More details of the bible students blending into Rutherford's empire

by Terry 26 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Terry

    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).

    ******* ****** ********
    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.

    For example:

    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!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Everyone paints Rutherford as the heavy. From what I heard, he was. There was a Board and key followers who should have stepped forward and challenged him. I'd paint them as equal heavies with Rutherford.

    Does anyone know what opposition was to Rutherford at the onset of the power grab? The story of his control of the organization is so incredulous. I believe it happened but maybe some elements are left out. Not one person could challenge him in court under NY or PA law? Hitler may have been evil but he never could have come to power by himself. If the reverse direction were true, a flow from totalitarian to autonomous, I could better understand it. How did people who enjoyed autonomy and studied their Bibles give that precious freedom up to one person?

    My family was active at this time. Half stayed with Russell people for a while. Half became Witnesses. It split the family acrimonously. Brother never spoke with brother again. I never heard the whys of how they made their choices.

    My next item is why I find this so fascinating after about 45 years away from the Witnesses.

  • Terry

    There was plenty of opposition to go around!

    But, gaining a LEGAL foothold to exert pressure for ouster was unobtainable.

    The legal grip of Rutherford was secure. Further, the bully pulpit of the Watchtower magazine could drown out the pamphleteering counter-insurgencies mightily.

    The International Bible Students maintain their loyalty to Russell and his writings to this day.

    What Rutherford sought to do was create a BRAND NAME for his movement/religion distinct from Russell's brand. Eventually, this came to be

    known as JEHOVAH'S witnesses (implying NOT Russell's).

    Rutherford created the branding by making the membership contrarian to everything MAINSTREAM in christian churches.

    He drew a line in the sand and threw down a gauntlet.

    Anything a member of Christendom did or believed meant that JW's were the exact 180 degree opposite.

    Further, making martyrs of the membership in matters of neutrality toward patriotism singled them out for scorn/ridicule/persecution.

  • greendawn

    Very enlightening article Terry, it gives the gist of the JW history. The presidents of this cult had total power until the 1970's when Knorr and Franz very reluctantly shared power with the newly created governing body. They were both very bitter and devastated by this development but apparently they had no choice especially Knorr who was dying of cancer at the time. The GB proved to be worse than than their predecessors especially after the 1980 events at HQ when they showed their true colours with Dunlop, Ray Franz etc

    In all Rutherford was the archetypal spiritual whore as were all those that followed him in the leadership and they are no different in this respect to all the religious leaders whom the accuse of the same. Their focus is by and large on their own petty personal world.

  • Terry

    C.T.Russell began with a personal "purpose" which was to find a way to believe in/worship God while doing away with the beliefs he found to be personally uncomfortable such as hellfire. He shopped around and cherry picked 2nd Adventist views as a foundation. To this he added pyramidology. He commissioned a dispensation Chart of the Ages. He shifted his purpose to becoming a tool of Second Coming radicals.

    Russell's purpose coalesced his business acumen with his oddbal religious predilections. He began a publishing organ to promote peculiar prophetic views such as the coming of Invisible Jesus in 1874 and Armageddon in 1914.

    Russell's purpose became entwined with a cult of personality which grew up around him aided and abetted by his wife "in name only", Maria. Maria convinced her husband the two of them ("The Twain") were special End Times prophets by inventing a new doctrine: Faithful and Discreet Slave (Faithful and Wise Servant).

    Russell's theology twisted from its initial path into something more personal and messianic. Studies in the Scriptures became a substitute for the bible itself and 1914 became the new "starting point" for Jesus Kingdom leadership (still invisible).

    Had Russell lived, he would have had to revamp his theology to exclude all prophetic statements which were proved wrong.

    Judge Rutherford took over by coup and thwarted Russell's intentions for the Watchtower as an organ of policy for Russell's personal peculiar views.

