The Tobacco Bombshell
Early in the decade of the 70?s, all JW?s were notified (in the tobacco-growing district) of a special meeting at the Kingdom Hall. Three representatives from WTS, a District Overseer and two Circuit Overseers delivered a symposium that brought an abrupt end for all JW?s working in the tobacco industry (whether selling cigarettes, manufacture, tobacco machinery, etc.) or farmers producing tobacco. The discussion centered on the scripture at 2 Cor.7: 1. ?Beloved ones let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.? (New World Translation)
As a family, we became associated with WT during the mid 30?s and at that time we were farming tobacco and continued until the above event. Our personal experience related here is of some length, but we wish to share this information providing insight as to what can happen TO YOU?YOUR OCCUPATION?YOUR LIFE, when dedication and baptism subordinates you to submit to policies, interpretation of scripture, direction, and the will of an organization directed by a ?governing body? of imperfect, fallible men, an organization alleged to be spirit-directed by God. See (Baptism WT June1/85 Spirit Directed).
*** WT 1986 April 1, pg. 31 Questions From Readers ***
?Approved association with Jehovah?s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah?s Witnesses.?
To the direction of this trusted religious body we submitted our lives. Attending that meeting and hearing that discourse proved to be an electrifying experience to say the least. There was no advance warning of what was about to happen and, out of the blue, came the following organization directive: If you are presently involved with tobacco and wish to remain in good standing, you have a window of time to adjust to the new reality, 6 to 12 months, to find other employment and, if farming, desist from producing tobacco. The implication was clear. Failure to conform would be viewed as rebellion, which would indicate one had disqualified oneself as a JW. Just as in the case of accepting a blood transfusion, one had now automatically disassociated oneself from the Organization, with the same consequences as being disfellowshipped.
We left the Kingdom Hall in total shock and disbelief, stunned and devastated. What an incredible nightmare we faced! There was no dialogue involved, no fielding of questions but a unilateral decision imposed. They dropped the bombshell and left.
A phone call to the District Overseer quartered nearby requesting a brief audience for farmers to express their concerns to headquarters about the financial obligations they faced was turned down as his time schedule would not allow for it. It became obvious there was no interest in discussing the matter. The message had been delivered; the problems were ours to solve, a rude awakening for us, indeed.
Now the specter of falling into a disfellowshipped state was alarming, being shunned and rejected by family and friends, dying with no hope of a resurrection. Clearly, we faced a troubling decision. Employees with nothing invested could simply quit their jobs and seek other employment. Farmers were faced with a dilemma of a different sort: what to do with a farm totally geared to tobacco production, a highly specialized industry, a heavy capital investment in buildings and equipment, farmland with light sandy-low fertility soils uniquely suited to production of cigarette leaf. The choice of alternative crops on light soil is limited and the capital cost of a switchover to new equipment and the disproportionate return versus cost per acre were serious. Some who experimented with alternative crops failed and lost most of their resources. I had brought my tape recorder to that meeting, but was requested to remove it and take it back to the car. No taping was allowed. I had found that puzzling but complied. It was months later when it occurred to me the reason might be to leave no evidence of what was said as it might have legal implications, or be considered controversial material.
The year the directive was issued was the last year we grew tobacco. My wife and I had purchased the family farm a number of years previous to this turn of events from parents who, now in their senior years, had built a retirement bungalow on the farm property, as they wished to spend their remaining years in familiar surroundings. Their small pension and mortgage income could sustain them.
These new developments immediately scuttled any long- term plans. Besides bank, and mortgage payments, my wife and I were faced with imminent financial insolvency. With little or no options, we agonized for months over what course lay open to us.
After exhaustive considerations we were faced with no alternative but to liquidate, which led to other complications for the parents. An attempt to secure a farm severance for the land on which their home was located was denied by the municipality. They were left with a choice of selling their home with the farm or move it away. Despite a very depressed real estate market during that period, we were compelled to liquidate and sell all. It took over ten months before a neighboring farmer manifested interest in the farm. Short of the value and of our asking price for the farm, we were compelled to accept a ?firesale? offer. The imminent threat of being disfellowshipped and the compelling urge from family to avoid this scenario led to the final capitulation to sell, conditional by the buyer that the bungalow be removed as he had no practical use for it. That meant uprooting the parents, now both in their upper seventies, from their surroundings and home for some 36 years. It all became extremely stressful.
