Category Archives: 2014-Year of the Kingdom

The “Kingdom Haul” of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Part 2 of 2)

[In the previous post on the subject, part 1 of 2, we discussed the meaning of the changes to the donation arrangement in 2014 against the backdrop of the multiple 2014 marketing campaigns. The post below discusses specific reasons why these major 2014 projects, both financial changes and the 1914-2014 Centennial, were unscriptural and hypocritical.]

CENTENNIAL NOT SCRIPTURAL, NOT BIBLICAL

Secular organizations and corporations often make a big deal about their centennials, half-centennials (50 years) and even their quarter-centennials (25 years).  That’s partly because staying in business for any length of time can be an accomplishment to celebrate. Of course, it’s also a reminder to potential customers that such a business has experience and stability.

But there is nothing in the Bible about centennials. There is nothing extra special about a 100-year milestone. Many Witnesses are well aware that the entire 1914 doctrine is unscriptural. But even if it were true, there would still be no reason to celebrate a 100-year milestone. And this is a point that should be very clear to JWs who know that their religion already links even anniversaries of children’s birthdays with “creature worship.” Note:

“The celebration of birthday anniversaries centers the mind on the creature and exalts the creature, giving him and his birth undue importance. Romans 1:25 (NW) warns of those who “venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created”. … If they wish to present a brother with a gift, they do not have to await the anniversary of the day of his entry into the world, as though that were such a memorable occasion. If the precise day of Jesus’ birth and its remembrance were of no such noteworthiness, whose are? Watchtower, October 1, 1951.

JW’s cannot respond that this new centennial is different, because it’s about Jesus as King of God’s Kingdom. Historically, the Watch Tower Society promoted the worship of Jesus for about 70 years, but stopped that practice after further developing this idea about creature worship, adding that even Jesus is a creature. This brings up an interesting side point if we consider the last quoted sentence more closely:  The time of Jesus’ entry into the world couldn’t be that important to celebrate because we don’t know the precise day.

So, what about when Jesus supposedly “returned” to become present again in 1914?  Why did Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the “birth of the Kingdom?” According to the Watchtower, if we don’t know the “precise day,” then it’s remembrance in the form of an anniversary should not be that noteworthy, right?

BUT WE DO KNOW THAT IT WAS OCTOBER 1, 1914, RIGHT?

Isn’t it true that JW’s do know the precise date of the birth of the Kingdom? No, they don’t. And this makes it really quite odd that the Witnesses try to seem so precise as to this date. The Watchtower continues to claim that the Gentile Times ended on October 1, 1914. (C.T.Russell announced it on October 2, 1914, likely referring to the previous day.) But they took no note of one important thing.

The attempt to tie the specific date to October was once very loose. For example, the Watchtower had said:

*** w58 10/15 p. 634 par. 34 Public Address: God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near? ***
Since those seven times began with the desolating of Jerusalem and the land of Judah in the early autumn of 607 B.C., they ended in the early autumn, or about October 1, of the year 1914 of our twentieth century.

And similarly, October is indirectly, but not explicitly, promoted with the following logic:

*** g72 5/8 p. 27 When Did Babylon Desolate Jerusalem? ***
There is general agreement that Babylon fell to Cyrus on October 5/6, 539 B.C.E. . . . the indications are that the Jews arrived back in their homeland around the early part of October of 537 B.C.E., ending the seventy years of desolation. Jerusalem must, therefore, have been destroyed seventy years earlier, in 607 B.C.E.

But, note that the picture below has the words “October 607 B.C.E.” right above the picture of Jerusalem burning. It’s found on jw.org  and is from the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” Also, in the text above the picture we find the following words (as of 2014, and the updated version in 2015):

“The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914.”

https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-teach/1914-significant-year-bible-prophecy/

Many JWs  (if they’ve done their homework) already know that the year 607 BCE is false. But even if the year 607 had been right, the month of October is still wrong. Yet, it’s still a requirement for JWs to  keep using the wrong month, because “2,520 years” must start around October 1st if they are to end around October 1st.

