Jehovah's Witnesses Show Theological Rift by Staying Silent on Michael Jackson
In recent months publicity surrounding the Michael Jackson trial has brought a spotlight on Jehovah's Witnesses and their beliefs. Normally a closed society that allows little information to the public has been forced to face some hard realities with regard to their theology. [read VH1 article here]
In the year 2001 the child abuse scandal was exposed as being a worldwide problem in the JW community. Hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles offered victims accounts of abuse in the religion around the world. Television media in the form of all major networks including Dateline, BBC, CBC, along numerous other reputable programs offered horrific accounts told by victims of abuse cover up that aired in over fifty countries around the world. The reaction of the administrative arm of Jehovah's Witnesses (Governing Body) was publicly documented in the New York Times [read story here] as they started disfellowshipping members that were whistle blowers for speaking about abuse being a problem in the religion. In the same month the NYT article went to print the religion offered an internal article to all members in a monthly newsletter called "Our Kingdom Ministry." In a four page insert that was studied in two consecutive meetings, the question of how to treat a disfellowshipped relative was addressed in an article entitled, "Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative is Disfellowshipped." [read article here] This article apparently was a reaction to the media coverage on child abuse in the organization and was used as a tool to try and silence any family member that might come forward about past abuse. The organization went on to disfellowship several more members for not being silent about the abuse problem. The article presented family members that wished to not be disfellowshipped only one choice that was to disown their family members that were disfellowshipped by following the guidelines of the 2002 KM. In the article an example was mentioned regarding a son and daughter calling their mother and explaining they would no longer speak to her until she was reinstated. (no longer disfellowshipped) The article also cited that a family would have to consider if a child would be allowed to eat at the dinner table if it was disfellowshipped. This harsh edict of theology was taken to the most extreme application of this belief in the history of the religion. In effect it threatened all members into silence and loss of family if they were deemed to be disfellowshipped by elders of the congregation.
This interesting reaction by JW management in their abuse scandal was a great contrast to the actions of the Catholic Church, a religion that for years had been crucified in JW literature for having a child abuse scandal. The Catholic abuse scandal was used as a way by Jehovah's Witnesses, to condemn Catholic religious belief as being part of "Babylon the Great" the world empire of false religion directed by Satan the Devil. [see articles here]
In time the Catholic Church has acknowledged there was a problem, set forth policy changes, and the Pope publicly apologized. While this certainly does not mean the Catholic issue is completely resolved at least it was some positive steps in the right direction. Not once has the JW community made mention of Catholic progress in their literature after giving them such a hard time over the years in print. JW management to date has refused to acknowledge their problem and for the most part disfellowshipped anyone that tried to go public with the abuse scandal. Many abuse survivors were simply notified with a letter or phone call they were kicked out after talking about child abuse as a problem. Judgment was swift and harsh to abuse survivors who became outcasts to their families and friends in the context of the 2002 KM on how to treat disfellowshipped relatives. The Jehovah's Witness Public Relations Department offered numerous press releases to the media in reaction to victims going forth to media to tell their stories. In each case the religion claimed innocence and at one point a lead attorney acting as a media spokesman actually claimed JW abuse policy was "far superior" to any other religion. This was after they acknowledged a private database with thousands of child molesters that had not been reported to police.
Now the Michael Jackson Scandal goes out to the media in January of 2003. At the time Firpo Carr a member of the elite 144,000 heavenly class of Jehovah's Witnesses served as Jackson 's spokesman. This special group only numbers around 4,000-5,000 of the JW membership and by their belief represent a long linage of those with special favor before God, the last of mankind that go to heaven to rule as kings over the earth after Armageddon. Carr served as Jackson's spokesman for three months along with Jackson's family going public again and again in his defense. An article was written about the apparent inconsistency in how the Jackson ýs were being given special privilege outside of the JW teachings on disfellowshipping. [read article here]
News articles have continued to state Michael Jackson is a Jehovah's Witness. In the spring of 2003 when the media alluded to the allegation that Jackson had converted to Islam the rebuttal was swift and public. Jackson flatly denied any association to the religious belief. Yet in recent articles time and again references are made that Jackson is a JW. It is a strange silence not only from the Jackson camp but also from the previously very vocal Public Relations Department of Jehovah's Witnesses on their child abuse scandal. In 1987 the religion publicly stated Jackson had been removed from membership of the religion. In light of the publicity and scandal it would appear they would want to clarify this to media unless Jackson actually has been welcomed back as a member in good standing.
For current members of Jehovah's Witnesses that is familiar with the doctrine it offers a theological dilemma as Jackson's way of life appears to go in complete conflict with how members are directed to make decisions on how to live. It comes to a simple point of conflict,
- If Jackson is a JW it offers a public statement of how the religion openly supports members accused of child abuse and forces its members to face this uncomfortable issue.
- If Jackson is disfellowshipped then his family and friends that are JWýs are openly flaunting rules all regular Jehovah's Witness members are forced to live by otherwise.
A recent article that mentions Jesse Jackson praying with Michael Jackson is yet another inconsistency.[read article here] In Jehovah's Witness belief if a member were to pray with a minister of another religion it would provide an automatic basis to be kicked out of the religion. If any of Jackson's Jehovah's Witness family joined in they would be ousted as well. If Jackson is a JW how will the organization respond to this compromise of their belief? If Jackson is not a JW then how can his Jehovah's Witness family members and friends openly continue to support him by going to court and speaking out in his behalf?
To the public this may seem to be of little consequence but to active members of Jehovah's Witnesses it represents a total apostasy from their theology. The longer JW management remains silent the greater the problem becomes. Has the Jackson family turned the Governing Body (JW leadership) into silent lambs or will they be forced to clarify this total disregard of the belief they require all members to follow?
The fact remains victims of abuse have been silenced by the religion while the religion remains silent about the vocal praise and support by Jehovahýs Witnesses for an alleged child molester.