The Jehovah's Witnesses
and the Theocratic Subversion of Ethnicity

A Paper Presented to the American Academy of Religion
Washington, DC, November 21, 1993
© 1993
Joel Elliott

Please do not quote or reproduce this document without my permission.
This paper is very much work-in-progress, and I would love to hear your responses to this essay as I begin to revise it. Send me email at elliott@email.unc.edu

Since their origins in late nineteenth-century America, the Jehovah's Witnesses have evolved into a well-defined and efficiently organized religious group of global proportions. Recent Society statistics indicate that less than one fourth of contemporary Witnesses live in the country of the movement's birth; the Society now claims a world-wide core membership of over four million.1 The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society--the movement's legally incorporated name--takes special pride in its international membership. One of its recent publications proclaims that "Christian brotherhood unmarred by racial distinctions is a reality among Jehovah's Witnesses in the 20th century."2 Witnesses worldwide routinely gather together in their circuit and district conventions to "rejoice in the same- ness" that transcends their national, ethnic and cultural differences.3

Witness scholar M. James Penton acknowledged that the Watchtower Society "has emphasized the value of ethnic and racial tolerance among its adherents to a greater degree than is the case with most other religious organizations."4 Even in the segregated American religious South, Witness congregations, assemblies and conventions have been fully integrated for decades.5 Based on his research on Witnesses in Africa, Bryan Wilson argued that Witnesses "are perhaps more successful than any other group in the speed with which they eliminate tribal discrimination among their own recruits."6

Yet there are dissident voices that call into question those utopian claims to racial and ethnic transcendence proffered by the Watchtower Society. For example, Werner Cohn and H. H. Stroup (among others) noticed that for years the Witnesses maintained segregated congregations and assemblies in the United States and abroad.7 Barbara G. Harrison claimed that in fact the Witnesses "were among the last of all religious groups to be integrated in the South"; a claim difficult to sustain, given that the Christian church remains one of the most segregated social institutions in the United States.8 The integration of Witness congregations in the United States transpired silently and cautiously during and after the Civil Rights movement. The Society's most recently produced history evidences no awareness of that inconvenient chapter in the American Witness experience.9 Although official statistics do not break membership figures down by ethnicity or color, Americans of African descent appear to be significantly overrepresented in the Watchtower Society; estimates in the 1960s placed African- American membership at 20-30% of their American constituency.10 Given the escalating presence of African- Americans among American Witnesses, it is curious that historically few Blacks have attained positions of prominence within the Society.11

But it is not my intention here either to accuse the Watchtower Society of racism or to exonerate it of such charges. I propose, rather, to explore conspicuous mechanisms within the Watchtower Society that appear particularly crucial to its mission of creating and sustaining its diverse global constituency. I intend, therefore, to draw critical attention to that global, inter-ethnic character of this originally American religious group and to inquire into the strategies by which the Society negotiates those complex and volatile human issues of ethnicity, color and race.

The Globalizing Strategies of an American Religion

The Society's international vision is not a recent development in its 100-year old history. Charles T. Russell engaged in numerous preaching tours around the globe, and sponsored others anxious to distribute Bible Student literature in foreign lands. The Society's second president, J. F. Rutherford, was equally committed to global missions. Under his guidance, numerous developments occurred in Society organization that proved crucial to its escalating international success. Perhaps the most important development during the Rutherford era was the 1938 announcement of theocratic organization that ensured the Society's centralized control over local congregations and uniformity of belief and practice among all Witnesses.12 Under the presidency of N. H. Knorr (1942-77) the Watchtower Society experienced unparalleled growth and expansion. During his tenure of 35 years, the society's worldwide membership grew from 117,209 to 2,248,390; the number of branch offices expanded from 25 to 97. Shortly after he assumed office, Knorr initiated the Theocratic Ministry School for the training of Kingdom Publishers in theocratic knowledge and rhetoric. President Knorr also established the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead (1943) to train missionaries for global service. Under Knorr's guidance, the Society also completed its own translation of the Bible; that translation now appears in a dozen other languages.13