So, what does the Bible really teach about the month in which Jerusalem was destroyed? Note, the Watch Tower’s own Bible dictionary, Insight on the Scriptures, discussing when Jerusalem fell, under the subject of “Fast”:

*** it-1 p. 812 Fast ***
The Jews established many fasts, and at one time had four annual ones, evidently to mark the calamitous events associated with Jerusalem’s siege and desolation in the seventh century B.C.E. (Zec 8:19) The four annual fasts were: (1) “The fast of the fourth month[June/July] apparently commemorated the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Babylonians on Tammuz 9, 607 B.C.E. (2Ki 25:2-4; Jer 52:5-7) (2) It was in the fifth Jewish month Ab [July/Aug] that the temple was destroyed, and evidently “the fast of the fifth month” was held as a reminder of this event. (2Ki 25:8, 9; Jer 52:12, 13) (3) “The fast of the seventh month [Sept/Oct] was apparently held as a sad remembrance of Gedaliah’s death or of the complete desolation of the land following Gedaliah’s assassination when the remaining Jews, out of fear of the Babylonians, went down into Egypt. (2Ki 25:22-26) (4) “The fast of the tenth month [Dec/Jan] may have been associated with the exiled Jews already in Babylon receiving the sad news that Jerusalem had fallen (compare Eze 33:21), or it may have commemorated the commencement of Nebuchadnezzar’s successful siege against Jerusalem on the tenth day of that month, in 609 B.C.E.—2Ki 25:1; Jer 39:1; 52:4.

Hebrew Calendar by Months
Months in  Hebrew Calendar (NWT Appendix)

So surely, that must mean that October is the date for the removal of Zedekiah, that last Davidic king, right? After all, that picture above is accompanied by the words: “Octoberwhen Jerusalem fell …and the Davidic king [Zedekiah] was taken off his throne.” The Watch Tower might have been wrong on the first count, but surely they are not wrong on both counts, right? Wrong. They are wrong on both counts.

*** it-2 p. 1228 Zedekiah ***
Fall of Jerusalem. Finally (607 B.C.E.), “in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month,” Jerusalem was broken through. By night Zedekiah and the men of war took to flight. Overtaken in the desert plains of Jericho, Zedekiah was taken to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered before his eyes.

So the only date (related to the destruction of the temple or the Davidic king) that comes close to October (Tishri) is the death of governor Gedaliah, who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, and assassinated possibly within  three months of the fall of Jerusalem.  (Some have argued that his popularity bespeaks at least 1 year and 3 months, as he had already become popular enough for a fast day to commemorate him (Zechariah 8), which is still honored by Jews today as on Tishri 3/4 as Tzom Gedaliah. Well, is it possible that Gedaliah was of the royal family? At least that would fit the claim that October saw the end of the Davidic line of kings.  No, he wasn’t. Naturally, the policies of Nebuchadnezzar would never allow for members of the royal family to continue on the throne, which is why he killed Zedekiah’s sons in front of him. It seems he would have appointed Gedaliah as a governor specifically because he was a civil servant, and not of the royal lineage. In fact, it was not Babylonians, but a man of the royal line of David who assassinated him.  (2 Ki 25:25)

(2 Ki 25:25, NWT) And in the seventh month, Ish′ma·el son of Neth·a·ni′ah son of E·lish′a·ma, who was of the royal line, came with ten other men, and they struck down Ged·a·li′ah and he died,

Therefore, October was not the destruction of Jerusalem (June/July/August), nor the destruction of the Temple (July/August), nor even the breach of Jerusalem’s wall or the end of the Davidic line of kings (June/July).

Naturally, with the population reporting starvation after many months of a long siege, King Zedekiah fled the throne immediately at night just after the wall was broken through, and he didn’t get very far. (2 Ki 25:1) So that was the in the fourth month (June/July) on the 9th of Tammuz) that he fled the throne, and apparently, after sundown, it would have been on the 10th of the month when he was captured — never again to sit on the Davidic throne.

By giving us the exact day and month when Jerusalem was breached, the temple destroyed, and the king removed from the throne, we are given explicit evidence that none of those events occurred in October. Counting from October was actually just a tradition picked up from Second Adventists and others who, in effect, were just rounding off by using October as a starting point when counting years. It’s no better than saying, “The Bible doesn’t say what day Paul wrote to the Galatians, so it must have been January 1st.”

OCTOBER 1st IS REALLY JUST THE “DEFAULT” DATE THEY USE WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW

The Watch Tower even goes so far as to claim that Adam was created in October. Note the same Bible dictionary, states the following about when Adam was created:

*** it-1 p. 45 Adam ***
“That was in the year 4026 B.C.E. It was likely in the fall of the year, for mankind’s most ancient calendars began counting time in the autumn around October 1, or at the first new moon of the lunar civil year.”

Really? It was “likely in the fall”? The first new moon of the lunar civil year? Why would Jehovah need to make use of a civil year? He had to make use of a calendar based on planting and harvest seasons before anyone had ever harvested?  And even if Jehovah did prefer a civil calendar that hadn’t been invented yet over a religious calendar that hadn’t been invented yet, why would He be restricted to creating Adam only in the first month of that civil year?   It is no better than saying, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say when Jehovah created Adam, so it was most likely around January 1st.”

