On June 9, 2016, The Moscow Times reported that Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian city of Belgorod were to be disbanded for being “extremist,” per the local Supreme Court. According to the story, “The Belgorod branch is not the only Jehovah’s Witness group banned in Russia. A Jehovah’s Witness congregation was denounced as extremist in the town of Stary Oskol in the Belgorod region earlier this year. Another group was banned in Obninsk in 2015.”
The story said this city found JWs to be “extremist” because they “tore” families apart and “tried to entice young people into the group.” Other news stories stated that the book, “Save Yourself in God’s Love,” and similar JW writings “propagate hatred toward other religions, linguistic and religious studies experts concluded during court proceedings that lasted for over a year.”
“But You’re Feeding Their Persecution Complex…”
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a persecution complex and being banned in Russia may very well feed it, but remember a few things about that complex. One, Jehovah’s Witnesses are very good at feeding this complex themselves. It doesn’t matter what anyone, including the government or any activist, does; Jehovah’s Witnesses will twist, turn, interpret, and filter those actions to mean that they are being persecuted. It doesn’t even matter what happens in the everyday life of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses; to them, they’re being constantly persecuted. Note that the September 15, 2014, Watchtower study edition defined “tribulations” as “Trials that a Christian suffers. They can include persecution, discouragement, health problems, temptations, tests of faith, and other problems.”
So, if a Christian has a health problem, faces temptation, or gets discouraged, this isn’t just everyday life getting them down, but these are a form of “tribulation.” Funny how everyone gets sick, may get tempted to cheat on their spouse, or gets discouraged by life, but when it happens to Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s special. It’s tribulation. From Satan.
Do you honestly think words like this don’t feed their persecution complex more than anything that might happen outside the religion? If Jehovah’s Witnesses tell their congregants that getting sick or being discouraged is a tribulation, how do you think they’ll feel about being questioned by the government, or having that government dare tell them that they cannot just do and say anything they want without consequences?
My mother is a good example of this persecution complex and how anything and everything will be filtered through it. My stepfather’s temper and their bad marriage wasn’t because he’s an abusive ass and she was a failure as a wife, but because she was being “tested” by Satan. The car breaking down is not because it’s ten years old, but it’s the fault of “Satan’s system.” My leaving the religion is not because it’s full of lies, misogyny, child abuse, and failed promises; it’s Satan picking on her.
Those on the outside of the JW religion are not creating that persecution complex; this complex already has a bloated, obese life of its own, feeding off everything around it like a festering parasite that knows no bounds.
Mark of a Cult
The second thing to remember about this persecution complex is that this is part of how cults and other high-control religions operate; they feed that persecution complex so their members feel special, refuse to think for themselves, and create an “us versus them” mentality that keeps them from thinking of leaving. After all, why step out of your religion if the only thing waiting for you out there is a bunch of persecuting thugs, or so it would seem from how Jehovah’s Witnesses paint the outside world. When they list a “test of faith” as tribulation, are they perhaps talking about those outside the religion who may simply ask legitimate questions or have legitimate objections to the Witnesses? By calling these “tests” and “tribulations,” they discourage a JW from examining the validity of such questions and thinking for themselves, and instead to simply dismiss these questions and concerns.
This manufactured complex also encourages members to push themselves deeper into the “hive” as a means of “protecting” themselves from this persecution. As an example of what I mean, note what was said in the September 15, 2014, Watchtower, under the article, “Serve God Loyally Despite ‘Many Tribulations'”:
Ask yourself such questions as: ‘Do I persevere in prayer? When faced with peer pressure, do I obey God as ruler rather than men? Do I attend Christian meetings regularly? Am I bold in speaking about my beliefs? Do I really try to put up with my fellow believers’ shortcomings—just as they put up with mine? Am I submissive to those taking the lead in the local congregation and to those responsible for doing so in the worldwide congregation?’
So, when facing these “tribulations,” what is the recommended response? There’s no harm in prayer, but they also encourage attending their meetings (like church services), preaching or speaking about beliefs, and doing whatever local elders and the governing body of the religion tell you to do. In other words, to protect yourself from “tribulation,” you need to get deeper into the religion and its rituals. You need to obey and be “submissive,” not think for yourself and evaluate situations critically or fairly, but just preach and go to meetings and do what you’re told.
Creating tribulation where there is none leads to encouraging congregants to respond to that made-up tribulation by doing more for the religion. This is a never-ending circle: feel that you’re being persecuted, fix this by delving deeper into the religion, and then hear the religion tell you how persecuted you are.
Again, we on the outside are not doing anything more to feed their persecution complex than what the religion does. As a matter of fact, we’re probably contributing only a minuscule amount to that complex overall.
The third thing to remember about this persecution complex is that governments, regulatory commissions, and even we activists cannot always be overly concerned with how Jehovah’s Witnesses will respond to our actions. When trying to wake up Jehovah’s Witnesses to the damage done by their religious leaders, when trying to get them to openly see their many false prophecies, scandals, and outright lies, then yes, you do want to think about how to reach them individually and how your actions and words will come across, at least to a certain extent. Are we being persuasive and using reasoning ability, are we using credible proof for what we say? Do we refrain from pointless name calling and the like?
That being said, there is also a point in time when we can’t be concerned with every reaction JWs will have, either from individuals or the religion as a whole. This cannot always be a driving force or the deciding factor for how outsiders act or respond to them. Doing so is tantamount to giving in to emotional blackmail; Jehovah’s Witnesses hold this unspoken threat over your head, that if you take any action against them, their feelings will be hurt, they’ll cry “persecution,” and you will then be responsible for how they respond.
Rubbish. Giving in to this ploy is like giving in to a child throwing a tantrum; as the adult, it’s your responsibility to act in an adult fashion and especially when that child is misbehaving, no matter their response. This is a key point because it applies to this situation with Jehovah’s Witnesses; as I’ve brought out before, the Russians are not acting as the “thought police,” dragging them away for being Christians or not belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church, but they are enforcing bans for their defamatory speech and their actions that break up families, as well as for actively recruiting children into the religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses have shown themselves to be defiant of defamation laws, of human rights violations as they apply to shunning, and to the rights of other parents to keep their children from being indoctrinated into another’s religion. Because they are misbehaving and hurting others this way, it is the right of the State to step in and take action, no matter the tantrum-like response of Jehovah’s Witnesses. JWs may cry about their “human rights,” but they have no right to defame others, break up families, and preach hate.
Remember, too, that Jehovah’s Witnesses have screamed “persecution complex” for many actions of the State that ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses find to be perfectly justified, including civil lawsuits against them, the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry, and the current UK Charity Commissions Inquiry. We applaud these things; Jehovah’s Witnesses should be made to answer for their actions, words, policies, and practices that cause children especially to be victimized, and which betray their charitable or religious tax-exempt status, granted to them by the same government that oversees their actions. The self-righteous indignation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to those cases is of no concern of ours, since the courts and the State are not only justified but also obligated to see these legalities through. Jehovah’s Witnesses can filter those actions through any complex they want, but eventually we need to set aside their response and do the right thing if we really want to protect children and other victims of this religion.
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