is now a credit union and their leaders are gone.
The Religion Itself
As for the religion itself, would it be so improbable that offshoots and factions spring up everywhere? There are actually some offshoots of Jehovah’s Witnesses already. With the leadership in New York gone, how easily could certain elders, overseers, or just rank-and-file member claim to now be the “faithful and discreet slave” (a term used by the governing body for themselves)? This would be quite simple for someone if they had already shown themselves to be very knowledgeable about the bible, if they had previously made critical comments about the current governing body, if they used certain scriptures in a convincing way, and so on. After all, some 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses today hang onto every word said by the current governing body, without ever questioning them.
Do I honestly think that this scenario would ever occur? My first reaction is no, but keep in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses have only been around for just over 100 years and they have only 8 million members worldwide; we’re not talking about the Catholic religion, which has been around for centuries and which has permeated the very culture of many different countries. The religion of Jehovah’ Witnesses may be very significant to us as ex-JWs, but to the outside world, they’re just another little religion that could easily go away and few people would notice.
What is also worth noting is that these “bunker videos” are not the religion’s first step at indoctrinating people to be ready to do something questionable, thinking it’s the end of the world:
“At that time, the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”
~ November 15, 2013, Watchtower
Not even three years ago, the Watchtower was preparing its congregants to “obey any instructions” they’re given, even if those instruction don’t appear “sound” or very “strategic.” In 2014, the congregations were told that they could keep $5000 in their savings accounts for expenses, but all additional funds after this go to the religion’s headquarters (see this post for more info on their financial schemes):
Can we see the picture developing here? Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to obey anything and everything they’re told, even if it should seem dangerous, unsound, highly suspect, or dare I say, hysterical and outright ridiculous. They’ve already gladly obeyed these instructions on every occasion in the past, and have already willingly began turning over their local finances.
You Trust These Leaders? Really?
Some might continue to argue that the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses would never abandon their congregants, but I would counter-argue that these men are not exactly compassionate, even to their own rank-and-file. During the Australian Royal Commission, governing body member Geoffrey Jackson outright lied about the religion’s allowance of corporal punishment (see this post), rather than admitting that children are routinely beaten in the religion because of their strong endorsement of “discipline.” As I bring out in this post, governing body member Tony Morris discussed child molestation during a broadcast of their TV channel, but rather than accepting responsibility for how it happens in their religion, he blamed homosexuals for the problem. Morris also gave a public discourse some time back where he talked about an Armageddon scenario, discussing how human bodies split open like hot dogs on the battlefield. He did this with no feeling, no sympathy for those victims of war, including children, the elderly, and other innocents, and discussed it in terms of what they (Jehovah’s Witnesses) can look forward to when the world ends. No, these men are not overly concerned for anyone’s feelings, not even those of their own congregants.
While these “bunker videos” may be nothing more than a fear tactic to keep people from even thinking of leaving the religion lest they wind up like poor Kevin, outside and in the path of Armageddon, they could also very well be yet another part of the evacuation plan meant for the leaders of the religion alone. After all, what better way to freely take the money and run than to send all your potential detractors to an underground bunker, telling them to sit there and pray and drink bottled water, letting them take the fall for all your legal entanglements, while you’re safely in the Cayman Islands, sipping margaritas and laughing hysterically at them?
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