Blimey Simon - I thought I was pretty much in agreement with you on your core points
Yes, and in this scenario there is no real change - the society has always been against the latest fashion and trends or youths. All that has changed is that it's no longer mini-skirts or skirts with slits in them or long hair or beards ... now it's metro-sexual style which is today's fashion (apparently, I buy clothes from Costco ... what do I know!).
Agreed - the principle of the society being against whatever the current trend is has always been the case.
Again, local elders who enjoy and wield their power unjustly are nothing new and there is nothing in these instructions that encourages, promotes or excuses that behaviour, exactly the opposite - they are promoting the notion of patient counsel and private sanctions for people who stubbornly refuse to make the requested changes.
Agreed - local elders doing it their way is nothing new. Private counsel has also been par for the course. The instructions are always worded to err on the side of reasonableness however we all know that culturally many elders find this a very difficult line to tread.
The organisation has had decades of experience in providing instructions and direction to elders to know that elders need monkey see monkey do if they want any kind of consistency. Whoever put this together knows full well that by doing it verbally, with no warning, no written instruction and no transparent information to the congregation at large simply means that it will get implemented in a robust and agricultural way more often than not. Which is what they want.
The WTS can write pages of instructions when it wants to. But not this time. Which is bizarre, given their insistence over recent years to promote principles, not set hard and fast rules but rather encourage spiritual maturity to guide people.
There has not been such direct and specific counsel to elders on clothing or behaviour like this for years as far as I know.
I can't recall any sanction where a baptised JW is not permitted to go on the ministry for anything else, and certainly not for something like clothing.
Does it change anything about them being able to set the standards they wish? Does it change anything about them being anti-gay? Of course not.
But this does hark back to top down rule making - something which has softened over recent years.
The lack of benchmarks for what is acceptable or not acceptable, whilst not new, does reflect crude approaches to control from the past. It allows the organisation to claim they are promoting a reasonable view where only the worst of rebels are sanctioned, whilst permitting whatever implementation the local body sees fit, even if that goes beyond what might be reasonable. It's typical WTS disingenuous behaviour.
It's the same old same old but a pattern that had seemingly diminished. And I find it hard to believe that the introduction of a sanction about ministry participation can be ignored as a fundamental difference.
As with anything, if someone really wants to keep their style rather than their faith they can leave. Otherwise, like so many before them, they change to keep inline with the WTS standards on dress, grooming and behaviour.
I am surprised you make it sound so straight-forward Simon, when it rarely is. Remember this is not some club where the dress code is published at the door (other than being well arranged and modest). These instructions are verbal, only to the BoE and have no guidelines. The news here is not the gnashing of teeth at fashion nor the homophobia. It's the resurrection of poorly defined instructions to groups of men who can't generally organise a piss up in a brewery on a matter that is potentially highly sensitive.
I am with you in so many ways here:
- implementing dress standards is not, in itself, the make or break defining behaviour of a cult
- on it's own it's not something that is some game changer for apostate activists or for those who are trying to work out their sexuality whilst inside the WTS
- trying to bash the WTS with this instruction as if they have tied their own noose is unrealistic.
On the other hand, I think there are aspects of these instructions that do merit being highlighted and provided as food for thought for those waking up to the reality of da troof.
To that extent, it's not a case of "move along, nothing to see here".