The Theocratic Deployment of Technology

From its unpromising origins as an informal, loosely organized group of Bible Students under the leadership of Russell in late nineteenth-century America, the Watchtower Society has evolved into well-organized global religious organization. That impressive growth is in part attributable to the Society's enthusiastic embrace of innovative information technologies to further its evangelistic goals. Russell realized that "The newspaper has become the great factor in the daily life of the civilized world." By 1904 his sermons were syndicated and by 1913 those sermons appeared in over 2,000 newspapers.14 In 1912 the "Photo-Drama of Creation" appeared, which was an eight- hour long presentation (viewed in four parts) that combined motion pictures and slides with synchronized sound.15 The Society also temporarily invested in radio. Rutherford's sermons first aired in 1922; by 1924 the Society owned its own radio station in New York; and by 1933 over 400 stations were carrying the Society's broadcasts.16 By 1940 over 40,000 portable phonographs were also in use by Kingdom Publishers, playing those radio sermons of Rutherford for the edification of interested householders.17

But it was under the presidency of the late F. W. Franz (1977-92) that the theocratic deployment of technology escalated most significantly. By 1980 the Society had committed itself fully to the computerization of its publishing operations. By the end of the Franz presidency, the Society's central journal The Watchtower was translated into over 111 languages, sustained by a committed translation staff of over 800. The Society developed its own computerized system (MEPS ="Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System") to facilitate the publication of Watchtower materials in over 200 languages. By 1992 the biweekly magazine The Watchtower claimed an average print run of over 16 million copies.

In his provocative study of the emergence of modern nationalism, Benedict Anderson argued that the newspaper served a vital role in the rise of national self-consciousness. The appearance of regional papers contributed to the stabilization of vernacular languages and facilitated the emergence of substantial reading publics. The newspaper became a kind of one-day bestseller, rendered obsolete by the daily mass ritual of "almost precisely simultaneous consumption" in which the nation first conceived itself as an "imagined community."18 The Governing Body similarly believed that "if Jehovah's Witnesses could study the same material in their meetings week by week, and distribute the same literature in the field ministry, this would have a powerful unifying effect."19 Sometime in the early 1980s Society leaders made the simultaneous publication of its two main journals, The Watchtower and Awake! in the major world languages a top priority. With the aid of the Society's sophisticated new multilingual publishing capabilities, by January 1992, 66 out of 111 language editions of The Watchtower appeared at the same time as the English edition.20 Since The Watchtower magazine is a weekly source of spiritual nourishment for all Witnesses, that meant "95 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses receive the same spiritual food at the same time."21 This highly self-conscious mobilization of information technologies is intended to cultivate a sense of a global "imagined community," in which persons of every nation, color and language are joined together by their theocratic same-ness.

But Jehovah's global theocratic organization is inhabited by persons who currently reside in over 200 countries, speak a bewildering array of languages and manifest every imaginable variation in physical appearance and skin color. If the theocratic deployment of modern information technologies has significantly mitigated the disruptive potential of human language, the Society's pervasive iconography reflects a similar attempt to transcend the potentially divisive effects of phenotypical variation within its global constituency. Current Society publications abound in idyllic depictions of earthly life in the millennial paradise. Humans of every distinguishable race and color constitute the "great multitude" of the redeemed who will enjoy that eschatological existence. In the last few decades Society iconography has become increasingly multi-ethnic, and it potentially serves as an index of the movement's rising international composition and of its escalating self- consciousness as an international community.

Theocratic Organization and Discipline

The Watchtower Society functions as a global community, efficiently networked through the theocratic deployment of technology and knowledge. This international sense of community is in part accomplished by the Society's bureaucratic organization, its centralized production of theocratic knowledge and literature, and by the carefully monitored flow of information between its Brooklyn headquarters and local assemblies of Witnesses.

The Watchtower's model for an international, inter-racial society is the theocracy. Currently Jehovah's theocratic kingdom appears on earth in the global network of congregations consisting of individuals representing almost every race and culture.22 Jehovah's Witnesses maintain 98 branch offices in over 200 countries worldwide, with each branch overseeing a portion of the Society's 69,000+ congregations.23 Through its circuit and district overseers, each congregation answers to its branch office, and that office operates under the direct oversight and authority of the world headquarters in Brooklyn. The Governing Body, located at the Brooklyn headquarters, is composed of contemporary representatives of the "faithful and discreet slave" class, those "anointed" ones of the 144,000 destined to reign with Christ in heaven over his millennial kingdom.

