neverendingjounrey, you bring up an interesting piont. The new GB members don't bother with trying to get closer and closer to truth. They don't bother with it, at least not seriously, but every once in a while they unveal some superficial change that makes it look like they're "doing their job." Having someone like Fred Franz makes the upper echelons look that much closer to the "actual" heavenly organization, so they have to make it seem like this is still a facet of thir leadership. Of course, they suck at doing so, and any serious scholar can see through their feeble attempts at refining doctrine.
Governing Body 2.0
I do find it interesting that the Governing Body established in the 1970s waited until the mid 1990s before it started to appoint new members. In fact, it may be worth noting that new Governing Body members began to be appointed only after the generation doctrine began to be dismantled. It seems as though GB 1.0 was holding out all those years, actually believing that a new era of leadership was not going to be necessary. Then comes the 1990s, the generation doctrine is gone, and new members to the body begin to be appointed.
Somewhere else on JWD someone was speculating that they dismantled the generation doctrine, not just to extend the life of the end times dogma, but to allow a younger generation of GB members into their ranks.
Thanks for the book recommendation, Drew. I'll certainly add it to my to-read list.
I understand where you are coming from with your "simple minds" idea neverendingjourney, however, I typically don't like to overgeneralize these things.
I don't mean to imply that JWs somehow are on average dumber than everybody else. In fact, I would be quite surprised if the average IQ among JWs deviates much from the median. I don't think my IQ now is any higher or lower than it was when I was a zealous teenage pioneer.
What I am saying is that there has been a marked change in the level of fascination with doctrinal flights of fancy and even doctrinal consistency. I remember when I was a child in the early 80s. Each of the elders in my congregation was quite knowledgeable about JW doctrine. Elders were viewed as teachers and were prepared to answer even the most demanding doctrinal questions. In the mid 90s when I became personally invested in the group, JW doctrine was still a popular topic of conversation, but things were changing.
Elders who lacked even a cursory knowledge of your "deep doctrines" began to be appointed. The dumbed-down Knowledge book was released, as you describe above. By the early Aughts, conversations regarding "deep doctrinal matters" began to be viewed suspiciously. The Society enacted policies to ensure that no outside sources were quoted in their Watchtower studies by the conductors, and so on. The religion changed from being one that welcomed and nurtured intellectual curiosity regarding its doctrine to one that simply demanded obedience without proof.
This shift has resulted in what I refer to as "simple minds." The intellectually-curious have either gotten in line or left. The religion is now focusing on recruiting those who don't question doctrine, even more so than before. By and large, this shift has been embraced by JWs, as I tried to explain with my anecdote. If you asked a JW 30 years ago why he was sure Armageddon was just around the corner, he'd quote you some explanation thought up by Fred Franz and spelled out in the WT publications. If you as a JW the same question today, you're likely to get a blank stare, a shrug of the shoulders and a response that conveys the following thought: "Because the Society says so."
Moreover, this shift has resulted from the type of men who currently populate the GB, yes-men selected based on loyalty and not talent.
good points drew
1 - simple books and doctrines for the new recruit growth markets (Nigerian peasants etc)
2 - maintain your endurance and loyalty for the dying westerners (because they have the money to pay for the growth elsewhere - Eastern European Fund anyone? sometimes its not even subtle - if you can't recruit in the West, hand us your cash and wills so we can pay for the job in the 3rd world)
I expect the pointless endeavor to continue slowly circling the drains from our point of view. For new recruits its all rosy and erm...new.
I think what has been created is a schizophrenic organisation, providing 2 distinct messages, one for JW's and the other for the recruiting purposes. This obvious evidence for this is the differentiated watchtower magazines.
The internal message is far more hard core, trust the FDS, don't question them, do more pointless activity and contribute to the coffers.
To potential recruits the message is, "we care, we are sane and look at the pictures of pandas".
This polarised message is provide a strategy for retention and future growth, the two necessities to ensure survival.
GB2.0 know that the life of the organisation is finite and are doing whatever they can to create as much longevity as they can.
Thanks for the clarification neverendingjourney, I see where you are coming from now. I actually agree to a certain extent. Detailed explanations of prophecy and dogma were much more popular in decades past. I remember that my mother-in-law, who converted to the JWs in the 1980s, would sometimes impress younger jws at book studies because she would explain in detail things from Ezekiel. Truth be told, there are some Bible books the Watchtower has not even bothered to explain to the most recent generation of JWs.
