Jehovah’s servants

Until a couple of centuries ago human knowledge of the physical universe and of man’s historic development was scattered and very limited. The principal guides were religious works and teachings, the most familiar being the Bible. The idea of the World and Universe coming to an end, and being reborn again in some other form, stemmed from man’s primitive struggles with nature, the observance of life and death among plants and animals, the waxing and waning of the heavenly bodies.

The strong religious theories and dogmas influenced ideas about society.

It was when the class struggle became more acute that suppressed groups combined theories about new societies with the contemporary religious ideas on the ending of the world. Politics in those days were never far removed from religious hair-splitting and supplication.

In the 16th century Germany was in a state of upheaval. The creed of one Protestant group, the Anabaptists, included a belief in ’the return of a divine power and the establishment of a system of common ownership. The dramatic outcome of this movement was in 1535 when the Anabaptists under John of Leiden, took over the town of Münster and attempted to set up the millenium on earth. The adventure was an experiment in a commonweal society which the feudal landowners, aided by the Church, stamped out in mass bloodshed. In England at the time of Cromwell a similar but smaller group called the Fifth Monarchy men exited. Successfully hampered by the magnates and Cromwell, they awaited the Restoration to gain a place in history. Frustrated then at every turn they took to the murder of legal gentry, and followed this up by a comic opera attack on the Tower of London. This adventure effectively erased them from activity.

With the opening up of the United States the ideas of the Millennium took on a more peaceful form. In North America, where land was plentiful, colonies calling themselves the Lord’s Elect set up their Edens, practising mutual aid, pooling of resources, and strict living. Others more colourful awaited what they hoped was to be the second coming under some self-appointed Messiah or Shiloh. The weakness of these colonies lay in their exclusiveness. The outside world interested them only slightly; they had no desire to interfere with society.

However, in the 1850’s one group formed a different attitude. Known as the Christadelphians, they laid down very definite views on their God’s plan far mankind which they based on biblical study. They claimed that the old earth would pass away with Christ’s return, and a new world with no evil, oppression, or wars, would be the reward of the believers, with an everlasting life thrown in. They made a name for themselves as conscientious objectors in the American Civil War.

By 1872 Pastor Russell, living in the U.S.A., had formed another group based on Christadelphian theories. These groups called Bible Students were worldwide, linked to their chief, Russell, by a system of publications and pamphlets that embodied the Russellite theories. After the death of Russell in 1916, the mantle of leadership fell on the shoulders of Judge Rutherford, who had American know-how on sales pressure, publication and organisation. The Bible Students were banned in the U.S. during the first World War and Judge Rutherford was jailed.

It was in the unsettled conditions of the world after 1918 that the Bible Students turned their propaganda to eye-catching and shock provoking tabloids. Such statements as, “ Millions now living will never die ” (in a world still numbed by the World War losses) or “ Religion is a racket ” at least arrested attention, even if the subsequent arguments were lacking in proof.

The Rutherford clique tightened up on the old members and widened the base of membership. The original select class were quietly pushed out and the members eventually became known as Jehovah’s Witnesses—a more comprehensive name and helpful in making new members.

The ideas of the sect are disturbing to other creeds. They renounce the conventional ideas of heaven and hell, the immortal soul, and the holy trinity. Backed up by Biblical quotes, the Witnesses argue that Man was created and lived under perfect conditions, but fell under the influence of a fallen angel, namely, the devil. Since then the world and its social systems have fallen more and more under the sway of the devil and his legions. Wars, sovereign states, hunger, poverty, oppression and death itself are all manifestations of mankind’s turning away from Jehovah’s revealed truth.

The current troubled society fills them with hope, however, as the Witnesses proclaim that the day of Armageddon cannot be far away. The faithful, they say, will survive the final struggle in which the devil will be made captive, and “this system of things” swept away. Christ will rule the earth, supported by some 144,000 spiritual beings who once lived on earth. The rest of men will not die, and under the theocratic order the earth will flourish as a garden.

When the earth is fruitful again a resurrection of all the dead will take place. All will enjoy the paradise on earth and so remedy past sins by acknowledging Jehovah and Christ. However, after a thousand years the devil will be released to tempt the wavering. This is the final struggle and the devil and his followers will be finally condemned to death.

A cynic might wisecrack and ask how anyone could turn “bolshie” after a thousand years of the millennium; will it be the outcome of boredom? Many may howl with laughter at these theories —at the same ‘time as they are swallowing other dogmas, religious and political, that are just as unreal.

The Witnesses can argue their case with ability and verve, which is more than can be said for the average Catholic, Tory or Labourite. Fundamentalists in a world of science, they fearlessly attack theories of evolution by rapier thrusts at the weak links in Darwinism. They are the type of religious opposition to keep materialists on their toes. They have been scourged by the dictatorships which have tried to keep them from their domains as if they were the plague. This is to be expected when great “Leaders” are filling their workers up ‘to the brim with home brewed ”People’s Republics” and “New Orders.” The Witnesses might appear to their masses as some rival supermarket.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses may be painstaking in argument, energetic, skilful in propaganda, obedient in organisation; but after all this they are supporting some theory that has no basis in fact. For their case ultimately pivots on a manlike conception of a god; a deity with human emotions and ideas, a god made in man’s image. The grimness of capitalism has driven these people to feel that man cannot help himself; he must forever wallow in blood and hatred, never growing up, always dangerously infantile.

In fact, only man himself can. work out his own salvation. In spite of the setbacks, heartbreaks, and mistakes, Man learns step by step to deal with his problems.

That is the final answer to the Witnesses of Jehovah, and to all other purveyors of religious theories.

Jack LaW

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