“…YOU are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” (Acts 5:28)

 

The chief priests, Pharisees and scribes had all conspired and succeeded in killing God’s Son. They were blood guilty in a very big way.  Yet here they are playing the victim.  They portray themselves as innocent leaders just doing their job.  They were, after all, the appointed channel of communication between the People and Jehovah, were they not?  How unfair of these lowly common folk to try to blame them for what happened.  Jesus brought it all down on himself.  The Jewish leaders knew that.  Now these disciples were undermining the people’s confidence in their leaders whom Jehovah himself had appointed over his flock.  If there were really a problem, these so-called apostles should wait on Jehovah to correct it.  They should not run ahead.  After all, these Jewish leaders had accomplished so much. They had the magnificent temple, a marvel of the ancient world. They ruled over an ancient people, who were better and more blessed than any other people on earth, Romans included. These leaders were God’s chosen ones.  And God’s blessing was evident upon them.

How unjust, how vicious of these disciples of the so-called Messiah to try to make them out to be the bad guy.

So what was the response of these poor, hard-done-by, faithful servants of Almighty God faced with the evidence the disciples presented?  Did they consider the scriptural references used to support the position of these challengers?  No, they would give no ear to them.  Did they consider the evidence of holy spirit by which these ones performed miraculous healings?  Again no, for they turned a blind eye to such occurrences.  They would give no quarter in their minds to any argument that tested their comfortable self-perception and risked their exulted position.  Instead, they flogged these men, and when that didn’t stop them, they murdered one of their number and then launched a vicious persecution upon them. (Acts 5:40; 7:54-60; 8:1)

Does any of this sound familiar?

From w14 7/15 p. 15 Caption: "Avoid engaging in debates with apostates"

From w14 7/15 p. 15 Caption: “Avoid engaging in debates with apostates”

This staged illustration shows victimized witnesses who are bravely enduring the verbal persecution that the vicious, unruly apostates are bringing down upon them.  About thirty years ago, there were groups that acted this way, picketing district conventions and even Bethel offices.  Nowadays, there are many web sites that attack the Governing Body and engage in Witness bashing.  However, the Organization has little to fear from such ones.  In fact, they are better off because of them, for these attackers support the illusion that we are being persecuted.   Being persecuted means we have God’s approval.  It helps us to play the blessed victim.

“. . .“Happy are YOU when people reproach YOU and persecute YOU and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against YOU for my sake. 12 Rejoice and leap for joy, since YOUR reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to YOU.” (Mt 5:11, 12)

Conversely, if we are the ones doing the persecuting, then it cannot mean we have Jehovah’s blessing and approval.  The idea of true Christians persecuting anyone is anathema to us.  False religion persecutes true Christians.  That’s one of the ways we have of distinguishing true Christianity from the false kind.  So if we are seen to be persecuting others, that would make us no better than the religions we look down upon.

Therefore, we must play the victim and paint everyone who disagrees with us as a hypocritical, snake-in-the-grass apostate, out to make our lives miserable, undermine our faith and destroy our religion.  So if someone disagrees with a teaching, even on a sound Scriptural basis, we are conditioned to view him as if he were one of those angry protesters pictured above.  He is the persecutor, not us.

However, there is a growing reality that threatens to destroy this carefully constructed and preserved self-image.

I can speak from personal experience as well as from firsthand reports coming from known and trusted sources that there is a quiet persecution already going on in the congregations.  Inspired by articles and illustrations such as those we’ve only just studied in the July, 2014 Study Edition of the Watchtower, well-meaning elders operating with the kind of misguided zeal that Saul of Tarsus was known for are actively seeking out any who question what is being taught.

Imagine being appointed as an elder, then having is scuffled by the branch office because in the past you’d written a letter or two because you were concerned about the scriptural basis of some teaching presented in the magazines.  Before any appointment is considered, they first look in their files.  (Letters written in are never destroyed, though years may pass.)

Imagine having a close relative tell the Circuit Overseer about a private discussion you’d had to express some misgivings with a particular teaching in a Watchtower article, and ending up removed from your privileges.  Imagine being interrogated by two elders about your “loyalty to the faithful and discreet slave” aka the Governing Body.  Imagine making references to Scriptures, which the elders refuse to read and consider.   Imagine making sound arguments using references from the publications only to have the elders sit stonily, ignoring your logic and reasoning.  How could men trained to use the Bible at the door, refuse to engage in a Scriptural discussion?

The reason this happens—reportedly, over and over—is that the rules change when we question any teaching of the Governing Body.  The simple act of questioning brands one a possible apostate.  So anything coming out of one’s mouth is tainted.  The Watchtower has just told us not to engage in debates with apostates, so the elders do not have to reason scripturally.

I have had long-standing trusted friends tell me that even if we can show that a teaching is wrong, we should wait for the Governing Body to change it.  Until such time we should accept it.

Officially, we do not consider the Governing Body to be infallible.  Unofficially, we admit they are imperfect and can make mistakes. However, in real life we treat them as infallible.  The idea can best be summed up this way: “Treat everything they teach us as God’s own truth—until further notice.”

When challenged, they will play the victim, the poor persecuted true faith.  However, who really is being tried and tested?  Who is being verbally flogged, abused, despised and even metaphorically killed by being cut off from kith and kin?

The Organization really isn’t worried about nasty, name-calling apostates.  They like them because they confer an illusory seal of approval.

What the Organization is deeply worried about are true Christians who put God’s Word above man’s.  Christians who do not abuse, intimidate, nor threaten, but who use a far more powerful weapon to expose falsehood and hypocrisy—the same weapon their master used when confronted with other similar opposers and resisters: The Word of God.

Time and again we get reports showing the elders incapable of defeating the scriptural arguments of these faithful ones.  Their only defense is to fall back on the tactics their first century counterparts used to silence the Christians in their midst.  However, if they keep it up and do not repent, they will meet with a similar defeat and in all likelihood, a similar judgment.