It’s true that there was a civil calendar that started the new year with the fall harvest,  and it was used by Israel, Judah and other nations around them. But the Bible never says that Adam was created in the “first month” as the Insight book implies. Even if it had said that, the other problem is that when the Bible refers to the “first month” it almost always refers to the month Nisan, which is March/April not Tishri, which is September/October.   That’s true of the first mention in the Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 12) and was even true during the time of the deportations to Babylon. The Insight book attempts to highlight the influence of the secular year calendar when Jews were in Babylon, but note Ezekiel’s words, written while in Babylon, from the New World Translation(Ezekiel 45:21) . . .“In the first month, on the 14th day of the month, you will observe the festival of the Passover.” It’s not likely that the Watchtower is ever going to claim that the Passover was moved from Nisan 14 (March/April) to Tishri 14 (September/October).

And lastly, although the whole premise might understandably appear silly by now, the term “around October 1st is also completely meaningless when discussing the Hebrew calendar. The civil new year, also called Rosh Hashanah (Tishri 1) does not always fall on October 1. In fact, it could potentially go several decades without ever falling exactly on October 1st. Here are some typical examples of when the new year (Rosh Hashanah) falls in the calendar :

  • September 17/18, 2012
  • September 5/6, 2013
  • September 24/25, 2014.
  • September 13/14, 2015
  • October 2/3, 2016
  • September 20/21, 2017
  • September 10/11, 2018

So there’s a whiff of dishonesty when you notice that the Bible never even hints at which month Adam was created in, not to mention which particular day of the month. The month is just a guess. It’s a 1 in 12 chance on the Watch Tower Biblical Chronology Roulette Wheel. But it’s not just a guess when a Watch Tower publication states explicitly that it was “Octoberwhen Jerusalem fell …and the Davidic king [Zedekiah] was taken off his throne.” (above) That’s a deception! Even though it is known to be untrue from the Watch Tower’s own publications, it’s stated because this purposeful deception is required in order to keep up the charade that Russell got at least something right about 1914.

In other contexts, the Watchtower has been more accurate in admitting that these events related to Jerusalem didn’t happen in October. Evidently the book “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” is used as an initial study book to get people interested in becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses, and is therefore aimed at finding a quick way to smooth over the rough edges of the actual 1914 teaching. Giving all the details gets into a controversy about when the 70 years of desolation(s) started and ended, why the years Watchtower uses times for the 70 years that don’t exactly align with the Bible (or secular history), and why the 2,520 years starts at a separate time than the 70 years.

The deception is sloppy, but implies a false level of accuracy to both the teacher and student, and thus avoids the contradictions that would raise tough questions during the early stages of indoctrination.

HOW THE 1914 – 2014 CENTENNIAL BECAME A MARKETING TOOL

Due to the typical denigration of all things “worldly” and “corporate,”  it probably seemed a bit unexpected for the Watch Tower Society, in 1979,  to make such a big deal about the 100th Anniversary of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, begun in 1879.

Even more “oddly secular” was the Centennial of the “Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania” the corporate legal entity which was formed in 1881 and incorporated in 1884 as “Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society.”

100annivwts-centennial-1984

Those centennials can probably be explained by the businesslike and bureaucratic thinking that affects anyone who has spent so many years in a corporation like the Watch Tower Society. But surely there were other considerations to think of when it came to deciding whether to celebrate a “1914 to 2014 Centennial.”

WHY CELEBRATE 2014?

What could be the reason for highlighting that there have been 100 years of Kingdom Rule since 1914? Doesn’t it only serve to highlight that every claim so far about 1914 has proven to be a failure?

Surely, the Watchtower Society would have noticed that risk before producing so many materials that highlighted this particular anniversary. Notice in the image below from the August 2014 “Our Kingdom Ministry” that they went so far as to use J. F. Rutherford’s infamous 1922 Cedar Point, Ohio Convention speech, taking the risk that someone might become interested enough to look up the original. (Fortunately for them, the Watchtower Library on jw.org only goes back to 2000 and the CD-ROM only goes back to 1950.)

kmaug14

Yet, they clearly decided to do it anyway. They went so far as to speak of 2014 as the “Year of the Kingdom.” They made both “Seeking First the Kingdom” and “Let Your Kingdom Come” be the major themes for meetings and assemblies. They highlighted the “Tree Dream” of Daniel 4 at several meetings and in several 2014 Watchtower issues, which supposedly provides evidence for calculations that point to the year 1914. According to a recent tv.jw.org broadcast, the new song called “The Kingdom Is in Place — Let it Come!” was written specifically to coincide with the 100-year anniversary, in 2014. (See part 1 of this article for more examples.)