The members of the Governing Body are Jehovah's apostolic emissaries on earth, and as such possess unequivocal--though apparently not infallible--authority within the Society. There is no professional clergy, although special pioneers, missionaries and circuit and district overseers may receive minimal remuneration. Local congregations are under the care of elders, but those men are chosen under the Governing Body's supervision and are directly answerable to Society headquarters. Their major role consists of instructing local publishers, cultivating unquestioned loyalty to Jehovah's visible organization. Communication in the Society is vertical and ultimately one-way: the Governing Body communicates its will and individual members accept and implement it. It possesses a totalizing exegetical vision that provides clear and unambiguous theocratic answers to all human questions. A recent Society publication warns that:

Do no conclude that there are different roads, or ways, that you can follow to gain life in God's new system. There is only one. There was just one ark that survived the Flood, not a number of boats. And there will be only one organization--God's visible organization -- that will survive the fast-approaching "great tribulation." It is simply not true that all religions lead to the same goal . . . . You must be part of Jehovah's organization, doing God's will, in order to receive his blessing of everlasting life . . . .24

Consequently, the responsibility of individual members is to accept, digest and proclaim that authoritative interpretation that flows down from that apostolic Watchtower.

The Watchtower Society functions as a kind of total community that provides its members with a totalizing life-world, where all questions are answered and life-saving Truth dispensed.25 Jehovah's Kingdom tolerates no rivals; its claims are omnivorous; commitment must be absolute and unequivocal. Witness lives are thereby constituted by submission and obedience to the Truth revealed to them in scripture through the apostolic aegis of the Governing Body. And those divinely-supported decisions of Jehovah's theocratic representatives encompass all aspects of Witness life, including family relationships, choice of marital partners, and potentially even sexual and reproductive choices.

If it is the Governing Body's responsibility to provide authoritative theocratic guidance in the proper interpretation of God's word, it is the task of local Kingdom Halls--under the careful supervision of Society-appointed elders--to ensure that individuals are properly indoctrinated in Bible Truths before baptism, and to provide opportunities for the education of its members. Each congregation holds five weekly meetings in which members are trained in theocratic knowledge.26 Based on fieldwork with an urban Jehovah's Witness community in the 1960s, Lee R. Cooper confirmed that: "the Society is noted for taking people who are ill at ease in public and training them to be accomplished public speakers who have confidence and ability to articulate their faith to total strangers."27 In their Theocratic Ministry School participants rehearse appropriate conversation introductions for their door-step sermons; they learn to anticipate and respond to potential "conversation stoppers."28 Publishers receive counsel on proper grooming and dress; in Theocratic Ministry School they learn the proper use of gesture, analogy and the rhetorical arts.29 They are taught to keep careful logs on the number of homes visited, the amount of literature distributed and the number of hours spent in Service Ministry. As members mature in their faith, their minds and bodies are methodically transformed by the theocratic discipline. The claims of Jehovah's theocracy are total; allegiance to Jehovah's visible organization transcends all regional loyalties and ethnic identities. The Watchtower's theocratic narrative is aggressive, omnivorous and monological; it has no room for local stories and ethnic particularities.

Countervailing Signals from the Watchtower

Certainly the Jehovah's Witnesses are a rapidly expanding international group firmly committed to a theocratic organization that claims to transcend all national, racial or ethnic allegiances. But the Watch Society's centrifugal dynamics of world mission and ethnic transcendence also reveal equally powerful--though perhaps less obvious--centripetal forces that qualify the Society's otherwise universal claims and aspirations. For one, The Watchtower Society remains firmly centered--organizationally and ideologically--in the United States. James Beckford observed that:

The fact that all editorial facilities are concentrated in Brooklyn, critical decisions are taken there and economic resources are distributed from there accentuates the complete dependence of all Branch organizations . . . on the international centre of the movement. It is from Brooklyn that the unitary ideological thread is produced that links all the diverse parts of this vast organization and that suppresses most opportunities for the production and circulation of deviationist views.30

Predictably, this systematic centralization of theocratic power "has wielded [the Jehovah's Witnesses] into a more self- consciously unified and more determinedly united religious group than almost any other. . ."31

While the Society frantically publishes enormous amounts of literature in over 200 languages, the fact remains that their literature is still written in English in Brooklyn, NY, under their supervision of the exclusively male, white, and predominantly American Governing Body.32 The Society's celebrated New World Translation was translated from the original biblical languages into English. But it subsequently appeared in a dozen or more world languages as a retranslation of the original English version.33 Apparently, only after composition in the Governing Body's "truth language" (i.e., English) is theocratic literature cautiously translated into the less privileged world dialects and safe for global export and consumption.

