A Gospel of Love or a Gospel of Hate?
Jan S. Haugland
How the Jehovah's Witnesses are instructed to hate:
The literature of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) is not void of references to love and applications of Bible scriptures about love. Generally, of course, they would agree that the mere mention of "love" does not make a religion loving. The JW leadership, the multi-billion publishing company The Watchtower Society (WTS), generally chastises "the world" about all the hatred and asks when there will be an end to hatred:
"But when you see the despair, the hopelessness, the agony of numberless victims of hate-inspired prejudice and violence, you may well ask in distress: 'Why? Why is there so much hatred? Can it possibly be made to disappear? Will the world ever be completely free of hatred?'" (Awake!, 6/22 1984, p. 4)
The WTS also points out the fact that religion, among other things, is a frequent source of hatred:
"Worldwide, the seeds of hatred are being planted and watered through injustice, prejudice, nationalism, and religion. The inevitable fruitage is anger, aggression, war, and destruction. The Bible statement at 1 John 3:15 helps us see the seriousness of this: "Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer."" (The Watchtower, 6/15 1995, p. 4)
However, strange as it must seem, an investigation of the Watchtower Publications Index will reveal that the majority of articles dealing with hatred are actually trying to explain what is "proper hatred" for a Christian. In light of the Scripture reference above, one can wonder how an alleged Christian organization can even use the expression "proper hatred." Indeed, in some cases the WTS distinguishes between case and person, as do many other Christians, and encourage "hating the wrong but loving the wrongdoer." This is, however, not the whole story.
Hating Former Members
As an actively proselytizing religion, a significant fraction of JWs have left other religions. In many cases, those who leave one religion for another are subject to the scorn, anger and sometimes outright violence from their families. JWs are familiar with this "persecution" and we find many references in WTS literature to this. In one case it reports a young woman and her mother who started "studying" with JWs. The father, however, did not approve:
"Her father prohibited her mother from studying the Bible with her and her brother and sister. He would beat them and burn their books." (The Watchtower, 10/1 1992, p. 22)
In face of such examples, we should hope that in cases where Jehovah's Witnesses or their children should want to join another religious group, they were met with some tolerance. Not so! Not only can we point to numerous examples of severe persecution by the JW family, this is indeed official Watchtower policy!
What should JW parents do in cases where their children take another religious opinion than the Watchtower Society?
"What if the son should begin to proclaim or prophesy something contrary to the Kingdom message and try to influence others in the organization wrongly, doing this in the name of Jehovah? What should the dedicated, baptized father and mother do? They dare not let their affections run wild; they dare not spare even this dear one whose natural birth they caused. They must declare to him the mortal sinfulness of his false prophesying or opposition to Kingdom prophesying. They cannot endure to have even their own child speak falsehood in the name of Jehovah. They must pierce him through because of his false prophesying. They must consider him as spiritually dead to themselves, as one with whom to have no religious association and fellowship and whose prophesyings are to be rejected." (The Watchtower, 10/1 1961, p. 596; bold added)
The hatred of the WTS toward former members even made it use expressions that will normally be associated with violence. In one case, the WTS even regretted that Christian laws and the laws of the land prohibited them from killing former members:
"We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy from God and his theocratic organization, as was possible and was ordered in the nation of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai and in the land of Palestine. . . . Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God's law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship." (The Watchtower, 11/15 1952, p. 703; bold added)
While regretting their inability to kill former members ("apostates"), the Jehovah's Witnesses can at least hate them and do what they can to make them understand how hated they are:
"Haters of God and his people are to be hated, but this does not mean that we will take any opportunity of bringing physical hurt to them in a spirit of malice or spite, for both malice and spite belong to the Devil, whereas pure hatred does not. We must hate in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme and active aversion, to consider as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest. Surely any haters of God are not fit to live on his beautiful earth." (The Watchtower, 10/1 1952, p. 599; bold added)
Note the rhetoric in turning the tables: those who left the religion must according to the WTS be "haters of God." It has never been admitted in WTS literature that a person can leave the Watchtower while still worshipping God, since to them, the Organization and God are the same thing:
"Some apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovah's organization and actively try to hinder its work. When they deliberately choose such badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of their makeup, then a Christian must hate (in the Biblical sense of the word) those who have inseparably attached themselves to the badness. True Christians share Jehovah's feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they "feel a loathing" toward those who have made themselves God's enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance." (The Watchtower, 10/1 1993, p. 19)
The level of hatred makes it obvious why the WTS must stress the necessity of 'leaving to God' to actually execute the death punishment. It is unfortunately not very original for Jehovah's Witnesses to rely on God as a hitman, a God of Hate, instead of a God of Love. However, just as during the Inquisition, it was not sufficient to have the sinner suffer at the hands of God. The suffering has to start in this life.
