Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, Ballard

http://www.jw.org/en/wp_E_20130801.prd_md

I was excited to visit this church.  I was excited because I had downloaded a PDF of the Watchtower magazine, the Jehovah’s Witness publication, in preparation for my visit, and the magazine all about ending racism and prejudice.

Seriously, if they had preached this, I would have been quite happy.  Because this is the sort of thing I’m looking for.  Spoiler alert:  They did not preach this.  But we’ll get to that.

I had written the address down wrong, and was in haste to get to the Kingdom Hall from the Monastery I’d visited earlier in the morning, and this flustered me a little as I tried to find the place.  I set a spiral search pattern, and was finally rewarded, just in time to attend the services.

I went in, and they immediately knew that I was new.  For one thing, I wasn’t dressed as nicely as they were.  I hadn’t shaved in a few days, and my hair was a little unkempt.  Plus, I toted along with my backpack.  Nobody else had a backpack.  Nearly everyone I came across asked me (in a friendly way) who I was and how I had come to be here.  I chose not to tell them that I was an atheist blogger.  I didn’t lie, I told them I was visiting lots of churches in my area, and I was looking to pay close attention to the pastor’s message.  It was true, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty at the omission.

A lot of people came by to say hi.  Some were sent to say hi by other people.  Four different people told me that they wanted to talk to me after the service, and one guy tried to get my phone number.

Now, I wasn’t intimidated, or anything like that, everyone was very nice and quite friendly.  I think they wanted to make sure that I felt comfortable and that I would be coming back.  That’s what they do.  They’re pretty good at it.  They could have done it a little less.

Inside, this place was the opposite of the Monastery I’d been to earlier that morning.  There was only one decoration, a very large vase about four feet tall, filled with colorful spring flowers.  There were pews, a stage with a podium… and nothing else.  It was like a clean and well-appointed conference room.  Nothing to distract you from the presentation.

I told one of the volunteers who were helping organize the meeting (they’re not called sermons, and nobody gets paid, so nobody has a title, it’s all volunteer) that I was excited about the anti-racism message in Watchtower, and was looking forward to that, and he informed me that I had downloaded the wrong thing.  They wouldn’t be teaching from that.  He handed me the thing they would be teaching.  It was about courage and obedience.

Well, okay.  Maybe it will be as good as the Catholic service then, I thought.  The Priest talked about courage.  That was good.

I took a seat in the very front row.  I was the only one in the front row.  Right before the meeting started, someone handed me a bible, since I didn’t bring my own, and a hymnal, which was helpful.  Someone else also gave me a booklet about Jehova’s Witness faith, which was a nice gesture.  The whole time I was there, people were constantly hovering over me, to see if I needed anything.  At first I felt like a customer in a swanky store, being cared for.  But after a while it felt like I had a dozen needy girlfriends, all trying to get my attention.  I know they were just being nice, but it creeped me out a little.

Don’t take offense, Witnesses.  It’s not you.  It’s me.

Things got started.  We sang exactly one song, and prayed exactly one prayer, and then got down to brass tacks.  These guys don’t monkey around.  There was no ritual.  There was no “tradition.”  There were no Hallelujahs, no offerings, no sick family members to pray over, and no ceremony.  There was just a man at a podium giving a talk.

Now, I have to admit something here:  If I believed in God, and if I attended a church, this is how I’d like it go.  No golden treasures on display, and no loud rock & roll, no chanting in any language foreign or domestic, and no sitting on the floor on pillows getting muscle cramps in my calves.  I mean, seriously, if I was a Buddhist, I’d have to start stretching before morning prayers so I wouldn’t pull something.

So, the sermon.  The person leading the meeting gave a nice talk, that was all over the map.  He read a bit from Exodus, Isaah, Mark, Acts, Luke, Matthew… a little bit from a lot of books.  His message was this:  Be courageous in your faith and duty to God.  Specifically, when you’re out there trying to convert people, be brave.  There was some reference to being faithful as well, and what would happen to you if you weren’t (example, Egypt got all kinds of trouble because they wouldn’t work with Moses), and a bit about how courageous Moses was.  And then, there was a bit of good old fashioned “end times” talk.   We are currently living in the end of days, and very close to Judgement, which puts a bit of pressure on the flock to convert folks.  Hence the need to be brave.

The sermon concluded, and someone else got up and started to teach a lesson from Watchtower.  The actual lesson, not the wrong thing about racism that I downloaded.  What was the actual lesson?  God’s name is actually Jehovah.  He doesn’t like it when you call him by another name, and you can’t properly glorify Him unless you use the name Jehovah.  Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Lord, or God, are not the correct terms at all.