The colorful illustrations that currently adorn Society publications routinely emphasize the multi-ethnic composition of Jehovah's organization; persons of every color and physical appearance constitute the "great crowd" of faithful Witnesses and populate those idyllic scenes of the millennial paradise on the renovated earth. But this official awareness of Jehovah's Organization as an ethnically diverse, international community has not always been obvious in the Society's iconography. In 1969 Lee Cooper's careful inspection of Society publications revealed that only occasionally did illustrations of Awake! or The Watchtower magazines include Black families or individuals.34 In her insightful autobiography of her life as a Witness in the 1950s and 60s, Barbara Harrison drew attention to what she perceived as the unmistakably American flavor of those utopian scenes of life in the millennium:

America gave birth to this religion; and it remains in essence American. The law-and-order God of the Witnesses is Middle American. . . . And Paradise restored, if the illustrations in Watchtower publications are to be taken literally, will look exactly like an endless Kansas picnic--or a Texas barbecue. Most of the survivors of Armageddon will be attired in clothes from Montgomery Ward; and they will have crew cuts and bouffant hairdos, and skirts decorously short. (Innocence, to the Witnesses, suggests a shirt and tie.) The Witness dream of Eden is a dream of American suburbia--with a few people in exotic foreign dress to lend exoticism to the proceedings.35

Society publications--including its new 750 page history--manifest a pervasive amnesia about those embarrassing ethnocentric traces that linger in its past. One cannot learn, for example, that the Society once required segregated congregations and conventions for Americans of color, or that it once maintained a separate so- called "Colored" Branch in the United States during the 1920s and 30s.36

Since its beginnings in late-nineteenth century America, the Watchtower Society has embraced the most advanced information technologies available. For the most part those technologies were treated as neutral media in the service of worldwide Kingdom proclamation. The Society's unqualified investment in modern technology brings with it perhaps unforseen liabilities that threaten or compromise its claims to timeless, trans-cultural Truth. What becomes of utopian rhetoric and vision in the age of mechanical reproduction? The Society must delicately negotiate the accumulative, potentially transgressive, memories of the printing press and computerized text. A recurrent strategy has been to discourage researchers from digging too deeply in the past. And to explain that Jehovah has only gradually revealed his Truth to the faithful, strategically divesting the organization of claims to infallibility while conversely regarding anything less than unequivocal submission as heresy and grounds for disfellowshiping.

The Watchtower Society manifests a pervasive preoccupation with rational efficiency and technical competence. It is clearly pleased with its complex and sophisticated publishing operations. A recently produced videotape, "Jehovah's Witnesses: The Organization Behind the Name" (1990) proudly rehearses the technological marvels of the Society's massive publishing enterprise, claiming that in the last seventy years the Society had printed over eleven billion pieces of literature. Society officials fastidiously maintain attendance records of their weekly meetings, assemblies, conventions, and Annual Memorial. The organization's yearbooks faithfully reproduce that year's grand totals, followed by pages of statistics meticulously arranged by country. Other Society publications detail the number of journals, books, cassettes, and videos published by the inexhaustible Society presses and distributed by the organization's dedicated members.

Those carefully nurtured statistics of the organization's tangible operations provide quantified proof of Jehovah's unqualified approval of his Watchtower Society. And That deliberately cultivated sense of institutional momentum not only underwrites confidence in the Society's divine guidance, but it also potentially serves as effective medicine--preventative and therapeutic--against the Society's unstable prophetic timetable.37 But there are those who contend that the Society's pretensions of theocratic rationality and efficiency are more apparent than real. Regardless of the technological wizardry accomplished by the Society's publishing enterprise, most copies of The Watchtower and Awake! probably wind up in the trash can--hopefully nowadays they find their way into recycling bins. And it is not unusual to find dusty boxes of unwanted Society books piled up in the corners of used book stores.38 Empirically-based research projects (Bryan Wilson in Japan and Kenya; James Beckford in Britain) suggest that the Society's traditional technique of door-to-door ministry is also seriously overrated. Routinely no more than half of their respondents report that they first encountered the Witnesses in that manner; frequently just as many respondents recalled that they made their first acquaintance with the Society through informal contact with Witness friends and relatives.