Disfellowshipping and Shunning
Jehovah's Witnesses find their options limited when it comes to their carrying out the order to "pierce through", "hurt" or "execute" former members. However, they can use two methods, closely interrelated: disfellowshipping and shunning. When the Watchtower's legal status is questioned in countries around the world, it hides behind the term excommunication, which is not used internally. The point of the case, often distorted by JW apologists, is not the termination of a membership in a religious community. Few will deny an organization the right to terminate a person's membership. The unethical activity is the hold the organization insists on having after membership is terminated:
"Thus "disfellowshiping" is what Jehovah's Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer. Their refusal to fellowship with an expelled person on any spiritual or social level reflects loyalty to God's standards and obedience to his command". (The Watchtower, 9/15 1981 pp. 22-23)
The keyword is shunning, and the WTS seriously argues that since disfellowshipping is indeed the same as execuiting (killing) a person, all friendships and family ties will be terminated. The disfelloshipped person shall be treated as non-existent. This is the reality behind the expression "disfellowshipping":
"God certainly realizes that carrying out his righteous laws about cutting off wrongdoers often involves and affects relatives. As mentioned above, when an Israelite wrongdoer was executed, no more family association was possible. . . . You can appreciate that this would not have been easy for them. Imagine, too, how the wrongdoer's brothers, sisters, or grandparents felt. Yet, their putting loyalty to their righteous God before family affection could be lifesaving for them." (The Watchtower, 4/15 1988, p. 28; bold added)
The only exceptions are family members who still live under the same roof as the disfellowshipped. But considering how Jehovah's Witnesses are ordered to view the disfellowshipped person, one can see that the relationships are irreparably damaged:
"Cutting off from the Christian congregation does not involve immediate death, so family ties continue. Thus, a man who is disfellowshipped or who disassociates himself may still live at home with his Christian wife and faithful children. Respect for God's judgments and the congregation's action will move the wife and children to recognize that by his course, he altered the spiritual bond that existed between them." (The Watchtower, 4/15 1988, p. 28; bold added)
One can, of course, imagine that in a marriage such "counsel" as given in the sentences above will do wonders to improve family life. The WTS in effect orders a disfellowshipped person's spouse and children to "spiritually" shun the person, while still living together and trying to work as a family. The result of this treatment should not be hard to imagine.
Individual members are not free to exercise their judgement on these matters. If they fail to toe the party line and are caught fellowshipping with former members, they risk being subjected to the same treatment:
"If a publisher refuses to do this and ignores the prohibition on associating with the disfellowshiped one, that publisher is rebelling against the congregation of Jehovah, and "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim." He should be strongly admonished, being impressed with the fact that by associating with the disfellowshiped one he is a companion of wickedness and that by his course of action he is dividing himself from the congregation to be with the wrongdoer. If after sufficient warning the publisher persists in associating with the disfellowshiped person instead of aligning himself with Jehovah's organization he also should be disfellowshiped." (The Watchtower, 10/1 1955, p. 607)
It doesn't help to try to leave voluntarily, if a person does not believe in the WTS gospel anymore:
"One who has been a true Christian might renounce the way of the truth, stating that he no longer considers himself to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses or wants to be known as one. . . . Or, a person might renounce his place in the Christian congregation by his actions, such as by becoming part of an organization whose objective is contrary to the Bible, and, hence, is under judgment by Jehovah God. . . . Persons who make themselves "not of our sort" by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing." (The Watchtower, 9/15 1981, p. 23)
The text above says that a person who resigns his membership, or who joins another religious community, joins a political party or the military, or votes in an election, is to be shunned as a sinner and wrongdoer.
In all its history, the WTS has never expressed any concern for the feelings and circumstances of the person who is disfellowshipped. On the contrary, we find articles like this:
"We ought to be especially supportive of the family members who are faithful Christians. They may already face pain and obstacles because of living at home with an expelled person who may actually discourage their spiritual pursuits. He may prefer not to have Christians visit the home; or if they do come to see the loyal family members, he may not have the courtesy to keep away from the visitors." (The Watchtower, 4/15 1991, p. 24)
The arrogant attitude of the Jehovah's Witness leadership is nowhere as obvious as here, where they are very indignant that a person first is so rude as to disagree with the Watchtower Society, despite the threat of being disfellowshipped and experiencing that none of his friends talk to him and his family refuses to have "spiritual" fellowship with him, and on top of this he does not "have the courtesy" to keep away in his own room while JW visitors eat his food, sit in his sofa and watch his television! That Jehovah's Witnesses seriously expect to walk around in his own home without risking to meet this 'unclean,' 'evil' person who has dared to question the Watchtower, is a demonstration of an arrogance that only can be explained by them viewing the disfellowshipped person as something less than human.