That was the lesson.

A mind-numbingly stupid, pedantic exercise of going through the Bible to places that suggested God’s real name, and how to use it properly.  Along with input from the members of the audience, about how they liked to use Jehovah instead of God or anything else.  I didn’t stay until the end of the lesson.

I wanted to get home to wash up, have a beer or three, and wait for my friend to come over and hang out.  He has a World War II bombing campaign game that we like to play on Sundays, and being late for that because of the Watchtower lesson would not have made my day. (Which by the way, ended up being very pleasant).

Score:

I’m not counting the “courage” bit as a positive, because the context was in being courageous in converting other people, and converting other people is specifically excluded from my criteria.

Being good to your fellow human: 0 (no mention)
Help your community: 0 (no mention)
Be good to yourself: 0 (no mention)
Good and timely advice: 0 (focused on conversion)

Total: 0

At least it’s not as bad as Mars Hill.

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17 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, Ballard

  1. “What was the actual lesson? God’s name is actually Jehovah. He doesn’t like it when you call him by another name, and you can’t properly glorify Him unless you use the name Jehovah. Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Lord, or God, are not the correct terms at all. That was the lesson.”
    Oh yeah, I would feel truly improved by this…

  2. The being good parts are in the public watchtower, the study watchtower is all about obeying.

    Also the name “Jehovah” was added by the Witnesses in the new testament, and that particular watchtower had a bit of a circular reason to have it in there.

    Did you know that when they (the ancients not the jw’s) added diacritics to hebrew in order to convey vowels that they added the vowels for “adonai” rather than the spoken vowels due to superstition so that it became YAHOWAH, later around the 15/16th century in Germany it then became Jehovah and was imported back into English.

    I think the splitting of public and study edition is a calculated ploy to stop visitors such as you to convey interesting facts about religion when they visit.

    • I find my eyes start to glaze over whenever a religious person goes on pedantically about some thing that is based on a translation of a translation of a rewrite as if it was a supreme court ruling that must be parsed with utmost accuracy.

      I mean, everybody needs a hobby I guess, but that’s just not my idea of interesting.

      • LDS (Mormon) here, and I completely agree. I’m sure every church has meetings that may tend to get rather pedantic. In the my church (as a whole), most of the time, pedantry is avoided, as it is usually not necessary for salvation. But when the discussion gets to that, I feel the same way as you, eyes glazed over.

  3. Ex-JW here— that’s pretty much it.

    Religions have certain signatures. Pentacostals speak in tongues, Catholics have elaborate churches and a bunch of Saints for every possible concern, stuff like that. Jehovah’s Witnesses are all about the boredom. Everything is boring. The Kingdom Hall (they hate it when you call it a Church) is boring, like you saw. The hymns are boring muzakal tripe, going door to door is boring. Boredom is their sacrament to God. It’s their proof they are really dedicated and faithful, because nobody could put up with that much tedium if they didn’t love Jehovah.

  4. You completely nailed it accurately. They try to look mainstream and all about good service and the community, but you can quickly see that it’s all about converting people. Whenever they refer to “Christians” they don’t mean ‘followers of Jesus’ they mean Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whenever they talk about anything about “Jehovah” they really mean “The Organization”. They mention “The Organization”, “Governing Body” (The 8 leaders in NY), “Faithful and Discreet Slave” (another term for Governing Body) as much if not more than Jehovah and Jesus, especially in prayer.

    The world is going to end soon, ONLY Jehovah’s Witnesses know how to survive, EVERYONE else is not only wrong, they are completely controlled by Satan and should be avoided and feared. You must believe the current understandings of “The Truth” absolutely without question, or else you are an apostate. You are not allowed to question, you can only ‘research’ in their own publications. Any kind of outside research or questioning will quickly get you corrected or kicked out of the church for apostacy.

    It is a fear-based form of Christianity. People don’t preach out of love, they preach out of fear. If you don’t do enough, you may not get resurrected. If you don’t do more and more, you may not make it! People don’t believe the doctrines out of love, it’s out of fear of questioning authority. They are specifically told in black and white that independent thinking is dangerous! Yes, using your brain and critical thinking skills is dangerous. One great example of this is that they demonize college. Elders (clergy) can be removed from their position if their kids go to college. They don’t want smart critical thinkers in their flock, just sheep. If they have “The Truth”, so much that everyone else in the world is wrong and will die, then why can’t it stand to any legitimate form of scrutiny?