That image of rationality is apparent not only in the Society's global organization and operations, but in the individual's gradual enculturation into the theocratic practice. Publisher's are trained to keep careful logs of the number of home bible studies conducted, amount of literature distributed, number of return visits to interested householders, and total hours spent in field ministry. As Society missionaries encounter distant cultures and customs, not only must they teach the natives to forsake their pagan beliefs and practices, but they must "[help] the brothers to learn the value of a schedule, how to keep records, the importance of files."39 During his extensive field research with British Witnesses, James Beckford noticed a pervasive ambience of "utilitarian moderation" in appearance, dress and grooming. He observed, for example, that male Witnesses tended "to wear rather sober suits of traditional design, white shirts and dark ties for congregational meetings," to carry their literature in leather briefcases, and "adopt an air of business-like purposiveness" in meetings and field- ministry.40 The Society's confident claims to have transcended those mundane issues of race, ethnicity and nationality perhaps obscure the wholesale exportation of western ideals and values, transforming Watchtower converts into models of middle-class Americans with impeccable western dress, well-groomed appearance, leather briefcases and--at least for English-speaking converts--Standard American English accents.

Conclusion

The Jehovah's Witnesses appear remarkably successful in their attempts to sustain an ethnically diverse, yet spiritually integrated global community. Jehovah's theocratic organization makes no concessions to the racial and social inequalities that exist outside its righteous boundaries. Witnesses deny all "worldly" distinctions based on race, skin color, ethnicity, nationality and class. In Jehovah's theocratic kingdom ethnic particularities, political allegiances and socioeconomic distinctions are (ideally) repudiated and dissolved. Witness ideology declares that "soon God's kingdom will destroy the present ungodly system of things," and that persons "out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues" will assemble in that great millennial paradise on the newly-renovated earth.41 Within the Watchtower's firm but loving embrace, Jehovah's Witnesses congregate worldwide at the same times, speaking the same theocratic language, listening to the same Truth, proclaiming the same kingdom message to any and all who would listen and obey. But there is another, more complicated dimension, to this triumphalist millenarian rhetoric.

During public showings of the innovative "Photo-Drama of Creation" in New York City in 1914, Charles Russell noticed that as the number of blacks in attendance increased, his white audience diminished. When he realized that many whites resisted the idea of intermingling with blacks, Russell decided to segregate the blacks into the theater's gallery. To those understandably offended by that compromising maneuver, Russell explained that he must place God's cause over issues of race. He comforted them with the assurance that very soon all those issues would be resolved in the millennial kingdom, when the faithful would receive "new bodies"--presumably white--where color and sex distinctions would be no more.42

In a question-and-answer column in a 1973 issue of The Watchtower magazine, an anonymous Society writer pondered the submitted question: "What is the view of Jehovah's Witnesses toward interracial marriage?" After carefully rehearsing all relevant biblical evidence, the writer assured his querist that interracial marriages are not intrinsically wrong. But, he added, deep-seated prejudices remain in the world and "A Christian, being realistic, must face life as it is--not as he wishes it might be." One must be theocratically circumspect about such matters; while not wrong per se, if such a marriage would compromise one's potential to give a witness for Jehovah, it might be theocratically imprudent to pursue the marriage.43 On the one hand the Watchtower Society's millenarian discourse offers utopian visions of racial harmony, revolutionary images of the overthrow of existing world governments, idyllic scenes of life in an Edenic paradise. But from another perspective those radical claims seem to leave our troubled world relatively undisturbed. Jehovah's revolutionary witnesses may then appear more as supporters of the status quo than as apocalyptic harbingers of a new world order, compromised by their complicitous silence and political indifference. Perhaps both dimensions of this millenarian discourse are to some extent true. Sylvia Thrupp has suggested that millenarian movements may offer their devotees an "imaginative perception" of another life in "dramatic contrast" with the mundane demands and troubled horizons of the present. But unlike the reader of a enchanting novel or the viewer of a mesmerizing play, the believer can enter that perfect world and collaborate in its construction.44 While dismissing all attempts to reform this corrupt and doomed world system, Jehovah's Witnesses are certainly not a quiet and passive people. A Watchtower publication declares that:

Right now people of all races and nationalities who will make up part of the "new earth" are being gathered into the Christian congregation. The unity and peace that exists among them is only a small preview of what will make living on the paradise earth after Armageddon such a pleasure. Truly, God's kingdom will bring to pass what no human government could even hope to do.45

Witnesses imagine a perfect world on a renovated earth, ruled by a heavenly government of Jesus and his Anointed, in which all sin, suffering and discrimination are forever banished from human experience. They are fervently engaged in a world mission, harnessing every available resource and technology in their task of Kingdom proclamation and in their collective efforts to create and sustain an imagined theocratic community right here on earth.