In a remarkable demonstration of doublethink, the WTS even claims:
"Disfellowshiping is therefore really an act of love, love on the part of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, on the part of the theocratic organization itself and on the part of the servants in the congregation who properly take the action directly." (The Watchtower, 11/1 1956, p. 667; bold added)
This is just in case anybody should think that George Orwell exaggerated when he made the authoritarian Party in his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four name its department for persecution and subsequent execution of all dissenters the Ministry of Love.
Hating Other Religions
The Watchtower "gospel" does not limit "proper hatred" to former members. Jehovah's Witnesses certainly do not teach that there is more than one way to God. All who are not Jehovah's Witnesses must perish when Armgeddon comes (and as always in WTS history, Armageddon is just around the corner!), and even they must stay close to the Organization, meaning the Watchtower Society:
"Never forget that only God's organization will survive the end of this dying system. Act wisely, therefore, and make plans for life eternal by building your future with Jehovah's organization." (The Watchtower, 7/15 1984, p. 20)
"But what must they do to survive the violent destruction of Satan's old world and enter the promised new world under the Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ? (2 Peter 3:13) They must keep in line with the organizational arrangements of the nucleus of Jehovah's visible organization, the anointed remnant." (The Watchtower, 9/1 1989, p. 15)
Of course, this applies to everybody outside the WTS, however, the evil of this world is particularly applied to other religions, since Jehovah's Witnesses proclaim them collectively to be "the world empire of false religion." As many pseudo-Christian sects, the Watchtower Society builds its theology mainly on a special interpretation of the symbolics of the Book of Revelation, in which all other religions constitute the "Whore of Babylon" and the Image of the Beast is the United Nations (!). Watchtower literature is full of tirades like this one:
"Like a professional harlot, Christendom has tried to make herself as attractive as possible to the world, in fact, even to the most debased persons, like 'drunkards from the wilderness.' Her sects have made religion easy for such worldlings. They can join her as church members and at the same time continue to be a part of this selfish, idolatrous, bloodstained world. As payment for whatever religious favors that bring them sensual pleasure, they glorify Christendom. As it were, to beautify her blood-reddened hands they put bracelets on her wrists, and set crowns upon the heads of her sects, giving the clergy religious headship over them." (The Watchtower, 2/1 1973, p. 93)
What applies to all religion in general, applies to an even stronger extent to Christian religions, who have earned special titles of honor:
"No wonder Christendom's clergy class can be identified as "the man of lawlessness"! (2 Thessalonians 2:3) This dominant part of harlotlike Babylon the Great will be fully exposed and devastated, along with all the rest of false religion." (The Watchtower, 1/15 1990, p. 18)
The Watchtower teaches that religion will not even survive to be slaughtered by God at Armageddon, but will be devastated by the world's political leaders before that (those who know the conspiracy theories of American extreme-right groups, where the federal government, the UN, black tanks and a "new world order" has special parts to play, may nod in recognition at reading these ideas):
"Down to this year 1979, popes and prelates continue to woo favors from the U.N. But where do these clergymen belong? They are tied in with a religious "harlot," described in Revelation as "Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth." (Rev. 17:1, 3-6) As the world empire of false religion, this harlotrous "woman" plies her trade with the nations' political leaders, as she declares her faith in the U.N. "beast," assuming even to 'sit as a queen' atop that "beast" in giving it direction. (Rev. 18:7) But just as she appears to be 'sitting pretty' with her political "lovers," the radical "ten horns" of that U.N. will come to 'hate the harlot and make her devastated and naked,' and desolate her completely." (The Watchtower, 10/15 1979, p. 15)
The result of this theology (or, more properly, ideology) is that Jehovah's Witnesses hate other religions. If they didn't, being expected to read aloud and "acclaim" such resolutions at their district conventions as this one will surely convince them:
"A Resolution . . .
As JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, we testify that:
(1) WE ABHOR the reproach that Babylon the Great, and Christendom in particular, has cast upon the name of the one true and living God, Jehovah. . . .
(2) WE ABHOR Christendom's adherence to Babylonish teachings, notably those of a triune god, the human soul's immortality, eternal torment in hell, a fiery purgatory, and worship of images -- such as the Madonna and the cross. . . .
