Charlie Taze Russell had money, good looks, privately tutored education and a lot of personal charisma. From his devout mother he got a healthy dose of hellfire and come to Jesus instruction. The family was Presbyterian in a time when Central Authority was viewed with deep suspicion. There may have been a bit of an obsessive trait in the young man because it is reported he chalked up Hellfire warnings on sidewalks on the way to school!!
But, in a few short years, Charlie had argued one too many times and with the wrong person.
An atheist ripped young Russell a new one with common sense arguments that left Charlie
broken, depressed and disillusioned.
It was time to regroup, rethink, and reflect. It was almost like the cartoon about the 97 pound weakling who had sand kicked in his face at the beach. The skinny weakling decides to muscle up and go back to punch the bully in the face and win the hand of a pretty young lady.
How could he do it? What muscles could he pump up to defeat bullies and know-it-alls?
The answer came soon enough. Young Russell stopped in to hear an Adventist lecture with charts, graphs, cherry-picked scriptures, quote-mining and END TIMES PROPHECY.
The lecture and demonstrations electrified C.T.Russell. He had what he was looking for at last.
Being the son of a successful men's clothing chain, Russell used his fortune to assemble enough Adventist preachers privately to pick their brains and learn what they had to offer.
Leading Adventist thinkers like George Storrs and Barbour were enlisted to publish these chronologies and apologies. A journal, pamphlets, booklets--whatever was needed C.T.Russell would fork over the cash and see that it got done!
What Russell figured out was HOW IT WAS DONE; how do you get people excited by scaring them with warnings of impending Armageddon? How do you convince them YOU KNOW and others don't. How do you pull in the dazzling "proofs" and get a movement going the way
William Miller (self-taught Baptist lay preacher) had moved thousands of chruch goers to leave their churches and follow him to the brink of the GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT. Many of those same people couldn't or wouldn't return. They needed a new leader. Many of these people refused to follow a woman such as Ellen White with her personal visions and revelations. They wanted a charismatic white male who could lead and teach them!
Russell used his private wealth to cut and paste ideas from all over the religious map into his own peculiar name-brand version of Adventism which included pyramidology.
Local congregations kept autonomy. Russell would have it no other way. He wrote books, articles, preached sermons, performed publicly with his charts and graphs and newspaper artilces. A large following gathered and approved. But, in the end, he could NOT deliver on his prophetic guesses. The end of world government did NOT COME in 1914 and false religion was NOT destroyed.
Russell died in 1916.
Judge Rutherford crept in to wrest control of the Watchtower for himself and begin a new agenda which would transform local congregations of bible students into a cult of mind-controlled salesmen serving a religion of Business Organization.
This is what happened.
When the Bible Students group began to form around Russell and his teachings, Russell made clear his opposition to creating any Central Governing Body.
Each congregation of Bible Students, Millennial Dawn fellows or Russellites elected their elders and leaders locally by vote and not by appeal to Russell.
This continued until 1938!
Russell died in 1916 and J.F.Rutherford commenced a long range effort of consolidating power under himself alone as leader.
Rutherford's scheme for control was in three parts.
1.Get himself elected to the Board of Directors and make other administrators mere puppets and rubber stamp committees.
2.Appoint travelling "service directors" as organizers, sales trainers and magazine promoters. (Much like later Circuit Servants.)
3.Replacing local election and control with a centrally appointed leadership and elder arrangement.
Russell's faithful followers were united in hatred for the Roman Catholic church and its central authority and organization. Previously, as Adventists, they had railed against the RC church as "the whore of Babylon".
For J.F.Rutherford to go against Russell's view of central authority and "organization" he had to overcome a huge built-in abhorrence in the local congregations.
This began in earnest in 1938 (the year before WWII commenced in Europe.)
Russell died and J.F.Rutherford squeezed himself in gradually to Russell's shoes under Russell's teachings...just long enough to secure himself and begin changing everything he could lay his hands on!