Yet for about 130 years, there was only one conclusion that Jehovah’s Witnesses were ever really supposed to draw from almost everything the Watch Tower Society ever said about 1914.  That includes the 40 years leading up to 1914 and most of the 100 years since. What was that conclusion? Simply this: that the end was so close, for example, in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1922,  1924, 1925, 1938, 1941, 1942, 1953, 1961, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1989, and 1999 that we should never have expected a 100-year anniversary in this “system of things.” In each of those years listed, statements were made, or referenced, that indicated that the system would end “soon,” “within months,” within the lifetimes of those who were at least 10 years old in 1914, and several times it was even specified to end “within the twentieth century.”

For many of those years, Witnesses were encouraged not to get married. Couples were encouraged not to have children. Young ones were encouraged not to plan ahead for growing old in this system. Witnesses were praised for selling their houses in order to live out their remaining months as full-time door-to-door publishers and “pioneers.”

SO WHY TAKE THE RISK OF HIGHLIGHTING 100 YEARS OF FAILED PREDICTIONS?

One could say that it provides a renewed “faith” because it indicated that “responsible” brothers at the very top of the organization still believed strongly in 1914 and the implications about such a short time remaining.  In an organization where members are effectively followers of those “responsible” brothers at the “top,” this can actually help people to forget about 100 years of failure, and only focus on the fact that “the end must now be closer than ever.”

In fact, the Watch Tower Society promoted rumors that the 2014 Memorial celebration might be “our last” one ever. Notice the top of the second column in the image below.

km-mem

They promoted the idea that irrational times are almost upon us and that now is the time for Witnesses to adjust their thinking and be ready to obey any instructions they may receive.

(3) 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. (4) Now is the time for …[some]… to adjust their thinking. — Watchtower 2013, November 15. p.20.

But trying to either create a sense of urgency, or to put up a strong front of “faith” to help overcome a  long history of failure were not the only reasons to highlight 100 years.

SOUND REASONS FOR A CENTENNIAL FROM A STRATEGIC OR HUMAN STANDPOINT

Think back on why a corporation might highlight their centennial from a strategic or human standpoint. It’s pretty obvious. It is a great way to market to customers. Why does a “Corporation for Public Broadcasting” or a charity run special campaigns letting people know they are celebrating their 50th or 75th anniversary? That’s also obvious.  It’s a “hook” to get more attention from “donors.”

If you have paid close attention to the messages in each of the first three monthly broadcasts on tv.jw.org, October, November and December, you’ll have noticed a more emphatic concern about large expenditures and the need for donations of both time and money. There is no doubt about the effect such messages will have on financial donations. Televangelists have already known and used this formula for years,  because it has a very predictable effect.

The typical formula goes like this, when translated into the typical language the Watch Tower uses:

  1. We have all these wonderful expansive projects that clearly require a lot of volunteers and resources.
  2. But clearly Jehovah is blessing these expansive efforts.
  3. We are very grateful for those who can volunteer their time and resources, but if you can’t volunteer we are appreciative of those who have given financially.

Watch for words like “resources” and “support” which can imply “money” without saying it directly. The speeches will be peppered with money-related phrases like “priceless,” “unselfish giving” and promises of “blessings” and “benefits” in return. Watch for words like “growing,” “advancing,” “progressing,” “increasing,” “extensive” and “expansive” that imply “expensive” but without saying it directly.

The yearly November/December donation articles in The Watchtower are well-known for this. Here are the opening lines from the most recent one:

*** w14 12/15 p. 4 Jehovah Richly Blesses a Willing Spirit ***
Jehovah Richly Blesses a Willing Spirit
OUR Creator has dignified humans with the priceless gift of free will. Furthermore, he richly blesses those who unselfishly use their free will to advance true worship and who do their part to sanctify his holy name and support his grand purpose.

When people are sitting down and watching a broadcast where other people are active and engaged in something that appears worthwhile, and JWs are told explicitly that Jehovah is surely blessing their efforts, then the reaction of JWs is somewhat predictable. (JW Broadcasting has, each month, found someone who says that they could “feel Jehovah’s spirit working” with them.) And when the audience is then told that the project could expand even further with more help and support, there is only one obvious thing to do. Most won’t typically get up and volunteer your time because they are showing you that other people are already involved. Instead, if you’re that JW, you will make a mental note that you really need to donate financially!

It’s the same with many other kinds of broadcasts that are intended to get you to open your wallet. If you are seeing a hungry or starving person who can potentially be helped, or a pathetically abused cat or dog, you are happy that volunteers are already involved in the active part of the work — after all, they already have a camera crew highlighting the problem — and you are motivated to participate vicariously through a financial donation.

2014: “YEAR OF THE KINGDOM”? IT’S A MARKETING MOTTO!