    Rutherford's purpose was to gain and hold power by riding on Russell's charismatic coat-tails. Rutherford sucked in contrarians like a vacuum cleaner. The purpose of the Watchtower became strictly a radical tool of propaganda spewing nay-saying, ad hominem and anarchy. It attracted the disenfranchised in society the way communism attracted the poor and naive in Russia.

    The Watchtower's singularity of purpose revolved around US vs THEM. Who was right and who was marked for destruction? We know THE TRUTH and everybody else is a liar in the pocket of Satan.

    Rutherford, had he been a political leader instead of a religious despot, would have given Hitler a run for his money. There were parallels. Hitler was able to shift blame for German's plight onto sell-outs and Jews and build up the ego of Germany by declaring "true" Germans to be a "master race". Rutherford shifted the blame for the world's woes onto feckless Christendom and corrupt political leadership. Bible students (eventually Jehovah's Witnesses) became a religious "master race" fighting Satan's dominion with bold argumentation and expose's.

    Once Russell's Bible Students transformed into a master race under Der Furher Rutherford, the theology galvanized into a visceral solar plexus punch as troops (JW's) invaded neighborhoods and struck with lightning speed at doctrines and beliefs which supported local churches.

    With the death of Rutherford a kinder and gentler veneer overlaid the Watchtower purpose. It was a Divine Purpose of warning and an education work. Nathan Knorr focused on organization and education for the membership. Instead of radical shock troops, JW's were transformed into Constitutional Warriors for God expressing Free Speech and building an Ark of Salvation on Earth. JW's were no longer hate-mongers so much as they were voices crying out in a wilderness of "bad association" (which spoils useful habits!).

    JW's used newspaper fluff pieces (and still do) to portray themselves as busy bees and worker ants who are clean people with neat habits and singularity of dedication. Baptism was seen as the ultimate "dedication" and an obsession with staying "clean" spiritually pervaded thinking at the local Kingdom Halls.

    The Viet Nam war turned young male JW's into public spokesmen for "neutrality" and reasonable protest in contrast to draft-dodging and flag burning. Sisters were meek, mild and classic helpmates working for family and god alongside their righteous husband and children.

    Then, Fred Franz had his way. Franz (a holdover from the End Times era) pushed hard for an obsessive-compulsive promotion of BIBLE CHRONOLOGY which pointed to a hard and fast date for ARMAGEDDON.

    From 1968 to mid 1975 JW's threw it into high gear promoting hysteria and self-promotion in escaping the inevitable Armageddon event. Books stretched the truth, quoted out of context secular scientists and social critics' words to assure every reader history was closing in fast!

    When the non-event passed with only an embarassing silence the purpose of the Watchtower faltered, sputtered and almost died. But, only momentarily.

    Like a veteran boxer knocked to the floor for a 9 count; things in the local Kingdom Halls shifted into "downtime" and policies relaxed until the men at the top of the JW foodchain could find their legs again.

    Ridicule, humiliation and a demand for explanations became an avalanche. This was THE moment of truth for "The Truth". It was now or never. Would this religion look itself in the mirror and see wrong-headedness and self-delusion? Or, would it become desperate like Hitler in his bunker with only reports of defeat pouring in from the homefront??

    History reveals the answer!

    The Watchtower turned around and began eating its own! A vicious program of strictness, blame-the-accuser, stone-walling and enforced-obedience reared its ugly head like a foaming hydra.

    OBEY US or be gone!

    From the top to the bottom it became a nightmare of crackdown. The doors were slamming and locks were being bolted as SEIGE MENTALITY set in!

    A split shattered the ark of righteousness and water poured in drowning half the animals on board!

    The noose tightened around the necks of the members whose mind's could still think rationally. If you speak your doubts you hear your own neck snap.

    Disambiguation could not be tolerated. Doctrines tightened their icy fingers on the jugular of rank and file servants. Tests of Loyalty and Obedience were administered and butts were kicked.

    Meltdown in the crucible of Watchtower purpose produced a molten ore poured into a forge of cold denial, denial, denial!