I can also understand the general narrative you are presenting because I also joined the group in the 1990s, albeit the late 1990s (started attending in 97). However, I wonder what you mean when you say:
"The religion changed from being one that welcomed and nurtured intellectual curiosity regarding its doctrine to one that simply demanded obedience without proof."
When an individual first comes in contact with the movement intellectual curiosity is always encouraged by JWs as long as it falls within proper bounds. It is undeniable that in years past (I'm especially thinking back to publications of the 1960s and 70s) content provided by the WTS was much more dense, thus providing some intellectual breathing room so to speak. However, from the writings of Raymond Franz, Jim Penton, and others I think it's safe to say that the organization's demands for obedience have been around quite a long time as well.
Since I've been in the mood for recommending books, I might suggest people here check out Andrew Holden's "Jehovah's Witnesses, Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement". I've been reading it the past few weeks and have found it rather good. He is a sociologist by trade, and quite a good one. (psst... don't let anybody know I gave you this link: http://avaxhome.ws/ebooks/theology_occultism/west_religion/0415266092.html )
You mention that the Bible Teach book does not include references to the F&D slave, but overall references to the Slave have gone up. I have noticed a strong upwards trend to mentioning that the Slave is guided and must not be questioned. This is an important point IMO, similar to there being a Private and Public Watchtower. New recruits do not have the importance of the hierarchy highlighted to them. This does not become introduced until the recruit is already somewhat entrenched with the Organization.
The other point is that GB 2.0 want to keep the status quo. Yes and no. They may want to but they have not, at least because they have not been able to. Think of recent doctrinal adjustments - blood, 1935, generation. They are being forced to morph with the times. It is only a matter of time before 144,000 becomes figurative. I even think that down the track they may tend to become more mainstream, such as by allowing political involvement in order to help with growth.
I nominate this thread as one of the best I've read. You're really using discernment as what's going on behind the scenes.
The question I keep asking myself is - if this was a story, then how does it end?
Their future is one of deepening limits: dumbed down Witlesses, weak donations, 'double life' youth, tired elders and relentless 'worldly' pressure against Watchtower interests.
There's no Fred Franz to create a new chronology or whacked-out date for the Big A. There's no dynamism, no dramatic new ideas - and they're busy tearing down what little infrastructure they have ( an observation made by a 'loyal' elder).
I really think that they will get tired of the whole thing. In fact, that may already be happening. Does anyone ever read the latest Kingdom Ministrys? The printed type varies from one page to the next , kind of like this . It really is funny to look at . I mean, how obvious can it be, that you have almost nothing to say, that your efforts are perfunctory, and that you are just going thru the motions? You change font size just to fill the page !!
Imagine a fictional job ad for the Governing Body: " Lead 7 million passive-aggressive, fantasy driven publishers who won't open their wallets and lack critical thinking ability. Deal with shrinking budgets while hiding evidence of deepening disaffiliation worldwide".
What's the point? I'd be asking myself that everyday, if I was one of these Spiritual 'Bernie Madoffs'.
Excellent analysis by Drew & others.
I think that the WTBTS is at something of a crossroads & could go either way - much more authoritarian & insular or morph into a mainstream Christian style religion with a few unusual doctrines to differentiate themselves.
I really don't think the GB have a lot of influence nowadays now that the big personalities have died off - the real drivers of change are the lawyers & accountants.
This change, from "GB 1.0" to "GB 2.0", is reflected at the local congregation level as well.
People from the Knorr era, accustomed to (relatively, from a JW perspective) "deep" conversations about doctrine, antitypes, prophetic patterns, etc., are growing older and older. Elders from that epoch are being marginalized as they hit their 70's & 80's, and aggressive middle-managers newer elders try to put their "stamp" on the congregations.
For elders now, it's all about enforcement of rules, "keeping the congregation clean". Little time is spent actually caring for anyone's needs.
It's getting progressively harder to talk about anything to any level of depth at the meetings. All meetings (except the WT study) have been shortened substantially, meeting parts are all shortened (service meeting parts are rarely more than 10 minutes, compared to 20 or 25 in the past), and even the WT itself has been dumbed down to a 4th grade or so reading level.
At private gatherings, any talk of "deeper" things is met with suspicion, unease, and silence.
Even the new songs forom the songbook are dull and vacuous, with "how good it is to obey unquestioningly!" type lyrics and plodding melodies that would depress a puppy.
Congregations interact at just the most superficial level now. As my wife is prone to say, "we're not friends any more, we're just coworkers".