Even though Rutherford had weakened their positions by centrally appointing special ‘service directors’ responsible for magazine sale, in theory a congregation was still independent and chose its own pastors, or elders. The main articles in The Watch Tower for August 15 and September 1, 1932 should put an end to that.
In 1932, Rutherford finally did away with the local, elected elders. For a time, many elders had been opposed to the growing emphasis on the preaching and book-selling work that took up more and more of the movement’s focus.
The elders were for a time replaced by a special service committee still elected locally, but in 1938 this arrangement was also replaced by one in which the leadership were centrally appointed. While the JWs reestablished a form of elder arrangement again in the early 1970s, these were – and are – centrally appointed.
Rutherford’s control of the headquarters and publishing arm had been undisputed since the early 1920s at latest. Now he also had a direct control into the lives of every Jehovah’s Witness. Rutherford decided what they should learn at the meetings – less devotional and more commercial than ever – and what they should sell and say.
Rutherford also told JWs that ‘character building’; emphasis on personal Christian qualities, virtue and morality was quite unimportant and indeed a form of ‘creature worship.’ It is very illustrative to look up the word ‘adultery’ in the Watch Tower Publications Index 1930-1985.
(Here you will not find a single reference to sexual adultery anywhere in the WTS literature before 1947. Later, in the 1950s, and until this day, articles denouncing all sorts of sexual sins flourished. In Rutherford’s vernacular, the word ‘adultery’ was reserved for his opponents’ religious sins.)
Under Rutherford a crackdown on controlling the personal behavior of local congregations began after the embarrassment of 1925 failed to produce a resurrection of "ancient worthies" as Rutherford had predicted.
Rutherford's obsessive preoccupation with tightening the screws on every person involved in his empire ratcheted up from 1926 onward commencing with the eradication of birthday celebrations (denounced as pagan).
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Birthdays and practically all religious celebrations were condemned as of ‘pagan origin.’ The Bible Students celebrated Christmas for the last time in 1926 (Proclaimers 200; Yearbook 1975, 147-9). The cross, until then an almost universal symbol for Christianity, was rejected as a pagan symbol. The Watchtower Society has since then insisted that Jesus was executed on an upright ‘torture stake’ without a crossbeam.
Rutherford could bend non-ambiguous scriptures into corkscrews in order to enforce his personal interpretation of how things should be done.
This trend towards a growing alienation & hostility towards the world culminated in Rutherford’s reinterpretation of Romans chapter 13, published in The Watchtower, June 1 and June 15, 1929. Here Rutherford insisted that the "higher authorities" to which Christians should subject could not be the earthly authorities. These "higher authorities," he argued, had to be God and Christ. This only increased the Bible Student’s hostility towards the secular state, which was now openly denounced as demonic (Penton 1985, 65).
Clearly and forcefully J.F.Rutherford had taken a small group of Adventist bible students enamoured of Pastor Russell's chronology and pyramidology and compacted them into a mind-control cult obsessed with proper behavior and adherence to rules, regulations and quirky interpretations from a central authority.
Under Rutherford, the almost "universal salvation" beliefs and teachings of Pastor Russell darkened into a vicious and vindictive ideology of blood and destruction.
Perhaps the most striking turnaround in JW doctrine in this period was Rutherford’s view of salvation compared to Russell’s. Russell was very close to teaching universal salvation and was not at all eager to condemn people to destruction (the existence of hell, we remember, he dismissed). Rutherford, perhaps partly due to the persecution he had experienced in the war years, should take a much stricter view of salvation. Gradually he came to argue that only Jehovah’s Witnesses had any real chance of surviving Armageddon, Jehovah’s war against Satan and – in effect – mankind. A part of this was Rutherford’s new doctrine about "The Vindication of Jehovah’s Name," still a central tenet of JW beliefs. Unlike Russell, who held that the redemption was the central doctrine, Rutherford preached that God’s vindication, by wiping out his enemies Old Testament-style in a large battle, was more important than individual salvation.
Between Rutherford and his crony C.J.Woodworth, the Watchtower and the Golden Age (Awake!) began publishing anti-medical anti-science articles fomenting radical faddist notions and downright crackpot denunciations.