Within Bethel and at Bethel-sponsored training programs, 2014 has been called “The Year of the Kingdom.” Yet, this expression makes no sense as part of the Watch Tower’s 1914 doctrine. (The entire doctrine is flawed in just about every other way possible, too, but that’s not the point here.) Witnesses can’t even try to explain how 2014 could ever reasonably be called “The Year of the Kingdom.” And now 2014 is gone, and “the Kingdom” has not done anything more significant in 2014 than it is expected to do in 2015 or 2016. These are just “years,” nothing more.

Note the lesson we can take from the build-up the Society made, just as the entered the 37th year after 1914.  (Jesus predicted in 33 CE that Jerusalem would be destroyed 37 years later in 70 CE)

*** w50 9/1 p. 277 par. 6  ***
… those clergymen of Jesus’ day …By keeping the people ignorant they led them into having Jesus killed on a torture stake at Calvary. Thirty-seven years later … the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.

*** w50 11/1 p. 407 par. 7 New Systems of Things ***
More proof that such system had ended was given thirty-seven years later … by the destruction of their typical temple….Not only that, but the national system whereby the Jews had a human king reigning on the “throne of Jehovah” at Jerusalem came to a decisive end. …to await the year 1914.

*** w51 3/15 p. 179 par. 10 Stability and Permanence During World Change ***
Counting from the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in 1914, we are 37 years into the “time of the end” of this world.

*** w51 4/1 p. 214 par. 1 Commissioning of Witnesses in the Time of the End ***
WHEREAS the “appointed times of the nations” ended in 1914, it is now 37 years that we have been in the “time of the end” of Satan’s world.

*** w51 12/1 p. 730 Praise Jehovah as King ***
this momentous event occurred A.D. 1914. Not only historical events of the past, but all the accumulated evidence of the last thirty-seven years, proves beyond a doubt that Jehovah has begun to rule as universal king!

*** w51 12/1 p. 720 par. 12 “Princes Shall Rule in Justice” ***
We are now thirty-seven years past 1914,

So, they could have called 1951, “The Year of the Kingdom.” Anticipation ran high in 1952 and 1953, but 1954 saw a new peak in speculation and anticipation. Clearly it was because 1914 + 40 = 1954.

*** w54 10/15 p. 612 A Message of Encouragement and Value ***
“Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” What a consoling fact that is! All these things would happen in one generation! The sudden worsening of world conditions since World War I, which broke out forty years ago, was here foretold to end within one generation, within the lifetime of people who are now at least 40 years old!

But to the Watch Tower, which had become famous for date speculation over the last 80 years, there were even more reasons for pinning speculative hopes on the number 40. It’s one of the most common numbers in the Bible, including the number of years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Also, note how, in 1954, the Watchtower stops rounds the “37 years” up to 40 for measuring 33 CE to 70 CE:

*** w54 6/15 p. 377 par. 6 Maintaining the Way of Favor ***
On the other hand, the religious leaders and those who would follow them were left desolated of God’s favor and allowed to remain for almost forty years to hear the resurrection of Christ preached throughout the nation. So Israel’s time of decision continued until A.D. 70

So, it would have been just as significant, and perhaps tempting, to call 1954 “The Year of the Kingdom.” In fact, the Watchtower did speak about 1954’s potential significance. JWs I have interviewed, including my own parents and grandparents, have told me, after expectations had been raised in 1951,  that 1952 and 1953 were lived by JWs as if they were the obvious “final months” before Armageddon. (See also the experience of Poul Bregninge, on this site.)

Armageddon was so close that Witnesses in the early 1950’s were already starting to discuss how we would handle the next big assignment: 7 months of picking up bones. See the post:”I Find This Humerus.”

So how did the Watchtower handle the “40th Year of the Kingdom” in 1954? Perhaps surprisingly, after those 3 years of peak speculation.  They came out with the “wait and see” article:

*** w54 1/1 p. 9 They Shall Talk of the Glory of Jehovah’s Kingdom ***
IN ITS FORTIETH YEAR
Since 1914 we have been living under the rule of this kingdom. Today we live in the fortieth year of its irresistible reign. What does that year mean to us? We cannot say. It will be much better for us to wait until this fortieth year is completely past and then look back to see whether that fortieth year of the Kingdom had some special significance. Regardless of whether there is or is not anything special in this fortieth year of Jehovah’s glorious rule as King (Rev. 11:16, 17; 19:6, NW), in which year we are now living, we certainly feel young, fully satisfied with what has happened thus far.

What if, instead, they had called 1954 “The Year of the Kingdom.” Obviously, it would have resulted in another year of even higher speculation and anticipation, and it would have created more of a disappointment for the year 1955. (In fact, 1955 was a year of increased marriages and children among Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to several counts, which would include my own parents, who married in ’54 immediately after the  “wait and see” Watchtower came out, with children soon following. Their marriage was exactly one year after then-WT-president Nathan Knorr’s.