(3) WE ABHOR anti-God philosophies and practices, so common in Christendom, such as evolution, blood transfusions, abortions, lying, greed, and dishonesty." (The Watchtower, 4/15 1989 p. 18)
And so it went on, until the Jehovah's Witnesses and other attendents, around 6,500,000 people, had announced that they ABHOR "false religion" SEVEN times (some similar tirades in the 1920's and 30's actually managed to find itself written into the Watchtower's special interpretation of the Revelation!). This was a part of a talk where the book Revelation -- Its Grand Climax at Hand!, was announced. The basic message in these Watchtower publications is, as you may have guessed, that Jehovah's Witnesses indeed abhor all religions but their own.
This abhorrence and hatred is not limited to religions, however. It is extended to everybody else as well.
Hating the Rest of the World
As we have noted, everybody outside the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is to be destroyed by God in the soon-coming Armageddon. The JWs have no qualms about the magnitude of this ultimate ethnic cleansing:
"On Satan's side will be all the rest of mankind, more than 99.9 percent, even as we read: "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." That includes all the governments of the world together with their supporters, the commercial, religious and social institutions. Even the professedly Christian organizations? Yes, because all such that are friends of the world are making themselves enemies of God." (The Watchtower, 10/15 1958, pp. 614-5)
Jehovah's Witnesses may not be totally unique in expecting the death and destruction of everybody else, but they have taken graphic descriptions of this mother of all holocausts to new heights:
"In Bible times persons who were considered as deserving of a resurrection were given a respectful burial. The ones slaughtered at Armageddon are shown as being left as food for the carrion-eating birds of the heavens. They will not be buried with military honors nor have graves with markers to memorialize them for mourners and idolizers. Those destroyed in this war will not be mourned, for the reason that they have shown themselves undeserving of mercy. By their removal the earth is cleansed." (The Watchtower, 7/1 1967, pp. 407-8; bold added)
"Men can spray a field with chemicals that kill weeds but spare crops; too bad they cannot spray cities with bombs that blow the bad to bits but leave the innocent intact." (The Watchtower, 7/15 1955, p. 436)
"From his heavenly habitation, Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, he [Jehovah] roars with a battle shout loud enough to set heaven and earth rocking at the shock waves. He orders his King, Jesus Christ, to tread his enemies, who have been made as a foot stool for his feet. Into the valley of decision, as into a vast wine-press trough, the King leaps with his army of holy angels. SQUASH! The treading of the nations, including Christendom, begins.. . . Never before in all human history will so many human creatures have been slaughtered. Blood, as representing human lives poured out, will run deep and over a vast distance. Revelation 14:20 paints the appalling picture, saying: "And the wine press was trodden outside the city [God's organization], and blood came out of the wine press as high up as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs [or, 200 miles]." (The Watchtower, 12/1 1961, pp. 725-6; bold added)
The sheer logistics of removing all these dead bodies is left to the birds of the heavens:
"A practical literal benefit will come because of allowing the birds to clean the bones of these enemies of God -- a health benefit. Many have been the epidemics that have been caused by the wholesale destruction and devastation of past wars. . . . This victory will be a feast, not only for the literal birds, but also, in a sense, for those who survive, for they will feast because of the end of wickedness." (The Watchtower, 7/1 1967, p. 408)
Jehovah's Witnesses, as all who consider the merits of an ethnic cleansing of their neighbours, expect to enjoy the spoils of war after Armageddon, when their rich neighbour's house and other properties will be theirs for the taking. No JW will not remember talking with "brothers" about which house they should have after Armageddon when they are out in rich neighbourboods knocking on doors. However, the above scenario obviously gave some of them problems. Getting rid of the bodies have been a problem for gangsters on a small scale, and the Nazis on a grander scale, so this monumental slaughter will of course give a serious amount of corpses. There is not much fun sitting on the porch of your newly acquired villa if the beautiful view is spoiled by thousands of dead bodies, being eaten by birds, a time-consuming and not very pretty process.
After considering these problems, the Watchtower leadership came to the conclusion that God could not be content with mere birds, after all. God would use "other means" to get rid of the corpses.