    If you want to ever leave, you will be shunned. There is not legitimate reason to leave (why since it’s the truth?). So if you leave it’s YOUR FAULT, never can it be due to anything about the faith itself. It’s because you wanted to live in sin. You wanted to fornicate. You wanted riches, money. All your fauult. Forget best friends, family, PARENTS, they will all shun you. It’s again in black in white in their Watchtower to avoid anyone who leaves.

    Enough said, it’s a cult. They meet every sign. Authoritative leaders with complete control and complete control of the current definition of ‘The Truth’. Not allowed to question authority. Fear of the outside world. No reasonable way to leave, with shunning of former members, including parents/children. Any form of dissonance will get you disfellowshipped (and shunned). Constant pressure to do more; you are never good enough. etc etc etc. Google signs of a cult, and they are everything.

    From a enlightened former Jehovah’s Witness and happy Atheist…

  5. Your scores nail it pretty well. I would actually give them -1 for “help your community”, because the JW idea of community is restricted to JWs in good standing only, and the only officially endorsed way to help non-believers is to convert them.

  6. Regarding,Jehovah’s Witnesses *shunning*.
    Watchtower religion is the *Hotel California* you can check in but not *check out*.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult or high control group because they cut you off (harsh shunning) for dissent of any kind.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest turnover rate of any religion in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of those who become members will leave. There is something deeply wrong with an organization that claims to be
    Christian and breaks apart families, shunning even their own children.

    This form of shunning called “Disfellowshipping” is nothing more than psychological brutality meted out to keep the rank and file in line with fear and stigmatization and has led some to commit suicide. Jehovah’s Witnesses will only treat you with love and respect if you go along 100% with their distortions.

    Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

  7. They have a clear difference between public teaching and internal teaching.

    Public: “God will destroy all wicked people”

    Internal: “The term ‘wicked people’ refers to everyone who is not a Jehovah’s Witness, or who is a Jehovah’s Witness but does not have enough field service hours or did not obey the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ or did not attend all meetings or does not believe every word in the Watchtower or likes worldly music.”

  8. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m happy to have you attending one of our meetings, even just to scope it out. There’s no need to feel that you shouldn’t tell us about your beliefs as an atheist; we’re quite accustomed to speaking with people from all backgrounds and I’m sure you would’ve been treated kindly and with respect. In fact, you may have gotten more interesting responses than the general ‘welcome’ ones. Personally, I would’ve enjoyed speaking to you about your interest in us from an atheist’s perspective. 🙂

    In any event, as you got to see firsthand, we’re not much about rituals, awe-inspiring buildings, etc. Instead, we put an emphasis on our teaching from the Bible. The primary method we use is topical study (which is why you observed us reading from all different books of the Bible on a single topic). The lesson from the study article you observed is admittedly very elemental, but very necessary. God’s name appears in the Bible nearly 7,000 times (far more than any other name), and yet most Christians never use it, nor does it appear in most Bible versions, and this is because of a superstition that developed hundreds of years ago and became tradition. Even recently, Pope Benedict gave directions for Catholics to refrain from the growing use of God’s name in the Church, which led to at least one Catholic Bible translation removing it in a revision.

    God’s name “Jehovah” (or “Yehovah”/”Yahweh”) is special because of its meaning; it is a name that could not be applied to any other god or person. It essentially means ‘he causes to become’, and in the explanation given to Moses in the account of the burning bush (Exodus chapter 3), the practical meaning of it was that no matter what problem his people would encounter, this God Jehovah ‘will become’ the answer to it so as to accomplish what he has promised them. That meaning gave the Israelites the courage to go on the exodus out of Egypt. Understanding the meaning of the name of the God of the Bible then is very relevant for believers today because it conveys hope that he has the will and ability to cause things to turn out exactly as he has promised.

    BTW, you may be interested in this FAQ from our website: http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/who-saved/

  9. Great piece!

    The saddest part about the witnesses is not the brainwashing or the disfellowships that occur on a daily basis, but rather, the impotence of many to do anything about it.

    The elders who subject young and old Jehovah witnesses to emotional blackmail to stop them from leaving the cult go about their regular jobs in our communities and no one is the wiser about what they did in their disciplinary meetings.

    The town of Sanford Maine, for example, will never know that their fire Marshall, Peter Cutrer, recently broke a new family up in his capacity as a Jehovah witness elder.

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