ENDNOTES

1. The Yearbook reported the number of Witness Publishers in the United States in 1992 at approximately 860,000, with a 2% increase over 1991. 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses (WTBTS, 1993), pp. 40-41. While most non-Witnesses (and Witnesses) do not have access to Watchtower records, Witness statistical criteria are rigorous and appear reliable. Raymond Franz remarked that "I have never known of any instance where statistics were altered, at least by the international headquarters. Individuals and "pioneers" might fluff up their figures for "hours," etc., but branch offices were expected to be scrupulously accurate in the figures they forwarded on to the headquarters. I think one can accept published statistics as valid." Personal correspondence from Raymond Franz, July 14, 1992. The Society urges individual publishers to average 10 hours a month in field ministry, Regular Pioneers 90 hours per month, Auxiliary Pioneers 60 hours per month, and Special Pioneers 140 hours per month. But Franz argues that "any person who reports even one hour a month is counted as a "publisher.' 10 hours a month . . . is a sort of unspoken goal but not necessary for qualifying as a publisher." Personal correspondence from Raymond Franz, July 14, 1992.

2. Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 305.

3. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Visions of Glory: A History and a Memory of Jehovah's Witnesses (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), p. 268.

4. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of the Jehovah's Witnesses (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), p. 286.

5. [Documenting the integration of Witnesses in the US South is extremely difficult. I make this assertion based on interviews with Witness experts like Raymond Franz and Jerry Bergman.] 6. Bryan R. Wilson, "Jehovah's Witnesses in Africa," New Society (12 July 1973), p. 75.

7. See, e.g., Werner Cohn, "They Hope for Armageddon." [Review of Marley Cole, Jehovah's Witnesses: The New World Society] The New Leader, October 17, 1955, pp. 24-6; and Herbert Hewitt Stroup, The Jehovah's Witnesses (New York: Russell & Russell, 1945), p. 29.

8. Given their resistance to any direct form of social reform, it is no surprise that the Witnesses did not participate in civil rights movement in the American South (or anywhere for that matter). See Harrison, Visions of Glory, p. 261; also pp. 159 (anti-Semitism), 254-5.

9. See Jehovah's Witnesses: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (WTBTS, 1993).

10. This is based on a total African-American population of ca. 12% in the United States. Such estimates are simply an guesses, but the percentage could be significantly higher. See William J. Whalen, Armageddon Around the Corner: A Report on Jehovah's Witnesses (New York: The John Day Co., 1962), p. 203; Lee R. Cooper,"'Publish' or Perish: Negro Jehovah's Witness Adaptation to the Ghetto," in Religious Movements in Contemporary America, I. I. Zaretsky and M. P. Leone, eds. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 705.

11. Firpo Carr's claim that Bill Jackson, who served on the Governing Body until his death in 1981, was Black seems a rather desperate attempt. Others who knew Jackson personally (e.g., Raymond Franz, Randy Watters) confirm that not only did Jackson appear white, but to their knowledge he never claimed otherwise. See Carr, A History of Jehovah's Witnesses from a Black American Perspective (Hawthorne, CA: Scholar Technological Institute of Research, Inc., 1993), pp. 45-8; see also Jackson's birth certificate reproduced on p. 398, where both his parents are listed as "white" (sic!). See also the unpublished paper of Jerry Bergman, "Blacks and Jehovah's Witnesses" which cites Randy Watters, "Was There a Black Man on the Governing Body?," [review of Carr's book] Free Minds 12 (2, March/April, 1993), p. 11. 12. Other developments include: in 1931 the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was officially unveiled by Watchtower leaders as the Society's proper designation. In 1935 it was announced that "new light" on Jehovah's word indicated that membership was no longer restricted to that "little flock" of the 144,000 who would reign in heaven with Christ during the millennium. Rather, Society leaders revealed the existence of a "great multitude" or Jonadab class entitled to a glorious existence on the renovated earth. 13. The New World Translation of the Greek Christian Scriptures was completed in 1950, and the complete translation was available in 1961. For the most recent revision, see New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (WTBTS, 1984 ed. [orig. 1961])

14. Proclaimers, p. 58.

15. By 1914 that production had appeared all over North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, thrilling audiences with its innovative panorama of the unfolding of God's plan from the Creation to the Millennium. See Proclaimers, p. 60.

