Michael Has Left the “Building”
Theological thistles & congregational conundrums troubled the King
Day 350, Week 50, Article 49
These above titled words have been more fabulously associated with the Man from Graceland, Elvis Presley. It seems the famous reframe “Elvis has left the building” has echoed in auditoriums and arenas across America forever. Michael Joseph Jackson too has left the “building”; however one of a different sort. You see, the Bible likens the Christian Congregation to a building, and identifies the apostles and prophets as the foundation or infrastructure of said building. Jesus Christ is the foundation cornerstone of this “household of God.” (Eph 2:19, 20, New World Translation) After experiencing some frustration with the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Michael (who was raised in the religion along with his siblings) left the ‘building.’ His family considers his departure a thorny issue, and would rather not discuss the matter. But what were some of the attitudes or ‘house rules’ that drove the Moonwalker to step?
A House Divided?: Jesus said “a house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt 12:25, NWT) While some Witnesses believe the organization may be on the verge of “collapse” in the form of profound reorganizational changes, many do not. Michael, however, noted a few contradictions. For instance, he thought the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes takes itself too serious. Take the case of what is stated in the July 15, 2010, Watchtower under the article, “The Spirit Searches into the Deep Things of God.” There the text at Daniel 12:3, 4 is partially quoted as follows: “The ones having insight will shine like the brightness of the expanse; and those who are bringing the many to righteousness, like the stars to time indefinite, even forever…and the true knowledge will become abundant” (par. 8). Essentially, as stated in the article, the expression “the ones having insight” is restricted to the Governing Body located at the “world headquarters” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This can be discerned by the first question on paragraph 10 which asks: “Through whom does the spirit reveal deep truths during the last days?” The Governing Body itself says that, through holy spirit, only the Governing Body can reveal “deep truths” of the Bible in these last days, hence, the faithful should look to it exclusively. Yet, the Governing Body also stated in a new book it released last year that it does not consider itself to be leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Though he didn’t live to see this example of an apparent organizational contradiction, he did observe others that were indicative of what he saw as an emerging pattern. Furthermore, serious students of the Bible see the prickly conclusion reached by the Governing Body in the above Watchtower as running counter to the part of Daniel 12:4 it omitted. It says that “in the time of the end…Many [not just the 10 members of the Governing Body] will rove about, and the true knowledge would become abundant.”
The Outhouse?: Jesus Christ, too, speaks of his “Father’s house.” (John 14:2, King James Version) However, he said nothing about an outhouse–particularly for Blacks. Yes, the thorny issue of racism–both inside and outside the Witness organization–needled the Gloved One. Historically, the Governing Body has avoided the subject of racism in Witness publications. However, it made this frank admission in the November 2009 issue of Awake! magazine: “Feelings of racial superiority have ‘provided justification for colonial treatment and slavery of other people,’ wrote Professor Wen-Shing Tseng in his Handbook of Cultural Psychiatry. He added that race has been used ‘to justify social, economic, and political inequalities.’ Even today, racism exists in many parts of the world.” The monthly magazine went on state: “Beginning in 1950 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization published a series of statements intended to combat racism. The statements were authored by anthropologists, geneticists, and sociologists. Yet, racism persists. Clearly, an awareness of the facts is not enough.” (Awake! November 2009) Yes, in the world outside the Witness organization, “racism persists.” But what about inside the Congregation itself?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not immune to racism. In fact, it rears its ugly head within the organization just as it does elsewhere. How does Jehovah God feel about racist Witnesses? “God will not accept as his servants those whose hearts are filled with badness,” says the Governing Body through this issue of Awake!, “including [Witnesses who harbor] hatred and racial prejudice. (1 John 3:15) In fact, the time is fast approaching when God will wipe all wicked people [including racists] off the face of the earth.” Michael would have been pleased with such candor some deem as being uncharacteristic for the Governing Body.
However, if I know Michael, he would have asked why the material in this Awake! article wasn’t put in a study article of a Watchtower Study Edition where all of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world would have studied it. ‘Instead,’ he likely would have reasoned, ‘it was relegated to an auxiliary article in Awake! that wasn’t even featured on the cover.’ (In Awake!’s defense and to its credit, what was shown on the cover of the November 2009 issue was a young attractive mixed-race couple. The handsome White man is holding hands with a beautiful care-free Black woman. This graphic is a first for Awake!)
Room Additions: Still, when the dust settled after “room additions” (or, theological shifts/adjustments) in the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the King of Pop still identified himself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the day he died. While the Governing Body may be going through what some Witnesses see as an identity crises, in their newly released publication, God’s Word for Us Through Jeremiah (2010), it states the following: “God’s people today are not prophets. We are not inspired to add to Jehovah’s infallible words of truth found in the Bible.”
Indeed, in the mist of all the seeming contradictions and conundrum, embracing these words and sincerely taking them to heart is a move in the right direction for all Witnesses. So, Michael may have formally left the building, but to some he never left the truth. Peace and blessings to all. Amen.