In recent weeks the JW’s here in the UK have been setting up their new portable Watchtower literature displays in my local town square on a Saturday morning. As they hadn’t knocked on my door for at least five years, and consequently feeling somewhat neglected, I thought that I would pay them a visit instead.
The first thing I needed to do was arrange my literature. I thought the infamous 22 nd May 1969 Awake article on pages 14 and 15 entitled “What Future For the Young” would be ideal. Available on Paul Grundy’s wonderful jwfacts.com website I printed a copy, highlighted the most damning parts and tucked it into my wallet.
The stand was manned by a mother and her teenage daughter. I wandered up and introduced myself, simultaneously reminding myself to treat them with the utmost respect and not to say anything that might cause them to label me as a bitter apostate.
Liz was 52 and her daughter Emma was 14. I asked how they were getting on and explained that my mother was a Witness. Was I one? Well no, I explained that I held Christian beliefs and that in my opinion the essence of Christianity was loving God and loving people, simple as that, and while I thought the Witnesses were wonderful people I felt the religion placed far too much emphasis on prophetic speculation. For example, when I was growing up in the 1960’s the Watchtower assured me the end of the world was going to occur in 1975, clearly that hadn’t happened, so I had concluded that many of the ideas expressed in the Watchtower were not God’s thoughts but simply the imperfect human opinions of the Watchtower writers of the time.
Liz was quick to point out that although many Witnesses did indeed think that Armageddon was imminent in the 1970’s, at no time did the Watchtower itself put anything in print to that effect. Are you sure about that, I pressed her. Definitely, she said.
I then asked 14 year old Emma if she thought the end of the world would come within her lifetime. Absolutely, she replied. Would she care to put a time frame on it. Within 30 years, she declared.
It was with more than a little trepidation that I reached for the Awake article in my wallet. Surely there would be some reaction at the realisation that they were entering a surreal moment when a member of the general public just happened to carry around in his back pocket an article published by their very own publishing company from the year Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, almost half a century previously. But no, the conversation was allowed to continue as if this sort of thing happened all the time!
I explained to Emma that I am now 58 years of age and approaching retirement but that in May 1969 I was exactly the same age as her, 14. What would the future hold for me. This is what the Awake assured me:
“If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things....therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in high school and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialised career. But where will this system of things be by that time. It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!”
I think Liz was simply too stunned to come to her daughter’s rescue, even when I followed up reading the whole article by asking Emma three questions- was it a “fact” that I would never grow old, did I never fulfil a career, and did the system end as per the Awake’s prediction.
To cut a long story short, the whole encounter lasted 45 minutes. We touched on various other topics. They were unaware that at one time vaccinations were banned, must get a copy of the relevant magazine for next time.
Finally I told them how much I had enjoyed conversing with them. I encouraged Emma to pursue her education. She liked science and loved animals – perhaps she should become a vet I suggested, even though it takes six years to qualify, had I done so I’d have been qualified for 30 years by now. I popped the Awake magazine cutting in Emma’s ministry bag and suggested she might want to dig out the Awake bound volume in her Kingdom Hall library to authenticate it. I’d discreetly written on the cutting “For more information, see jwfacts.com.” Let’s hope she does.