Recently some secret “elders’ training videos” that are going to be used for the 2018 Ministerial Training School of Jehovah’s Witnesses were leaked online. One particular video was very disturbing; it showed a skit of three elders discussing what the religion calls “regular pioneers.” These are persons who spend a high amount of time in the preaching and proselytizing work of Jehovah’s Witnesses; in 2018, these pioneers were required to report a total of 840 hours for the year, equaling 70 hours per month.
For those not familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their public proselytizing, note that no rank-and-file member of the religion is paid to do this preaching work. Congregants use their own vehicles and their own money for gas and other such expenses.
The elders, in this demonstration, are discerning if three such pioneers in their congregation should be allowed to remain as pioneers, as each one has failed to meet that hourly requirement for the past year.
You’re a Pioneer, and Apparently Nothing Else
The first two pioneers who are being evaluated are both in poor physical health and unable to keep up with the demanded hours. The first, Sarah, is in her mid 30s and has pioneered for 8 years, and recently had to undergo surgery that would require three months to recuperate. Sarah still doesn’t have much energy, even though it’s now some ten months after her surgery.
As the elders go through the motions of trying to determine if both Sarah and another woman may remain as pioneers, they do mention that these women are both “exemplary, wonderful servants of Jehovah.” After this short compliment, however, the elders then delve into the details of Sarah’s condition, picking apart the fact that she’s still lacking energy after those ten months.
I’m no doctor, but not having energy some ten months after surgery seems serious, especially for a woman in her mid 30s. Sarah’s own expressions in the video show that she’s concerned over her condition, as she stares forlornly in the mirror after coming home, and before taking medication.
What I also noticed is that Sarah is shown speaking to the doctor about her condition, before her surgery, alone. She is also shown arriving at her home with no one to greet her, and there is no mention of a husband, family, or anyone else in her everyday life.
Despite what I assume is a very frightening, difficult, and overwhelming situation that this woman has perhaps had to face by herself, the elders note her struggles, not as they pertain to her health, but in trying to keep up with other congregants during the preaching work. “She’s barely averaged 50 hours for the last half of the service year,” one complains. Another elder immediately chimes in about “doing the math,” and that Sarah would only have about 600 hours at the end of the year.
“Doing the math”? Seriously? A woman has had major surgery and is struggling to recover, even at her young age, and their big concern is the math, meaning her average hours of proselytizing?
The callused disregard of these men is beyond appalling. One elder notes adamantly that she was “given three months recuperation, without having to worry about her time,” as if she is somehow failing them for not recovering from major surgery quickly enough! They also talk as if they were doing her a tremendous favor, in allowing her to keep this title of “pioneer” while she was performing all this costly, exhausting, unpaid volunteer work for the religion, before and after a difficult surgery. One even says that they need to help the pioneers see the “importance of meeting the annual hour requirement, as they agreed to when they signed the application.”
This begs the question, Why should anyone be so worried about this requirement? There is no payment, no annual bonus for anyone based on those hours. How does failing to meet these hours cost the elders or the religion anything? Do they lose a big contract with a major customer or manufacturer, or not have a government grant renewed? All of this talk in this elders’ meeting just smacks of a business review, an employee who needs to be demoted because she’s not producing as she once was and is now just dead weight, a drain on their payroll.
As I bring out in this post, there is also no scriptural precedent for recording the hours you spend proselytizing in the first place, much less should elders be critiquing and judging a person over those hours, or splitting the congregation into different ranks and groups based on these figures. I can’t imagine Jesus ever using a calculator to determine the standing of any of his followers, and he certainly never brought up any type of signed application, yet this is exactly what these elders are instructed to note in this video.
These elders also say nothing about what assistance Sarah might need in her everyday life, to get her rest and recuperate fully from her surgery, or to just recover her health as best she can. Some might argue that Sarah was perhaps getting help from friends or family, but there is nothing said in this elders’ meeting about having communicated with Sarah’s support network, to see what assistance they would need in taking care of her; nothing is said about supporting or assisting her at all! The entire purpose of bringing up her name was to determine if they would “allow” her to continue to pioneer; despite the occasional comment about feeling sorry for her, the tone of the meeting was that Sarah was disappointing them because she had promised she would recuperate within three months, and didn’t deliver the goods.
If anyone ever has any question about their standing in the religion, and how this religion’s leaders feel about its members, this video should easily provide an answer. Your entire worth is based on how many hours you spend proselytizing and recruiting, and not on you as a person. Even if you go through a major surgery for which you’re not fully recovered some ten months later, you’ve done nothing but disappoint the elders because you’re not churning out the hours in the preaching work. You’re a cog in the machine that needs to perform properly at all times, or you’ll be shelved for being such a huge disappointment to everyone. This video alone is proof positive that this religion knows nothing about love; it’s not even a religion, but a business, for which you always need to perform, or risk being demoted back to the rank of average, everyday, pointless and useless … Christian.
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