Is the Watchtower Society a Part of the Religious Right?Chris Stevenson I Spirituality & Religion I Commentary I September 3rd, 2014
In order to understand the ways of cult thinking and involvement, one has to understand the personality traits that run that particular organization.
The same personality that seems most-enthused about shunning, and the use of Matthew: 18:15-17 to justify it, would be the same miserable, anti-social conservative even if he or she wasn't in that faith.
First of all, it's important to understand the word cult. Its meaning has no bearing on a particular size or membership. No group is too big to be a cult, or too small to be a cult. All cults aspire to be huge, numero-uno, the Big C on the block, even if they claim otherwise.
Let's draw some parallels:
A- The religious right believes in strong, male-dominated marriages, families, and parenting, often to the point of overbearing obnoxiousness and detachment. So does the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses). They've been telling women what to do with their bodies longer than most of the modern-day evangelical faiths, and I might admit with very little recognition. Their medieval-times-eny needs to be focused on very often.
B- The Religious Right despises women's reproductive rights. Hot dammit, so does the Watchtower. The only thing is abortion is the smokescreen cause that the religious right hides behind. Racial segregation is and always has been their life-blood. On the surface, the face of the anti-choice movement has long been Jerry Falwell, and Roe V. Wade (the case which ruled for the legalization of abortion), their pet-peeve issue. Falwell's followers have even gone so far as to call themselves "new abolitionists," using a twisted game of semantics to link themselves to old-school Republicans who ended slavery, while fully knowing their true ancestors would be Democrats today. The real face of the religious right is Paul Weyrich, who got it going in 1979. Six years later, lots of Christian right sects have either tried their hand at shunning or at least thought about it. To the Watchtower, it's the closest thing to death row. Whereas DNA evidence can get you off death row and out of prison, feigning guilt and begging forgiveness to three men - with conceivably worse personal morals than you - can get you back in the organization.
C- Like the religious right, the Watchtower uses a lot of double-speak. They make their followers call themselves "temporary residents" on one hand, while buying up property and real estate on the other. This even extends to selling buildings and Kingdom Halls to the same churches they teach their followers to steer clear of.
D- Like the deceptive Christian Right's evangelicals, the Watchtower proclaims spiritual enlightenment but teaches divisiveness. Both have the roots of their policy going back to the 1940s. The religious right's de facto-flagship school is Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC); while Bethel in Brooklyn is the nerve-center for the Watchtower Society.
The religious or Christian Right's theology is really a concept called Dominion Theology (pushed first during the '80s), a scriptural mandate for Christian stewardship in civic or secular matters. They believe God told them in Genesis - as indicated by its name - to dominate and promote religious supremacy. Of course, this has racial undercurrents. Just about any and every movement led by whites in the United States prefixed or suffixed with the word "supremacy" can safely be considered to be pointing in the direction of race. The Watchtower's theology is based on something not far from Dominion Theology - something they call the "New Order"; there was a time it was known as the New World Order (NWO). This new order is not as humanistic as the Christian Right's because Jehovah's Witnesses, for the time being, are taught to only preach while waiting for God to usher in a war of Armageddon, after which Jehovah's Witnesses are highly expected to be the lone - or almost lone - survivors. Then, they are told, Jehovah their God will order them to begin "cleaning up the earth" and remaking it into a paradise; a process they anticipate to be as easy putting up new Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls are right now.
E- Both the Christian Right and its silent component, the Watchtower, talk about the "New World Order." This is a total politicization of religion based on the world being ruled by one dictatorial entity. The right has been talking about this for a long time, and after the George W. Bush administrations it became a commonly-used term. The Watchtower has been using it for decades as well, but their usage fluctuates. Back in 1952, their 11/15 Watchtower mentioned the NWO according to them: "That new world order under God's kingdom is made up of individuals, each of whom God dearly loves." This begs the question as to whether or not God dearly loves "outspoken women," according to the religious right.
Consider how young women like Mormon feminist Kate Kelly, or Muslim activist Malala Yousafzai, both highly intelligent members of their church among a sea of insecure males, have not been well-received by the religious right given the fundamentalist commonality of both their respective faiths. Malala, of course, was targeted and shot while in a school bus by members of the Taliban for advocating public education for Muslim girls. The fact that a girl of her age, who can put two and two together, makes a good number of men either outraged or intimidated is one of the reasons I no longer attend worship in any church. Kelly was just recently excommunicated by some "judges" in the Church of Latter Day Saints for activities relating to expanding the Mormon faith to take on female preachers. A few years ago, this international human rights attorney-raised-as-Mormon started a group called Ordain Women.
Where does the traditional religious right stack up to these? From an extreme standpoint , we get cult-behavior: Strict Biblical patriarchy, absolute submission of female members, and a rejection of higher education for women.
Falwell once said, "The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country." Doubtless he doesn't think restricting women from being leaders equal to men behind the Pugh is politics, just the natural order of things. This is the same guy who once said "Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." Thank God for those who ask questions. The Watchtower is along the same line as the Christian Right and orthodox Muslims when it comes to its women. While all reform activists, whether male or female, get a very short shelf-life among Jehovah's Witnesses, two particular women were notable in cracking the hard-grim exterior of Watchtower tradition: Barbara Anderson and Candace Conti.
Anderson is a former researcher for the Watchtower writing staff. Back around 2000, she discovered a database with tens of thousands of child-molestation cases in various JW congregations around the world that went unreported to the police. The letters from abuse victims that she stumbled upon led to her search for more covered-up information. Since then, she has collected more than 5,000 pages of court and Watchtower documents that so far have led to the settlement of nine lawsuits of child sexual abuse by leaders within various Kingdom Halls. At first, the Watchtower did not admit wrongdoing and made their awardees sign a gag-order. The courts forced the Watchtower to pay money (in this case reportedly between $16-100 million) usually reserved to build their Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls and other activities. Rare "good news" within a series of horror stories. Still to come was a groundbreaking trial and award to one lone victim that hopefully will be the beginning of awards that will eventually break that glorified publishing company a new one.
On the heels of Anderson's whistle-blowing, former member Candace Conti's lawsuit and groundbreaking trial yielded a staggering outcome. Despite being accused of money-grubbing by Watchtower elites, she seems to have been the only party practicing the organization's doctrine of humility. A court document discloses: "plaintiff will request that… sanctions in the amount of $1,440.00 (One thousand four hundred and forty four dollars - a symbolic play on the famously exclusive number of 144,000, which represents the amount of people the Watchtower society believes will go to heaven) be awarded." The jury did not give Conti her wish. Instead, they sent a message of their own, to the tune of the largest jury verdict of its kind - $7 million compensatory and $21 million punitive.
The answer to my original question as to whether or not the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is part of the religious right is more than just a simple yes. Though much smaller than most of the major religions, the Watchtower has enough game to make themselves more religiously right than most or all other evangelical faiths. They have worked harder to maintain strict rigidity, even if it costs them money. The Watchtower Society is that short guy from the '50s, still walking around with his belt-line close to his chest, and his top shirt-button fastened. The only difference is he's old now, but still trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner he says can also convert into a washer and dryer. All he needs is for you to let him. And believe him, absent of witnesses.
Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, regular contributor to blackcommentator, and runs his own blog, www.thebuffalobullet.com. Follow his public accounts onTwitter and Facebook. Watch his video commentary, Policy & Prejudice , for clbTV and follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.