The decision was made to buy a new lot in a nearby village some 10 miles away, hire a reliable building-mover who would install the dwelling on a new basement foundation. The final cost to the parents was approx. $18,000 for moving the house, the lot, services installed, earth moving and landscape, all due to this new WT directive. To look after aging parents, we settled nearby in the same village at considerable cost for a permanent dwelling.
Our compliance with the directive was a heartfelt feeling that we were following Jehovah?s will in the matter. We did not object to leaving an industry, which by now, was suspect of injury to human health. What became an uncomfortable realization though, was the overwhelming feeling that we were being subjected to serious injustice and abuse. It appears that no thought or planning went into this policy to help soften the impact for those faced with extracting themselves from the tobacco industry by allowing for an adequate time frame to dispose of property and recover capital investments. Instead an arbitrary period of six months to a year was the grace period given by WT representatives. What was painful to us was the calloused, uncaring spirit manifested: no dialogue, no consultation with anyone to ascertain how the policy would affect people. The rank and file was totally ignored. It was a unilateral decision by men at the top and demonstrated no concern for anyone. A hard line authoritarian directive was imposed, accompanied by intimidation and threat. While couched in diplomatic language, the bottom line was to take it or leave it and suffer the consequences. Where was Christian love and concern demonstrated? Where is Jesus? counsel reflected to treat the flock with tenderness and understanding?
We became disturbed by many unanswered questions such as: what was the all fired-up rush to close out the tobacco industry and why no level playing field. Why single out tobacco? To this day it appears WT totally ignored brothers who work unmolested in industries who are serious polluters of the environment and health. While we don?t single out the transportation industry, it is definitely among one of the worst.
The use of fossil fuels in the nation?s industries has become recognized as a serious factor in environmental and air pollution, so much so that governments issue warnings on days when smog poses a serious threat to the lives of seniors and very young children, many of whom have developed breathing problems, about one in five according to reports. Why did this WT policy directive avoid imposing this same strict rule for JW's working in these polluting industries, which directly involves them? According to the rule, they would have to quit their jobs or seek other employment ? or be subject to disfellowshipping. In all fairness, would one reason these are exempt from Bible principles? Does God discriminate and exempt these?
Consider the Following Scenarios
1. A JW earns a living in the tobacco industry and through his labor and financial input contributes to the production of an injurious product which when used by others is damaging to the health of the smoker and those nearby. This is unloving and unscriptural!
2. Another JW works in the energy field (coal, oil, gas) and related industries, a product when used ultimately contributes to pollution of the environment, affecting the health of all who breathe contaminated air. Are JW?s in this example any less culpable? Of course not! Why then the discrimination? Why the unequal playing field? Are we not all bound to live by the same standards and rules? Of the above two groups, which would be exempt from culpability? We say neither.
The problem for us was not leaving the industry, but rather an extended time period of 1 to 3 years was required to salvage a lifetime investment. The overwhelming impact was meeting a deadline or losing out (disfellowshipped by default). Today, the realization of our losses leaves us deeply disturbed. The compelling force had been fear of displeasing God, losing out on a resurrection, and being disfellowshipped.
Consider Developments That Followed Shortly After We Liquidated
The government license board controlling jurisdiction and sale of tobacco leaf introduced a new policy factor, allowing greater flexibility for young, aggressive farmers to expand the size of their farm operations, while allowing aging farmers to withdraw from tobacco production.
Originally ?production quotas? were affixed to a farmer?s land, to which they were originally issued (inseparable). Henceforth ?quota? would float free of any attachment to land and become a saleable commodity like stock or shares sold to the highest bidder leaving the retiring farmer to keep his or her land and farm dwelling. Had we been in possession of the farm shortly after we sold out, the outcome for our two families would have been enormously different. 1. The aging parents could have lived out their remaining years without cost or hassle. 2. We would not have sacrificed the farm to relocate at a burdensome cost of buying another home and remained on the farm at no cost versus a combined outlay of $100,000 for both families. We could have sold our production quota, which by itself, sold for more money than we received for the combined assets of the farm--consisting of land, farm buildings, home, and quota. Quota values rose by demand to a high of $3.00 a pound, with a saleable quota on our farm of 57,200 pounds, a potential, ranging up to $168 000. In reality we realized approx. half this amount (for the combined assets of land, farm buildings, home, and quota).
Such were the market conditions prevailing at that time.
The new owner capitalized on this rising market and realized approximately $138,000 for the quota alone, and retaining the land, farm buildings, and home.
What happened, of course, is now hindsight, but shows what can happen when a policy is recklessly enforced without due consideration for people?s personal circumstances. We were robbed of the potential appreciated value of a lifetime investment, which in the end is a farmer?s only retirement nest egg. This demonstrates a calloused attitude by these men in authority.
After a lifetime of indoctrination by an organization, that claims to represent God?s interest on earth; that we are to trust and not question its direction and validity, has a very disarming effect on one?s ability to reason. Believing this is God?s organization, we yielded, believing this was the right thing to do. This is really, believing with blind trust and manipulation by fallible men. After a lifetime of being on ?red alert?, trusting, waiting for Armageddon, one wakes up in shock and disbelief. How was it possible to become so easily entrapped in gullibly trusting and following the direction of mere men?
After over a hundred years of failed predictions, one could reason and ask in view of the record, why, if they are spirit-directed, have these organization leaders made endless mistakes. After a lifetime following their direction and counsel, it is obvious we misplaced our trust in mere men. Experience indicates that we each, should make our own decisions accountable only to God: standing on our own two feet, listening to the voice within to review all factors and making decisions based on rational convictions. We should follow those convictions that we believe to be sound until someone through reason and logic disproves us. This leaves no one to blame if one errs.
It was not leaving the tobacco industry that left our faith shaken. Rather our faith was shaken, not in God, but in an organization claiming to represent Him. The harsh, unilateral, discriminating way the policy was imposed with no consideration for the individual circumstances it forced on people and with no consultation as to how to soften the blow, opened our eyes. It is apparent that there is an inconsistent way this policy was applied to only the tobacco industry. JW?s work in many industries, some of which are serious polluters of the environment, and the air we all must breath. Why were JW?s who were working in other polluting industries, excused, or exempt from this policy? Apparently WT has avoided antagonizing these unionized groups, a very visible element that may have engendered considerable bad publicity for WT.
Was this a double standard in applying 2 Cor.7: 1? Applying this to tobacco made the WT organization look clean, but was it hypocritical?
If we question this scripture and apply it to clean air, we would be viewed as going ahead of God?s spirit-directed organization and be viewed as falling from grace and be marked.
What is of genuine concern for us is the integrity of Bible principles, the application of the principles of love and all the factors that this word embraces. Being considerate in how one deals with the lives of fellow humans, openness, honesty and truth should be the attitude of a God-directed organization. We have found, however, that the authority structure is seriously lacking in these qualities because if one does speak out against the organization, he or she is immediately suspect of disloyalty to God. We feel we were wronged and we experienced abuse when intimidated and threatened with disfellowshipping if we failed to act on their direction.
True Christianity flows from the heart, and does not coerce or threaten. It appeals to the heart and reason and does not stifle freedom of expression against error or corruption. In fact there is a moral obligation to speak truth, as truth has nothing to fear. It stands on its own merits. We can no longer believe God would use an organization with men of this calibre or behavior to represent his interests on earth. As a result of this personal life experience, we find we can no longer submit to, or trust, in a gullible, unquestioning way to leaders who claim being directed by God.
Further Reasons for leaving WT. And Jehovah?s Witnesses
(a) The now public knowledge since 2001 as disclosed by the British Newspaper ?The Guardian.? of WT being secretly affiliated as an NGO member of the United Nations during the 90?s. Why the involvement with this political organization, which WT teachings condemns as part of Satan?s world system to be destroyed by God at Armageddon?
(b) The Silent Lamb?s website, www.silentlambs.org , disclosure of cover-up of child abuse among Jehovah?s Witnesses.
(c) The questionable chronology and WT. View of the 1914 doctrine, the claimed year of Christ?s second coming and presence, the beginning of the last days, and the teaching that this (1914) generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. Math. 24: 34. That generation view now altered to be an indefinite period and no longer tied to a lifetime generation. And now 1914 is some 90 years in the past and a whole generation passed away, and we?re still waiting, obviously a serious error in concept and teaching. ?1914 The Generation that will not Pass Away.? See WT May 15/84 Page 4-7) & Nov.1/95, ?Generation.?
(d) The world?s end as forecast by C.T. Russell to be in 1914, and the failed return of ancient prophets and world?s end again in 1925 as predicted by Judge Rutherford WT President, could never endear them to people who trustingly followed their lead and were disappointed and misled. Deu.18: 20-22.
(e) The unilateral decision in 1929 by the then WT. President Judge Rutherford to interpret the Higher Powers of Romans 13:1-7 as being Jehovah God and his son Christ Jesus was in error and completely reversed in 1962 by WT. And as any reasoning mind on reading these passages can only conclude that here the scripture was and is speaking of national governments that rule and to whom all subjects must submit. Was this spirit-directed?
(f) In many nations, Christians who object to military service as conscientious objectors are offered the option of National Alternative Service to work in various fields such as forestry, parks, hospitals etc. Young men were at liberty to choose, but the choice of Alternative Service for JW men, carried with it the automatic disqualification to be viewed a JW in good standing, (disfellowshipped) subject to rejection and shunning by the Witness community, family and friends, with no hope of a resurrection. Consequently, the refusal of young JW men to accept Alternative Service resulted in an automatic prison term of several years in penal institutions. This resulted in leaving jobs and, if married, leaving unsupported family and children, being separated for years. Then in May 1996, WT reversed its policy leaving the decision up to the individual?s conscience (as it should be), no longer resulting in an automatic disassociation (disfellowshipped). These questions beg an answer: why was this Policy maintained for decades resulting in needless imprisonment? Alternative Service, a disfellowshipping sin for decades prior to May 1996, was no longer a crime against God after that date? After men had languished in prisons for years, did this policy in any way manifest itself as being directed by Holy Spirit?
Was this suffering for righteousness sake, or was it an ordeal endured because of flawed reasoning, concepts, and decisions of imperfect, fallible men? Where does the fault lie? Reason and logic make it obvious. Where was the apology forthcoming? Where was any humility manifest? See WT. May 1/96 page 19, 20. & WT Aug. 15/98 page 17
(g) Any criticism of these errors is silenced by a judicial committee held behind closed doors and if one does not recant, disfellowshipping is guaranteed, unlike fair trials in Israel held in public at the city gate by elders and for all to hear and see justice done. Deut.16: 18). Ruth 4:1-12. All the inconsistent flip-flop in policy and doctrine has led to a total loss in the credibility of this alleged Spirit-directed organization.
Encounter with the CO and Elders.
Among Jehovah?s Witnesses the Governing Body determines all policy and doctrine unilaterally. There is no freedom to challenge, question, or disagree with any teaching without risk of being marked, labeled, or disfellowshipped. The last visit from the CO accompanied by a local elder confirmed this. The purpose of their visit was to ask why were we no longer attending meetings. For several reasons, one being a susceptibility to infection, a weak immune system related to chemotherapy treatment for cancer left me no choice but to avoid crowds and sick people as one serious bout with pneumonia was proof enough for me. Another reason, meetings were long in duration and five meetings every week was an endless treadmill for families who already have an overloaded schedule, getting ready, travel time, two hours listening to weekly repetitious material, a heavy burden for families with children. I had lost interest in what meetings were all about. Witnesses are indoctrinated to accept these rules as their worship and service to God. Suggestions or complaints are viewed as fault finding. I had long ago expressed my feelings about matters but WT disregards any suggestions as meddling. WT rules are unilateral and beyond challenge.
For both of us disillusionment had set in, and with very little, if any, display of love as we experienced with the tobacco issue, the hand writing was on the wall. I said to the CO, let me demonstrate what I mean. I approached his chair from behind, jabbed my two forefingers into the back of his neck and told him it was a double barrel shot gun loaded with two disfellowshiping cartridges in the breech, warning us to get out of tobacco production or we will pull the trigger, I had made my point. He understood. I asked him if he could interpret that as a considerate loving way to deal with people. He was shocked and speechless, he said he had no idea this had happened and asked, ?May I a say a prayer?? After elaborating on other issues, I said Brother, I am being deliberately frank with you because I want this organization to know and understand how their treatment affects people. He said I can see why you feel as you do, but I have to warn you, you are not at liberty to discuss these matters with congregation members. Other visits followed to check if I had a change of attitude. What I had conveyed to the CO, I felt had to be said. It was heart motivated. Of course speaking of these things to others would be considered as defying the organization. Well there you have it, the extent of your limited freedom to express any heartfelt feelings. One might reason WT would display Christian humility and apologize for the problems caused by their errors, shepherd and win back stray sheep, but to the contrary, they display arrogance, marking, threats, and finally disfellowshipping .
Someone had offered me a book to read CRISIS of CONSCIENCE. I enquired who the author was. R. Franz came the answer. I exclaimed no way would I read apostate books! Three weeks later I had changed my mind and accepted the book. What had I to lose? By chapter five I realized the material had the ring of truth, and so began an extended journey. My suspicions of WT were confirmed. Here were answers to long-standing questions and like a jigsaw puzzle the pieces began to fall into place.
We both read the book. What an incredible exposé. We ordered three other books: In Search of Christian Freedom by R.Franz, Apocalypse Delayed by J.Penton, and The Gentile Times Reconsidered by C.O. Jonsson, a book dealing with chronology of the Babylonian period and Jerusalem?s fall -- a scholarly objective review of WT teaching.
I spent months researching to find evidence of what we were taught was the truth, only to discover to my dismay so much was misleading. The thought of leaving after sixty year?s indoctrination was a sudden and traumatic experience, you need to be fortified with the conviction you are making the right decision, to do that requires arriving at logical conclusions by reading and research. Only then can you feel comfortable and liberated. We have not left God our Creator, or his Son Christ Jesus, as we are accused of by JW?s, neither have our life-long values changed. What has changed is we are no longer part of a man-made organization that has fallen into apostasy. Whom else would we turn to for life?
I had always had a keen interest in chronology and found Jonsson?s book was a God-send in elucidating that period of history. It helped us to see Jerusalem fell in 586/87 BCE. Not 607 BCE, a date that defies the record of history, a date altered (some 20 yrs) that would accommodate a link between 607 BCE.and 1914 AD,, namely the speculative 2520 year theory adopted from the 18th.Century Millerite movement and taught these many years by the WT.
Like all Religions some truth and error are taught by all of them including WT. Substituting man-made doctrines for Bible truth, with considerable speculation as well. We felt no discomfort sharing what we had learned and were not overly concerned for doing so. Before long, elders became aware that we would not be gagged or muzzled. We were paid a visit by elders whose spirit manifested that this was not going to be a shepherding call. The message was verbal and brusque. I was informed I was to attend a judicial hearing the following day at 3 PM with 18 hours notice. I asked if I was being charged and with what charge. He ignored my question and stated, ?be at the meeting you will find out?, and gave some scripture which I could not recall. Their demeanor indicated to me I had already been tried and sentenced, the tone was provocative and rude. I said I was familiar with their brand of justice and would not be attending a kangaroo trial.
He then countered with a question. Would I sign a form letter disassociating myself, as he had one in his case. I told them I would do no such thing. I have been inactive for years and haven?t attended meetings for about five years. You don?t own me and my dedication was never to an organization or any man. You come here unannounced, you were not invited, you violate private property posted with NO TRESPASSING signs, and your harassing manner is not welcome here either. Leave this property immediately! You have 2 minutes to do so and never set foot on this property again. Needless to say by this time the exchange had become quite heated. It was the headiest moment I had ever experienced in my life and will never forget. To take charge and be in control without fear of these men, and refuse to take the abuse they dish out any longer was a high point for me. In a matter of minutes it was all over.
Looking back I suppose the exit for me had begun unobtrusively a long time in the past. The cumulative effects of all the negatives I observed were coming to a head. I had a gut feeling something was wrong but did not know what or why. I prayed about it for some time but no correction came, then or since. Had God?s Spirit abandoned this organization? It would appear so. Seemingly the answer for me came on reading the four publications I read mentioned above. Many Thanks for the effort and hard work these authors exerted in sharing with all of us this information and having the courage of their convictions to put all of it into print. Again, many Thanks.
As for the Witness community in general, we view them as decent, moral, upright sincere people, we harbor no animosity toward them. They must shun us, or risk intervention from the Elders, even disfellowshipping. Fear, guilt, intimidation and threat are the power tools of most cults to keep people in line along with authoritarian rule
Those of the leadership of the organization have now become rigid, authoritarian, and legalistic like the Pharisees of Jesus day, and give evidence of having drifted into apostasy like the nation of Israel and its leaders who repeatedly fell away to apostasy leading the nation to experience great affliction. The endless repeated eulogy and self glorification of the ?Faithful and Discreet Slave? (Governing Body) in WT publications has virtually displaced the name of Jesus Christ mankind?s only Redeemer, conduct displaying rank ?idolatry? of a man-made organization and loyally worshiped by the Rank and File. In due time of course, all will stand before God?s judgment seat and give an accounting for past conduct.
(The author wishes to remain anonymous)