Calling 2014 “the year of the kingdom” might have a similar “relaxing” effect on 2015, unless new efforts to create “urgency” are successful. But this phrase has a bit of the “boy-who-cried-wolf” effect, and may not be useful to trigger urgency in the near future. Can the Society ever have another “Year of the Kingdom”?  2034,  perhaps?

Unfortunately, all these dates are just years that are a particular distance from the false starting date when various expectations in 1914 didn’t come true, and the Watch Tower Society had to scramble for an explanation. It’s due to an unfortunate date-based doctrine that continues to  become more and more embarrassing over time. What astrophysicist Carl Sagan said in his book, Broca’s Brain, becomes more poignant every year:

Doctrines that make no predictions are less compelling than those which make correct predictions; they are in turn more successful than doctrines that make false predictions.

But not always. One prominent American religion confidently predicted that the world would end in 1914. Well, 1914 has come and gone, and — while the events of that year were certainly of some importance — the world does not, at least so far as I can see, seem to have ended. There are at least three responses that an organized religion can make in the face of such a failed and fundamental prophecy. They could have said, “Oh, did we say ‘1914’? So sorry, we meant ‘2014.’ A slight error in calculation. Hope you weren’t inconvenienced in any way.” But they did not. They could have said, “Well, the world would have ended, except we prayed very hard and interceded with God so He spared the Earth.” But they did not. Instead, they did something much more ingenious.

They announced that the world had in fact ended in 1914, and if the rest of us hadn’t noticed, that was our lookout. It is astonishing in the face of such transparent evasions that this religion has any adherents at all. But religions are tough. Either they make no contentions which are subject to disproof or they quickly redesign doctrine after disproof. The fact that religions can be so shamelessly dishonest, so contemptuous of the intelligence of their adherents, and still flourish does not speak very well for the tough-mindedness of the believers. But it does indicate, if a demonstration were needed, that near the core of the religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.  — Broca’s Brain, 1979, pp. 332-333

THE REASON FOR A 2014 MARKETING MOTTO

The previous post on this subject, Part 1 of 2, discusses the only likely reason that that the expression would be used: a marketing motto to draw attention to the accomplishments of a year when a new donation arrangement was being implemented. It was timed to coincide with the excitement of multiple campaigns and special events in 2014. It was therefore in a special year, a busy year, and an opportune time to introduce something that might otherwise be scrutinized too closely.

Most corporations highlight information and requests related to financial needs at the end of the calendar year. Most companies that take donations have also made it possible for periodic donations to be made electronically. Many religions, especially those that expect “tithing,” welcome such an arrangement because donations become regular and more predictable. The Watch Tower is no exception. Note the December 15, 2014 Watchtower, and the fact that it highlights a kind of budgeted amount of periodic contributions. As mentioned in Part 1, this is in many ways similar to a tithe:

*** w14 12/15 pp. 4-5 Jehovah Richly Blesses a Willing Spirit ***

HOW SOME CHOOSE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLDWIDE WORK
…As in the apostle Paul’s day, many today “set something aside,” or budget, an amount of money and place it in the congregation contribution box labeled “Worldwide Work.” (1 Cor. 16:2) Each month, congregations forward these contributions to the office of Jehovah’s Witnesses that serves their country. It is also possible for you to send donations directly…

OUTRIGHT DONATIONS
• Donations via electronic bank transfer, debit card, or credit card. In some branches this is also possible using jw.org or another designated Web site.
• Donations of cash, jewelry, or other valuable personal property. Include a letter indicating that the cash or the item is an outright donation.

CHARITABLE PLANNING
In addition to gifts of money and valuable personal property, there are other methods of giving to benefit Kingdom service worldwide. … Since legal requirements and tax laws vary, it is important to consult qualified tax and legal advisers before choosing the best way to donate.
Insurance: A donation made by specifying an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a retirement/pension plan.
Bank Accounts: Bank accounts, certificates of deposit, or individual retirement accounts set up as a trust or made payable on death to an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in accord with local bank requirements.
Stocks and Bonds: Stocks and bonds donated to an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses as an outright gift or by means of a written agreement to transfer on death.
Real Estate: Salable real estate donated to an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, either by making an outright gift or, in the case of residential property, by reserving a life estate to the donor, who can continue to live in the residence during his or her lifetime.
Gift Annuity: Money or securities donated to an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses under an arrangement where the donor receives a specified annuity payment every year for life. The donor may receive an income-tax deduction for the year in which the gift annuity is established.
Wills and Trusts: Property or money may be bequeathed to an entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses by means of a legally executed will or by specifying the entity as the beneficiary of a trust agreement. …
As the term “charitable planning” implies, these types of donations typically require some planning on the part of the donor. To assist … a brochure entitled Charitable Planning to Benefit Kingdom Service Worldwide has been prepared in English and Spanish.