    No longer would "honest questions" be entertained and rebutted by flipping through the inerrant word of Jehovah. No. Questions triggered knee-jerk responses of warning, marking and disciplinary action!

    A balance was no longer allowed between honest discussion and mild-tempered counsel. Conform or be banished!

    That transformation and shrinking of "purpose" has produced the Jehovah's Witness robot of today. This robotic worker/slave is programmed what to perform without variation. Personality and identity are forever expunged!

    Old doctrines overgrown with weeds are now plucked and cast into the vault and the key thrown away! Any vulnerable theological point of contention is isolated like a virus in a laboratory. Members are never to turn around and look back at their destruction (by the Internet or ex-JW's) or they will turn into pillars of salt.

    Jehovah's Witnesses world-wide have dissolved into lifeless "thing" like a poison pellet. The membership is distilled into a serum. The Governing Body injects this serum into neighborhoods and infects the vulnerable with a fever of false prophecies and phoney love-bombing by the feckless brotherhood.

    The history of this religious group went from radical and self-serving to crackpot and shrill to moderate and peculiar to hysterical and bizarre to insular and dangerous. What journey through the wilderness!!

    When you pick up that copy of WATCHTOWER magazine today you are peering into the distorted view of a sick and twisted ideology with its humanity drained away by intellectual dishonesty and denial.

    The history of Jehovah's Witnesses is a landscape littered with disproof of divine support! Proof is on every page the leadership consists of liars, twisters of fact, double-dealers and wafflers who flim-flam and play the blame game.

    Jesus Christ? Jehovah? Mere scrabble tiles aligned on a gameboard accruing bonus points by despotic old windbags out of touch with the very planet they inhabit!!

    The Watchtower is a madhouse!

    The inmates are running the asylum!!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Attracting the disenfranchised was so clear to me even as a child. Jesus said to include the poor, ill, etc. but he also many Jewish middle class patrons and followers. My father had a personality that he was only happy thumbing his nose at order. There must be a connection.

    Pls excuse my ignorance. Knorr and Franz - what was their working relationship. I know their jurisdictions. Why would Knorr cede theological authroity to Franz? Why was it only Franz? Maybe that was the arrangement for Knorr becoming president.

  • Terry

    Pls excuse my ignorance. Knorr and Franz - what was their working relationship.

    Knorr was Franz's ENABLER.

    Franz created the Byzantine nonsense which comprised JW theology. You might even say there would be no JW theology that even vaguely

    resembled actual theology without Fred Franz.

    The two were very good friends.

    Knorr allowed Franz to putter in his laboratory and build Frankenstein chronology charts and dates that supported and explained all sorts of

    weirdness. It made New Light, after all.

    Then, something awful happened. Franz got really nuts. He made an ACTUAL prediction that could be refuted just like the embarassing 1925 prediction of the return of ancient worthies.

    I don't think anybody caught it in time to stop it. So many Kingdom Halls went viral with the news that 1975 would bring Armageddon.

    It just got crazier and crazier like an avalanche.

    This was the beginning of the end of an era and the beginning of the descent into madness in the GB.

    It was SOOOO OBVIOUS to some of the others at headquarters that Fred Franz was going to cause a train crash with the 1975 prediction that had

    gotten all out of hand and contagious, but, they couldn't very well hold Franz accountable. It was obviously President Knorr's fault for not

    putting a stopper in the bottle. Without Franz they had no resident scholar or prophet. Excuse me, ummm, "prophet".

    When 1975 exploded in their faces somebody had to take the fall.

    Knorr was forced out.

    In defending Knorr, Fred Franz gave the finest refutation of the central idea of a GOVERNING BODY yet given. Which reveals he knew it was nonsense all along.

    Since Franz really held all the cards (prophet, scholar, bible translator, historian) he was made the new President at Knorr's death.

  • lovelylil


  • snowbird

    Come on up with it now, Terry!

    I'm re-reading COC, and a picture is emerging of Fred Franz as a duplicitous con artist.


  • Quentin


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