Jan 302010
 

Propriety is something very important within the Jehovah’s Witness culture and worship as it should be. But, the Witnesses take it to a whole new level. Many things that are part of Christian worship in other churches are viewed by Jehovah’s Witnesses as inappropriate and are noticeably absent at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Among these things that you will not see at Kingdom Halls are live musicians: no organists, no pianists and certainly no guitarists or drummers. Years ago, live pianists were at least an option. My wife used to play the piano at our Kingdom Hall and for the circuit assemblies. On a few occasions we even had a small orchestra at our circuit assembly. For congregations without a pianist, records and later cassette tapes and CD’s were available. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there seemed to be a concerted effort by the circuit overseers to remove pianos and pianists from the Kingdom Halls and to utilize the recordings that were supplied by the Watchtower Society.

Several reasons were given for removing the pianos and pianists. First was that in some congregations the quality of the piano or that of the pianist was not up the standard that would be honoring to Jehovah. Second was that using the Society’s recordings contributed to unity within the organization. Finally, it was said that having live music might draw undue attention to the musician rather than to Jehovah. Today, all of the music for Jehovah’s Witness meetings are recordings that are supplied by the Watchtower Society. Along with the music, the content for the meetings is also supplied by headquarters as are the song numbers that are to accompany that content.

During the singing at the Kingdom Hall, you will also see no raising of hands or other expressions of worship that are seen in many churches. There are also no spontaneous expressions of agreement during the sermon, which is referred to as the “public talk” or “public discourse”. The only  “amen” you will normally hear at the Kingdom hall is at the end of the prayers that are said at the beginning and end of each meeting. Raising of hand in worship and saying “amen” during the public talk would be viewed as  inappropriate by the Witnesses.

As I see it now, what is called worship at the Kingdom Hall is very restrained, mostly devoid of emotion, and dry and dead.

Nov 212009
 

I generally avoid using terms such as mind control cult when talking  about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but every so often the writers of the Watchtower publish something that makes it hard not to. Although I was a Jehovah’s Witness for over two decades and have been out now for over a dozen years, it still amazes me the degree to which Witness leadership seeks to exercise control over their followers.

The November 15, 2009 Watchtower study article (page 6 par 19) contains an example of this:

When we are being represented in public prayer, we need to display reverential “fear of God.” (1 Pet 2:17) There may be a proper time and place for some actions that would be inappropriate at a Christian meeting.(Eccl 3:1) For instance, suppose someone sought to have all in a group link arms or hold hands during prayer. This might offend or distract some, including visitors who do not share our beliefs. Some marriage mates might discreetly hold hands, but if they embraced each other during public prayer, those who got a glimpse of such conduct might be stumbled. They might think or get the impression that the couple was focusing on their romantic relationship instead of reverence for Jehovah. Out of deep respect for him, let us therefore “do all things for God’s glory” and avoid conduct that could distract, shock or stumble anyone.- 1 Cor 10:31,32; 2 Cor 6:3.

The first step to understanding this paragraph is grasping the concept of “being represented in prayer.” Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to pray at meetings. Only “spiritually mature” men are allowed to open or close meetings with prayer lest some spiritually less mature man (or God forbid, a woman) might say something not in keeping with current Witness teaching or something that is otherwise inappropriate.

The idea of being stumbled over one thing or other is a common theme in Jehovah’s Witness teaching and culture. Jehovah’s Witness leadership take perfectly valid warnings about stumbling from Jesus and Paul and effectively employ them to their own ends. If they want to prevent the rank and file Witness from engaging in some practice or from adopting some form of dress or grooming, all they have to do is mention that someone might be stumbled over it. By doing that, they implicitly give permission for all Jehovah’s Witnessnes to be stumbled over it. At that point all the true Witnesses will refrain from that behavior.

By doing it that way they have effectively banned the practice or mode of dress without doing so explicitly. They have avoided the appearance of a mind control cult while exercising  the same amount of control over their followers as would any cult.