These yearly donation articles are not new. The Watchtower Library CD-ROM only contains Watchtower content as far back as 1950, but even that article shows that it was already a “yearly” practice:

*** w50 5/1 p. 139 A Christian Use of Material Wealth ***

A Christian Use of Material Wealth

A CROSS [sic] the wide surface of this pleasant earth … the knowledge of his Word, the Bible, is at this time being carried by persons dedicated to the service of the Most High…. Such helps us to appreciate the necessity for the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society …The greater part of the financial assistance, however, comes from other voluntary contributions … It is a joy and an assurance to us, and we believe it will be to you also, for us to again confirm the fact that never in its history has the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, nor its representatives, solicited any funds, nor “taken up a collection”, or levied tithes. …The miracle of the expansion of Jehovah’s worship is taking place in this day by the Lord’s rich blessing and direction. …Now, as at all times, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society follows the Scripturally approved policy of accepting unforced, unsolicited, free-will donations of money. …

Yearly we discuss this matter in The Watchtower for the information of all, thus answering the questions relative thereto for our many new readers, outlining the “Good Hopes” donation arrangement. Soliciting money? Absolutely not! To consider the Lord’s work and plan in advance to further it is a blessed and wonderful privilege in this day. …So it is suggested that, upon receiving this issue of The Watchtower, you address a postcard or letter to the Society and keep a copy as a reminder to yourself concerning the amount you hope to contribute. All you need to write is, in substance:

“By God’s grace I hope to be able to contribute to the work of announcing the kingdom of Jehovah during the ensuing year the amount of $ ____, which I will remit in such amounts and at such time as I can find it convenient, as I am prospered.

[Signed] ______.

Address your card or letter to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

In fact, the “Good Hopes” donation arrangement mentioned in 1950 was first put implemented in the November 1891 Watch Tower and quickly became a regular, yearly article every December for many years.

HOW THE KINGDOM GOT TIED TO DONATIONS

It might have been enough in 2014 to just raise expectations and excitement with all this talk about the centennial of the Kingdom and to separately focus on the new arrangement for donations in a year full of all these campaigns and projects. But the Watch Tower did much more than that. The first book ever released by the Watch Tower that discusses financial donations is called “God’s Kingdom Rules” and was released in 2014 immediately after the May implementation of one of the biggest changes to Watch Tower donations. This book more permanently commemorates the marriage of the two ideas together.

Note also following more recent letter from December 2014, which should currently be posted on the information board at every Kingdom Hall in the United States. (We cut off the picture just before the words: “Please arrange for this letter to be read to the congregation at the first Service Meeting after its receipt. Thereafter, it should be posted on the information board.” Note that it, too, highlights the idea of a “proportional” contribution with references to Deuteronomy 16:16, 17 which says:

16…and none of them should appear before Jehovah empty-handed. 17 The gift that each one brings should be in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah your God has given you.

contribletter

 

 

THE “KINGDOM HAUL”

The conclusion is that this year’s “Kingdom” theme has been turned into a theme about “donations.” One portion of the letter reminded the audience of the recent change in the arrangements surrounding the building and financing of Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls. (See Part 1) The phrases about “building a place of worship” will provide a tie between modern Kingdom Halls and the the building of the Tabernacle in Sinai and the Temple in Judea.

This is the tie-in to the Kingdom. It builds on the idea from the December 15, 2014 Watchtower:

*** w14 12/15 p. 4 Jehovah Richly Blesses a Willing Spirit ***
For example, when the Israelites were in the wilderness of Sinai, Jehovah instructed them to build a place of worship. He said: “Take up a contribution for Jehovah from among yourselves. Let everyone with a willing heart bring a contribution for Jehovah.” (Ex. 35:5) . …
“Everyone whose heart impelled him” and “everyone whose spirit incited him” made a voluntary offering, “each with a willing heart.” Men and women willingly brought something for Jehovah’s work: brooches, earrings, rings, gold, silver, copper, blue thread, purple wool, scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, ram skins dyed red, sealskins, acacia wood, gemstones, balsam, and oil. Eventually, “the goods were enough for all the work to be done, and more than enough.”

It won’t come as a surprise that the December 5, 2014 letter uses the same phrase about modern Halls, but also provides additional tie-ins to the Kingdom of Israel.

With the recent adjustments to Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction and financing, concerted effort will be focused on building places of worship throughout the earth. We are confident that with Jehovah’s continued blessing, many more will stream to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah.—Isa. 2:2.

