When Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on your door, they may give you a simple presentation that includes reading a scripture and something from their literature. They will present themselves as people who know about the bible, and, indeed, they pride themselves on their offer to study the bible with strangers.
While this may sound all well and good, whatever you do, don’t bother asking them too many questions, and especially not questions about their religion. If the questions get uncomfortable for them, stray from the outline of the material they present, or are simply over their head, they will typically leave, never to be seen again. Ask these questions on a public forum like Twitter or Facebook, and you’re sure to get banned, or will have them gloss over the questions, even asking pointless questions back to you like, “What hope do you have in Satan’s world?”
There are a few reasons for these responses, and these reasons really betray the truth about Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization, and about them as individuals.
Students of the Bible, or the Doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
When supposedly studying the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, or when you are a Witness, you may notice that there isn’t a lot of actual bible study that goes on, at least not compared with the amount of study they have of their own literature. During one meeting, they may read three scriptures in the course of 30-45 minutes. The rest of the time is spent reading their Watchtower magazine and repeating its information. Their public discourse on Sunday, which is 30 minutes long, may also include the reading of two or three scriptures. The rest of the time is the speaker talking about various points from a scripted outline.
In the end, this produces Jehovah’s Witnesses who are very versed in the literature and opinions of their own governing body, but not so much in the bible itself. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses I knew could recite a few bible verses that were their favorites, but some were outright surprised when I pointed out other scriptures to them. A circuit overseer, who is like a traveling minister, yelled at me once, when I told him that the bible says that women need to be in submission because the man “was formed first,” saying, “The bible doesn’t say that!” He then had to backtrack when I read him the scripture at 1 Timothy 2 that said those words exactly.
This happened with my own sister, when I told her about how a virgin rape victim was sold to her rapist, under the law of Moses. I mentioned the scripture in Deuteronomy 22, and she said she would need to look that up and get back with me.
Note, I don’t expect anyone to remember all the scriptures in the bible, but the whole concept of how rape victims were treated like property was all new to her, despite her years of “studying” the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The circuit overseer had little understanding of why his own religion treats women like second-class citizens, even to the point of angrily denying exact quotes from the bible. Twenty, thirty, forty years of “studying” the bible at constant weekly meetings and other sessions, along with a barrage of literature every month, seems to have yielded little actual bible knowledge for them, and for most Jehovah’s Witnesses I knew.
What They Can’t Explain
Another reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses often fail to answer questions is that they sometimes don’t have any answers to those tough questions. This is especially true if you ask them questions about their religion itself. For example, during a recent Twitter exchange, I asked a JW who was on my feed to explain why elders are allowed to hide their serious sins, since there is no scriptural precedent or support for that (See “How Can I Trust Elders Who Are Allowed to Hide Their Serious Sins?”). I asked him to explain why Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the sacrifice of Jesus by still following the law of Moses in demanding rape victims scream during an attack (this post), even going beyond that law.
I’ve asked similar questions to Jehovah’s Witnesses before. Why do you still follow the governing body after all their false predictions about Armageddon (please see JWfacts.com, the section “Changed Teachings” for a comprehensive list), when Deuteronomy 18:22 says that such a failed prophet is clearly not from Jehovah? Why the hypocrisy of demanding two witnesses for claims of child rape, but not for when a woman claims to have been raped (this post)?
To date, I’ve never gotten an answer from my Twitter fan, or any Jehovah’s Witnesses about these things. Their response is usually that their leaders are imperfect, which is not harmonious with scriptures. True prophets or spiritual leaders in the bible never needed to change their teachings, and you cannot claim to be directed by god’s “holy spirit” if you get things wrong, or completely ignore scripture altogether. God’s “holy spirit” would not guide men into rejecting the entire meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice by adhering to the law of Moses on one particular point, or cause them to need to change their teachings again and again. Remember, we’re not talking about being imperfect in your day-to-day dealings with others; we’re talking about a governing body that takes time to create religious doctrine and teachings that greatly impact people’s lives.
The only other response I’ve ever gotten from Witnesses is that they assume their governing body will soon get “new light,” meaning a new, correct understanding about things. Again, this too has no scriptural basis. There is no such phrase as “new light” in the bible and no support for thinking that god will one day correct all the supposedly incorrect information he’s given them so far.
Another common response among Jehovah’s Witnesses when asked questions they cannot answer or that rightly disparage the many cases of pedophilia, domestic violence, and other such actions in their religion is to simply attack those doing the asking.
So apparently because I see the false prophecies of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, know that they don’t apply scripture, know that they’ve insulted women by saying their brains are too small for leadership roles (this post), allow pedophiles positions of authority in the congregation (this post), and encourage women to stay with violent and abusive men (this post), and because I dared to ask the questions noted above, I’m a “coward.” Even the May 2011 Watchtower referred to those who leave or don’t think the way they do as “mentally diseased.”
The phrase “ad hominem attack” refers to when someone attacks a person in order to somehow disregard their argument; if you ask me why I didn’t pay my electric bill last month and I call you fat and ugly, I’ve resorted to an ad hominem attack. This is different than legitimate questions about a person’s credentials, as this Twitter follower above shows. Rather than answering my questions about his religion, he calls me a coward, tells me what I think, and challenges whether or not I’ll be rewarded (whatever that means).
Be prepared for these responses when you ask questions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’ll pull out all sorts of Watchtower literature and reference books, dismiss questions about inconsistent doctrines with some sad “new light” excuse, or outright attack you. Even their literature says that you’re not “honesthearted,” (which isn’t a word, by the way), such as in the May 15, 2001, Watchtower, “In our endeavor to reach honesthearted ones with the Kingdom good news, may we be careful not to get involved in debates and arguments with ridiculers.” The March 22, 2002, Awake also said, “Sooner or later you’ll find honesthearted ones who are hungering for the truth and willing to listen.”
So there you go. If you have any questions and don’t simply accept what they say, you’re not “honesthearted” and may be labeled a ridiculer. You may also be labeled “mentally diseased” and a “coward.” Rather than getting answers, this is what you’ll get.
If this is how a university professor responded to questions, I’d quit that class due to that person’s obvious lack of credentials, and expect him or her to be fired. Why shouldn’t the same be true for Jehovah’s Witnesses? I’d ask them, but chances are they’d call me names and say my heart isn’t honest, and then disappear.
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