Fundamentalists Us? No Way!

Norman Hovland

It is very interesting to see how the Watchtower Society deals with the phenomenon of fundamentalism. They seem to be able to identify the fundamentalists around them and see how utterly hopeless fundamentalism is. Not surprisingly they are unable to comprehend that the Watchtower Society itself is firmly placed within the fundamentalist camp. In 1997, in an attempt to deal with the obvious fact that people who know Jehovah's Witnesses consider them fundamentalists, the Watchtower published an article about the subject:

"The Spread of Fundamentalism
A fundamentalist is one who holds rigidly to traditional, conservative religious values. The meaning of "fundamentalism" will be discussed more fully in the next article." (Watchtower, March 1, 1997, p. 3)

As we know, the Watchtower Society does hold "rigidly to traditional, conservative religious values". True, they have their own "specialties" but must be considered extremely rigid. In the next article the Watchtower continues and attempts to make a definition of fundamentalism that in their mind will exclude Jehovah's Witnesses:

"Fundamentalism -- What Is It?
Fundamentalists hanker after the old certainties, and some of them strive to bring their communities and nations back to what they feel are proper moral and doctrinal foundations. They do all in their power to force others to live according to a "correct" moral code and system of doctrinal beliefs. A fundamentalist is strongly convinced that he is right and others are wrong." (Watchtower, March 1, 1997, p. 4)

The above definition as printed in the Watchtower gives us, apart from some minor nuances an amazingly accurate description of the Watchtower Society. There is however no doubts that the Watchtower Society is extremely good at "forcing" on their own members a ""correct" moral code and system of doctrinal beliefs." Anyone half familiar with the Watchtower Society knows that, like any other fundamentalists, Jehovah's Witnesses are "strongly convinced that [they are] right and others are wrong." But it gets even lamer:

"Jehovah's Witnesses are concerned about the erosion of spirituality in the world and the immorality and religious uncertainty that pervade society. As a result, they are sometimes called fundamentalists. But are they? No. While they have strong religious convictions, they are not fundamentalists in the sense that the term has come to be used. They do not pressure political leaders to promote a certain point of view, and they do not resort to demonstrations and violence against those with whom they disagree. They have found a better way. They imitate their Leader, Jesus Christ." (Watchtower, March 1, 1997, p. 6)

There is no doubt that the Watchtower Society would like to see whole nations adopting their view of the Bible and reality. They try to distance themselves from other fundamentalists by establishing the idea that in spite of their fundamentalist views, the Watchtower Society unlike the other fundamentalists doesn't use political means to "force" their ideas on other people, as if that has anything to do with it. The recent development in France has also demonstrated that the Watchtower Society in fact does use political means. By placing advertisements in newspapers, staging demonstrations against the government, they have made a political manifestation of their resistance to the French government, so even in this aspect there is in reality little difference between them and the other fundamentalists.

One of the most unbelievably hilarious comments in the Watchtower is however this one:

"Fundamentalist religions often try to force from the Bible what it simply does not contain -- the very day and hour of this world's demise." (Watchtower, April 1, 1997, p. 4)

It is amazing that the author dare write something like this, belonging to an organization who has an over 100 year old tradition behind them to "force from the Bible what it simply does not contain -- the very day and hour of this world's demise." But of course, there is no reality so clear that a fundamentalist cannot ignore it at will.

When it suits them, the Watchtower is more than willing to force the Bible like this:

"According to the Bible, God has set a limit on the time in which he permits humans to break his laws and thus cause suffering and pain. That time has almost expired." (Watchtower, March 1, 1997, p. 7)

As we can see, they make the claim here that the Bible tells them that the "time has almost expired." So, who's "forcing" the Bible? Another issue where the Watchtower Society pretend to distance themselves from the other fundamentalists is on the subject of creationism:

"In a supposed attempt to uphold the Bible, the "creationists" -- mostly allied with fundamentalist Protestants -- have insisted that the earth and the universe are less than 10,000 years old. This extreme view has invited the ridicule of geologists, astronomers, and physicists, for it contradicts their findings." (Watchtower, September 1, 1994, p. 6)

Brooklyn quite rightly has observed the incredible stupidity of this view. We have had and no doubt we will have the occasional fundy dimwit making these claims right here on H2O, but even the Watchtower Society has realized how hopeless it is, and that should tell us a lot. But is there in reality such a big difference between the young earth creationists and the Watchtower Society, as they would like us to believe? Not really, most of the arguments they use against evolution in their Creation book they have lifted from the very people they try to distance themselves from, of course without telling the rank and file Jehovah's Witnesses where their arguments come from. Brooklyn also try to find other differences between themselves and the other fundamentalists:

"Fundamentalism, while claiming to defend the Bible, has also actually undermined its authority. One way it has done so is by a literal interpretation of texts that are clearly not meant to be taken literally. An example of this is the claim that, according to the Genesis account, the earth was created in 6 literal 24-hour days. Obviously, these were symbolic days of much longer duration. (Compare Genesis 2:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:8.) Other ways Fundamentalism undermines the Bible is by teaching unscriptural doctrines, such as eternal torment in hellfire, and at times by promoting standards of conduct other than those required by Scripture, such as forbidding the consumption of alcoholic beverages or the use of makeup by women. In these ways Fundamentalism has caused people to reject the Bible's message as naive, unreasonable, and unscientific." (Awake!, October 22, 1989, pp. 19, 20)

It is quite funny to see how selective Brooklyn is here. It is "obvious" to the Watchtower Society that the creative days are symbolic, but they are unable and unwilling to discuss that the number 144,000 might be just as symbolic. They insist on an extreme, fanatical and rigid "understanding" of the use of blood. They disfellowship people who smoke, although the Bible doesn't address smoking at all. They make all kinds of non-Biblical rules about beards, hairstyle, dress codes etc., all of this of course defames the "Bible message" just as much as any other fundamentalist view. No matter how much they try to deny it, the Watchtower Society is firmly established in the fundamentalist camp. Of course the Bible doesn't need any outside force to defame it, it is perfectly able to do the job by itself. But the Watchtower Society and the other fundies of course help a lot in this admirable work.