"The bodies of the slain will not molder in honorable burial places. Unburied, their flesh will be picked away clean to the bone, beyond identifying the bare skeletons. Because of the multitude of the slain, it will be a huge feast for the scavengers.. . .So, instead of having their bones eaten clean of all decaying flesh by the maggots at the Valley of Hinnom (or, at Gehenna), the carcasses of the slain enemies at Har-Magedon will, as it were, be eaten clear to the bone by nature's sanitation force, the carrion-eating birds and wild beasts. . . Quite evidently there will be many more bodies strewn over the earth as a result of the war at Har-Magedon than there will be scavenger birds enough to dispose of them all in a reasonable time for human health reasons. So it is reasonable to expect that God will dispose of excess bodies by other means.. . .What a well-deserved, contemptible end for all these opposers of Jehovah and his Messianic kingdom at Har-Magedon!" (Man's Salvation Out of World Distress at Hand!, 1975, pp. 275-6)
This problem was obviously a source of much speculation at Watchtower headquarters. Once they speculated that God would use "highly scientific" means to get rid of the remains of the victims. At the same time, it started arguing that cosmic rays presently were used by God to cause the insanity of this world:
"What is the source of these cosmic rays? Not the stars. It has been scientifically established that the total energy carried by all cosmic ray particles is much more than all the energy ever emitted by stars. Cosmic rays seem to come from all directions with such great energies that scientists have not arrived at any satisfying explanation of their origin. Those of highest energy evidently come from beyond our Milky Way. Studies have been made of the effect of cosmic rays on living cells in animal bodies, particularly with respect to disorders of the mind. What effect do they have or will they have on the way men behave here on earth? Certainly the Creator of cosmic rays, Jehovah God, could use these to affect the minds of his enemies, including the king of the north and the king of the south, and could drive them to mutual slaughter: "every man's sword shall be against his brother." (Ezekiel 38:21, AS) In this prophecy God warns that he will also use other natural forces that are at his disposal, possibly a rain of antimatter that has the property of annihilating any material thing that it meets. He warns all scoffers that he will do an 'unusual work.'" (Your Will Be Done on Earth, 1958, pp. 321-2; bold added)
This annihilation will thus be cleaner than the gas chambers and crematoriums used by the Nazis during World War II, but then again this is an endlösnung for 99.9 % of humanity, not merely for Jews. Some may think that this parallell to the Nazi holocaust is strained and speculative, but in fact the WTS itself uses this term:
"Among all the religious groups that claim to be Christian, which one freely uses God's name, Jehovah, puts full trust in him and his promises and boldly encourages its members to be witnesses of him? (Isaiah 43:10) Without a doubt, these are the ones 'seeking Jehovah.' They urge others to join with them in learning the only sure way to survive the coming global holocaust." (Awake! 8/22 1984, p. 9; bold added)
That the WTS calls the actions of its own god by the term that designates the Nazi extermination of Jews during WWII will baffle anyone who thinks the God of Christianity is a God of love.
The Watchtower Society has no qualms about giving graphic descriptions of this insanity while children are present. Children of Jehovah's Witnesses are expected to be present at all "meetings", including Watchtower and Book Study sessions were all the above quotations are read and repeated over and over again. Even in books directed particularly at children do we find such tasteless descriptions, amply illustrated to make them understand the reality of their playmates becoming bird-fodder, or worse:
"A flesh-eating plague will destroy many. . . . Eaten up will be the tongues of those who scoffed and laughed at the warning of Armageddon! Eaten up will be the eyes of those who refused to see the sign of the "time of the end"! Eaten up will be the flesh of those who would not learn that the living and true God is named Jehovah! Eaten up while they stand on their feet!" (From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, 1958, p. 209)
That the reality of all non-JWs being killed is obvious to the children can be seen from "experiences" like this:
"One day his five-year-old daughter said, "Daddy, I want to grow up so I can be baptized." Later she said, "Daddy, please study the Bible with Jehovah's Witnesses so that you will not be destroyed and then you can be with us in Paradise."" (Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 1983, p. 11)
Some JWs may have found this graphic material nauseating and tasteless. The WTS made it clear that this was the wrong attitude:
"'How horrible all this!' Should that be our reaction of mind toward this prophecy of the disastrous defeat of Gog's dastardly attack upon the only remaining peaceful worshiper of Jehovah on earth at the end of this violent system of things? Not rightly so!" ("The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah" -- How?, 1971, pp. 377-8)
Not only were JWs expected to not mourn with the thought of having their non-JW relatives, workmates, playmates and everybody else slaughtered, it should be a source of joy. In an article explaining how joyful JWs are, titled "The Joyful Nation," we do find this encouragment to outsiders:
"You too can share in this joy. You can learn of the fast-approaching day when the King, Christ Jesus, removes ruinous men and governments and restores Paradise to earth." (The Watchtower, 1/1 1991, p. 4)
In this line of propaganda the blood and gore is hidden behind the word "removes." One can wonder what of the above gives Jehovah's Witnesses such wonderful joy at the prospect of having 99.9% of the world's population "removed."
«An end to Hatred?»
After examining all this evidence, we can conclude by asking the question we initially found in the WTS' own publications: "Why is there so much hatred? Can it possibly be made to disappear?"
The answer to this question may have something to do with abolishing hateful ideologies and religions.