(There was a limit, however. Woodworth, the eccentric editor of The Golden Age, found that limit when he, in 1935, tried to persuade Rutherford and the JW community to abandon pagan month and day names. Rutherford harshly censured and ridiculed Woodworth in front of the whole ‘Bethel family,’ a spectacle that shocked many who may nevertheless have agreed with the sanity of Rutherford’s decision to not force such a radical change (Penton 1985, 66-7).
Woodworth was second only to Rutherford as an important influence on the JWs in this period.
One oddity about him was his burning hatred for medical professionals. He considered the compulsory vaccination programs a Satanic and commercial conspiracy to weaken Christians by introducing animalistic tissue into their veins, and he even rejected the germ theory of disease, preferring strange ‘electronic’ and ‘radio’ based apparatus instead. Actually, the Watchtower Society at one time marketed and sold alternative ‘medicine’ through The Golden Age. The only part of these ideas that remain in the JW organization and culture is the blood prohibition – which still gives the movement tragic headlines in the press worldwide – and perhaps a tendency among JWs today to be preoccupied with homeopathy and other ‘alternative’ quasi-medical procedures.
The downward spiral of madness, cult control, anti-science and hatred of other religions mark the Jehovah's Witnesses of this period as followers of lunatics who, themselves, were anti-social misfits hellbent on putting their thumb in the eye of every OTHER authority on earth!
Further, the doctrinal changes Rutherford ordered were often based on whim, personal animus and pressure from reality threatening to disprove the Judge's theology.
Under Russell the 144,000 little flock were glorified resurrected christians who went to heaven along with non-glorified Great Crowd christians who also went to heaven.
Rutherford saw his membership figures climbing beyond 60,000 and threatening to exceed 144,000.
This would be embarrassing. Consequently, a doctrinal change or "new light" emerged making the Great Crowd an earthly group of Jehovah's Witnesses distinct in kind and nature from the heavenly anointed.
Now, in 1935, Rutherford changed this doctrine and started to teach that the members of the ‘Great Multitude class were all followers of the Watchtower movement, but they would be saved to live eternally on paradise Earth. It was the duty of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, then, to preach to all people and ‘harvest’ this ‘Great Multitude class.’ That there was any possible salvation outside the Watchtower movement was thus finally denied. Somewhat later, the term ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ should come to include this secondary class as well.
What does this signal? The CULT was fully formed as an "Only JW's will survive Armageddon" group of True Believers!
Pastor Russell took personal pride in self-financing his preoccupation of publishing due to his private fortunate. Rutherford, however, had no such money at hand.
Rutherford schemed to control local congregations and turn the membership into salesmen collecting funds from householders and passersby through peddling his books (of which there was an unending stream.)
Thus, the worldwide evangelizing work began in earnest as a way for Rutherford to establish cash flow and make his megalomanical empire financially sound.
Russell’s productivity of publications was no match for Rutherford’s. The first major bestseller, The Finished Mystery, was marketed as Russell’s posthumous book. Already in 1920 Rutherford managed to create his own first major international bestseller, the booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Already the next year came The Harp of God, a book that would eventually reach a circulation of 5,819,037 copies in 22 languages.
As a lawyer steeped in legalism and terminology, Rutherford chose the name witnesses to construe a testimony in a Universal court on behalf of Jehovah. But, his worldwide witnessing was for cash which began flowing into the coffers of his enterprise with himself in sole control.
Rutherford's key strategy succeeded in wresting a personality cult (Pastor Russell) away from "creature worship" and transforming it into a business concern or Organization which could claim and demand loyalty in terms of statistical productivity (preaching and book sales.)
If you produce you get more responsibility. If your productivity wanes, you get fired. (Disfellowshipped.)
ORGANIZATION to Jehovah's Witnesses is serving a faceless corporation headed by God himself who keeps them on permanent probation whereby they may be fired (destroyed at Armageddon) if they don't keep their productivity at maximum and loyalty as unquestionable.
The cult arises!