As loyal Kingdom subjects, we continue to show our support for Kingdom activities with all our heart. Just as under the Mosaic Law each Israelite man gave a gift “in proportion to the
blessing that Jehovah” had given him, we today reflect on how He has blessed us in our lives and freely give of our time, energy, and resources in promoting Kingdom activities.

These are some of the many reminders about Israel that would help the Watch Tower ultimately promote a “tithing-like” arrangement. What the Watch Tower Society has planned specifically, we can’t say, but no one should be surprised if the idea of “tithing” becomes more explicit. It’s not that anyone would have to specify that a tithe literally means 10%. What might be expected instead is an upcoming discussion, similar to previous ones, about how the “tithe” was a “reasonable” amount, and that such an “approved” arrangement fits the “principle” that an amount should be “proportional” to one’s income or wealth.

THE NEW DONATION ARRANGEMENT AND THE SCRIPTURES

This article does not argue whether it is right or wrong of a religious organization to accept monetary donations through  any specific methods they might choose and agree upon. And, it does not argue for or against the merits of any particular religion(s) as a charitable organization.

But we can argue that it is not possible for the Watch Tower Society to claim that all donations are voluntary when the method is intended to build up pressure to meet predetermined goals. Since May 2014 the arrangement is to determine an amount that can be paid monthly, and not adjusted again until May 2015. At that point the amounts to give are “resolved” again and should not be adjusted again until May 2016. The elders are told that they can speak to the congregation about continuing to meet their obligations and consider how any shortfalls might be made up in future months.

Also, it should be noted that the favorite scripture common to almost every “yearly donation article” is 1 Cor 16:2. It supposedly  provides the principle of putting something aside at the first of the week. (That scripture is getting extra emphasis this year.) But let’s look at this more closely:

*** w13 12/15 p. 14 par. 11 Will You Make Sacrifices for the Kingdom? ***
11 The apostle Paul provided a principle to follow when considering donations. (Read 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2.) Under inspiration, he encouraged his brothers in Corinth not to wait until the end of the week to see what was left over but, rather, to set aside funds at the start of the week in harmony with what they could do. As in the first century, brothers and sisters in our time plan ahead to respond generously according to their circumstances. (Luke 21:1-4; Acts 4:32-35) Jehovah treasures such a giving spirit.

But what did the verse say was the reason to make these weekly collections?

(1 Corinthians 16:1, 2) 1 Now concerning the collection for the holy ones, you may follow the directions I gave to the congregations of Ga·laʹti·a. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you should set something aside according to his own means, so that collections will not take place when I arrive.

This was not to be an ongoing arrangement that was to go on week after week in perpetuity. Other Bible passages indicate that there was a famine in Judea that the various congregations in Greece and Asia Minor were able to help alleviate, by taking up a collection that Paul could help arrange to transport to Jerusalem.  These collections were to be made in the weeks before Paul got there so that they would be done, and no more collections would need to take place while he was there. Perhaps in following years, congregations in Rome or Asia Minor would take up another collection if there was some problem in Corinth or all of Greece.

It’s only a guess that Paul meant they should take up a collection on the first of the week because if they waited until the end it would only be what was left over. Perhaps it was the opposite and people got paid at the end of a week, so that the first of the week was specifically to see how much really was left over.  Or perhaps the first of the week was the day they were going to get together for a meeting anyway, and this was the day it was most convenient. Or perhaps at the end of the week, if they just got paid, they would end up being too generous and not leave enough remaining to care for themselves and their families. (Paul mentioned how the poorer Macedonians had given beyond their ability.)

But The Watchtower has added some assumptions that aren’t there in the Scripture, but only to create an idea that they like.  Because it fits this idea of planning to give a certain amount in advance. It may have been part of the original idea, but we can’t know. And it seems wrong to say outright that it was for a specific reason that fits an idea that they like, while at the same time leaving out the only reason Paul gave in the passage, because the idea of no longer taking a collection at some future point, is not an idea that they like.

More importantly, we should question whether the reason for the collection was for relief due to a drought and near-famine. The Watch Tower Society has a history of stating that good works and charitable works of a material nature, are of much lower priority than good works related to advancing the distribution of the Watch Tower’s written publications. At another time we’d like to add more details on their attitude toward the kind of charity we read about in the Greek Scriptures.

For now, we’ll just mention how the consolidation of focus on the Governing Body at the top of the clergy/laity hierarchy of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be completely skewing the entire purpose of true Biblical charity. The need to continue focusing on older patterns of support such as the Judean and Israelite kingdoms, the temple, and the  priesthood — all this might be at complete odds with the idea of a Christianity that worships, not in a temple made with hands, nor this particular mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth.