We have been getting emails from regular readers concerned that our forum might be degenerating into just another JW bashing site, or that an unfriendly environment might be surfacing. These are valid concerns.
When I began this site back in 2011, I was unsure about how to moderate commenting. Apollos and I discussed it repeatedly, going back and forth, trying to find that safe place in the middle between the rigid thought control we were accustomed to in the congregation and the disrespectful, sometimes abusive, free-for-all that some other sites are known for.
Of course, when we started out, our only goal was to foster a safe online gathering place for the peaceful pursuit of Bible knowledge. We had no idea that in short order the Governing Body was going to take the unprecedented step of bearing witness about themselves—despite Jesus’ warning at John 5:31—and appoint themselves as his Faithful and Discreet Slave. We were also unprepared for the change in attitude that now requires unquestioning obedience to their directives. Indeed, at the time I was still of the mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses were the one true Christian faith on the face of the earth.
A lot has changed since that year.
Due to the ever increasing dispersion of knowledge made possible via the internet, brothers and sisters have been learning of the Organization’s tragic mishandling of child abuse. They have been shocked to discover that it was a member of the U.N. for 10 years until outed in a newspaper article.[i] They have been disturbed by the growing cult of personality surrounding the members of the Governing Body.
And then there are the doctrinal issues.
Many joined the organization out of a love for truth, identifying themselves as being “in the truth”. To learn that our key doctrines—like “the generation of Mt. 24:34”, 1914 as the start of Christ’s invisible presence, and the other sheep as a separate class of Christian—have no basis in the Bible, has created great mental distress and brought many to tears and sleepless nights.
One might compare the situation to being aboard a large, well-stocked luxury liner out in the middle of the ocean when a cry goes out that the ship is sinking. One’s first thoughts are: “What do I do now? Where do I go?” Based on many of the comments as well as private emails I get, it seems that our little site has morphed from a pure research site into something more—a sort of port in the storm; a place of solace and a spiritual community where awakening ones can commiserate with others who are going through, or have gone through, their own crisis of conscience. Slowly, as the fog clears, we’ve all learned that we are not to look for another religion or another organization. We do not need to go to some place. What we need is to go to some one. As Peter said, “To whom shall we go away to? You have the sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:68) This site is not an alternative to the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor do we encourage anyone to return to the snare and racket which is organized religion. But collectively we can encourage one another to love the Christ and to approach the Father through him. (John 14:6)
Speaking personally, I’m delighted with the change of focus that we are seeing here, subtle though it may be. I’m also pleased to learn that many have found comfort here. I would not want anything to jeopardize that.
For the most part the conversations and comments have been upbuilding . Differing views are expressed on subjects where the Bible is not definitive, but we have been able to dialogue and even recognize our differences without rancor, knowing that in the core values, the truth of God’s word revealed to us by the spirit, we are of one mind.
So how can we safeguard what has come into being?
First, by adhering to Scripture. To do that we have to allow others to critique our work. For this reason, we will continue to encourage commenting on every article.
The name Beroean Pickets was chosen for two reasons: The Beroeans were noble-minded students of Scripture who eagerly but not credulously accepted what they learned. They made sure of all things. (1Th 5:21)
Second, by being skeptics.
“Pickets” is an anagram of “skeptic”. A skeptic is one who questions all things. Since Jesus warned us against false prophets and false Christs [anointed ones] we do well to question every teaching coming from men. The only man we should follow is the Son of man, Jesus.
Third, by maintaining an environment that is conducive to the flow of the spirit.
This last point has been a challenge over the years. We have had to learn how to yield without compromising, all the while striving to avoid the extreme of authoritarianism from which we have fled. There has obviously been a learning curve. However, now that the nature of the forum has shifted, we need to reexamine our status quo.
This site—this Bible study forum—has become akin to a large gathering at a household. The owner of the house has invited people from all walks of life to come and enjoy fellowship. All feel safe and comfortable. Free and unfettered discussion is the result. However, in only takes one overbearing personality to destroy the carefully cultivated ambiance. Finding their tranquility disrupted, the guests start to leave and the uninvited individual soon commandeers the narrative. That is, if the host allows it.
The rules governing commenting etiquette for this forum have not changed. However, we will be enforcing them with more vigor than before.
Those of us who founded this forum are very interested in providing a place of sanctuary where the increasing numbers of those who are “skinned and thrown about” in a spiritual sense can come for solace and comfort from others. (Mt 9:36) As a responsible host, we will evict any who do not deal kindly with others or who seek to impose their point of view rather than instruct from God’s word. The universally accepted principle is that when in the house of another, one must abide by house rules. If one objects, there is always the door.
Inevitably, there will be those who cry “Censorship!”
That is nonsense and merely a tactic to try to continue having their way. The fact is, there is nothing keeping anyone from starting up his or her own blog. It should be noted, however, the purpose of Beroean Pickets is not, nor has it ever been, to provide a soapbox for every blowhard with a pet theory.
We will not discourage anyone from sharing opinions, but let them be clearly stated as such. The moment an opinion takes on the character of a doctrine, then to permit it makes us like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. (Mt 15:9) We each must be willing to back up any opinion with Scriptural support, and respond to a challenge for same without evasion. Failing to do so causes frustration and is simply not loving. It will no longer be tolerated.
It is our hope that this new policy will benefit all those who come here to learn, upbuild and be upbuilt.
[i] In 1989, The Watchtower had this to say about the United Nations: “The ten horns” symbolize all the political powers now on the world scene and that support the United Nations, the “scarlet-colored wild beast,” itself the image of the Devil’s bloodstained political system.” (w89 5/15 pp. 5-6) Then came 1992 and its membership as a Nongovernmental Organization in the UN. Articles condemning the U.N. dried up until after the Organization’s U.N. membership role was exposed by The Guardian in its October 8th, 2001 issue. Only then does the Organization renounce its membership and return to its denunciation of the UN with this November 2001 article: “Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, we are no part of the world, and we are not infected by such spiritually deadly plagues as its immorality, materialism, false religion, and worship of “the wild beast” and its “image,” the United Nations.” (w01 11/15 p. 19 par. 14)