Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Respond to All Accusations Made Against Them?

image from jw.org

What JW.ORG Says

“Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the Bible’s advice not to respond to all accusations and instances of ridicule. For example, a Bible proverb says: “The one who corrects a ridiculer invites dishonor.” (Proverbs 9:​7, 8; 26:4) Rather than being pulled into quarreling by an undue concern over false accusations, we focus on pleasing God.​—Psalm 119:69.

Of course, there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) We respond to sincere people who are interested in finding out the truth, but we avoid getting into pointless arguments. We thus follow the teachings and examples of Jesus and the early Christians.”

The Truth

What are these accusations that Watchtower is supposedly not responding to? A quick look at the Controversies and Criticismssection of the Wikipedia entry for Jehovah’s Witnesses shows three main “allegations”:

  • Free Speech and Thought: “Doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses are established by the Governing Body.[346][347] The denomination does not tolerate dissent over doctrines and practices;[160][348][349][350] members who openly disagree with the group’s teachings are expelled and shunned.[255] Witness publications strongly discourage followers from questioning doctrine and counsel received from the Governing Body, reasoning that it is to be trusted as part of “God’s organization”.[350][351][352][353] It also warns members to “avoid independent thinking”, claiming such thinking “was introduced by Satan the Devil”[354][355] and would “cause division”.[356] Those who openly disagree with official teachings are condemned as “apostates” who are “mentally diseased”.[260][357][358]
  • New World Translation: “Various Bible scholars, including Bruce M. Metzger[371] and MacLean Gilmour,[372] have said that while scholarship is evident in New World Translation, its rendering of certain texts are inaccurate and biased in favor of Witness practices and doctrines.[373][374][375][376][377]
  • Mishandling of Child Sex Abuse Cases: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of having policies and culture that help to conceal cases of sexual abuse within the organization.[401] The group has been criticized for its “two witness rule” for church discipline, based on its application of scriptures at Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:15–17, which requires sexual abuse to be substantiated by secondary evidence if the accused person denies any wrongdoing.[402][403][404] In cases where corroboration is lacking, the Watch Tower Society’s instruction is that “the elders will leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands”.[405] 

The curious thing is that Watchtower has responded to all these accusations on their website, in their publications and in videos.*

Why, then, does Watchtower say it does not respond to such accusations?

The primary reason is that Watchtower (meaning the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses) does not want to frame these accusations as as such. They have no earnest desire to genuinely address the points made against them. Instead, they have used JW.ORG as a platform to re-frame allegations as silly misunderstandings, and thereby respond to arguments that don’t really exist. Rebutting the deceptive logic and bad-faith arguments presented on JW.ORG is why JWFAQ was started in the first place.

Many of the Frequently Asked Questions articles on JW.ORG are asked in such a way to be easily disprovable, or to skirt the underlying problem. A number of these have already been debunked in detail on this website, but to cite one additional example:

  • Are Jehovah’s Witnesses an American Sect?
    • Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect by most definitions, but by framing the question around being an American sect, Watchtower can avoid the issue of what constitutes a religion being considered a sect, and instead focus on whether or not Jehovah’s Witnesses are distinctly American.
    • When the issue of whether or not they are a sect is brought up, Watchtower says “Some define a sect as a group that has broken away from an established religion.” They do not say who supposedly defines the word this way, and the fact that they do not explore all possible definitions of the word allows them to argue with “some” imaginary third party.
    • The primary definition of the word sect in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian group with somewhat different beliefs to most Christian denominations. By this definition, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect.

As far as your average, everyday Witnesses who may encounter allegations in their ministry, they are often unable to respond because they are unaware that the accusations exist in the first place.

Watchtower tells its members that any and all negative/critical news reports of their organization are to be entirely dismissed, as a recent Watchtower article shows:

From the November 2019 Watchtower Study Edition: The caption states: “When a report appears on TV about apostates who spread lies about Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Witness family right away turns off the TV.”

Satan, “the father of the lie,” uses those under his control to spread lies about Jehovah and about our brothers and sisters. (John 8:44) For instance, apostates publish lies and distort facts about Jehovah’s organization on websites and through television and other media. Those lies are among Satan’s “burning arrows.” (Eph. 6:16) How should we respond if someone confronts us with such lies? We reject them! Why? Because we have faith in Jehovah and we trust our brothers. In fact, we avoid all  contact with apostates. We do not allow anyone or anything, including curiosity, to draw us into arguing with them.

Watchtower–Study Edition November 2019, “Are You Maintaining Your ‘Large Shield of Faith’?”

The article, of course, does not state what these “lies” are. The impression given to Witnesses, then, is that any negative information about the organization must be inherently untrue. The direction given to Jehovah’s Witnesses is clear: Don’t engage. “Reject them.”

In truth, rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses do not respond to accusations because they are either unaware of them or assume them to be “lies” among “Satan’s burning arrows.” Watchtower itself does respond to allegations, but only subtly, on its own home turf, and without acknowledging any of the actual nuanced criticisms leveled against them.

*Rebuttals to the three cited articles are available on JWFAQ

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