16. Proclaimers, pp. 80-1.

17. Proclaimers, pp. 565.

18. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, 2nd ed. (New York: Verso, 1991), p. 35.

19. Proclaimers, pp. 597-8.

20. At the same time, the Society also claimed an average printing run of 13 million copies of Awake! magazine in 67 languages, 30 of which appeared at the same time as the English edition.

21. The Society also claimed an average printing run of 13,110,000 copies of Awake! in 67 languages; 30 of which appeared at the same time as the English edition. See the 1992 Yearbook of the Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 18.

22. JWs are legally present 229 countries and are currently under legal restrictions in perhaps 25 countries (?).

23. See 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses (WTBTS, 1993), p. 33.

24. You Can Live Forever on Paradise on Earth (Brooklyn, NY: WTBTS, 1982, 1990), p. 255 [italics added].

25. I am dependent here on Erving Goffman, Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1961); and Lewis A. Coser, Greedy Institutions: Patterns of Undivided Commitment (New York: The Free Press, 1974). Goffman defines a total institution as "a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life." Asylums, p. xiii. Koser argues that greedy institutions rely, not on the physical sequestering of inmates, but on "non-physical mechanisms" that separate insiders from outsiders, and on the voluntary compliance of its subjects. Greedy Institutions, p. 6.

26. In accord with the Society's unwavering commitment to transform every member into an accomplished Kingdom minister, the weekly Theocratic Ministry School was specifically "designed for the purpose of teaching and equipping Jehovah's witnesses to preach the good news."

27. Lee R. Cooper,"'Publish' or Perish: Negro Jehovah's Witness Adaptation to the Ghetto," p. 712.

28. See Reasoning from the Scriptures (WTBTS, 1985, 1989), pp. 9-24. Publishers are always persistent in conversation, and have a ready comeback for most any comment or question. 29. Raymond V. Franz relates his involvement in the Governing Body's decision to forbid all forms of non-genital copulation in marriage. See his Crisis of Conscience: The Struggle between Loyalty to God and Loyalty to One's Religion (Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1983), pp. 42-50. While the policy was reversed in 1978, for five years it was used to disfellowship sexually disobedient members. On dress and grooming, see "Why Do I Have to Be Different?," Awake! (June 8, 1992), pp. 16-8. On rhetorical preparation, see the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook (WTBTS, 1971). 30. James A. Beckford, The Trumpet of Prophecy: A Sociological Study of Jehovah's Witnesses (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1975), p. 81.

31. Beckford, Trumpet of Prophecy, p. 96.

32. While all members of the Governing Body are white, several members were born outside the US, representing the British Isles, northern Europe, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, etc.

33. Proclaimers, P. 611.

34. Cooper,"'Publish' or Perish: Negro Jehovah's Witness Adaptation to the Ghetto," p. 710. Carr's explanation that the omission of Blacks in the Society's illustrations was inadvertent and an "oversight" surely misses the point. See Carr, A History of Jehovah's Witnesses, pp. 201-18.

35. Visions of Glory, p. 50.

36. Carr has conveniently reproduced the activity records of the "Colored branch" in the United States, 1927-32, from the Society's Yearbook. See Carr, A History of the Jehovah's Witnesses, pp. 423-31.

37. See Beckford, Trumpet of Prophecy, p. 221.

38. While this may be true of their more recent publications, older society publications, especially those from the Russell and Rutherford eras, are now considered collector's items. See Jerry Bergman, "Witnesses to a New Area of Book Collecting," Book Collector's Market 4 (May-June 1979), pp. 1-9.

39. Proclaimers, p. 539.

40. Beckford, Trumpet of Prophecy, pp. 144-5.

41. Reasoning From the Scriptures, 305.

42. The Watchtower, April 1, 1914, pp. 105-6.

43. The Watchtower, December 1, 1973, pp. 755-6. The texts of the articles referred to in this and the preceeding paragraph are reproduced in Carr's A History of the Jehovah's Witnesses, pp. 107-8, 224-7.

44. Sylvia L. Thrupp, "Millennial Dreams in Action: A Report on the Conference Discussion," in Millennial Dreams in Action: Essays in Comparative Study (The Hague: Mouton & Co., Pub., 1962), p. 25.

45. [emphasis added] You Can Live Forever, p. 160.

 


"The Jehovah's Witnessesand the Theocratic Subversion of Ethnicity"
© 1993 Joel Elliott
URL: http://www.unc.edu/~elliott