WHO ARE THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES?
Francis J. Ripley
The Jehovah's Witnesses are a sect founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell, a Pittsburgh draper. Russell was born in 1852 of Scottish and Irish descent. He became an earnest worker in the Congregational Church. At the age of seventeen he tried to convert an atheist but lost his own faith. He had been obsessed by the thought of the horror of hell. Even as an atheist he could not leave the Bible alone. Aged twenty, he began preaching "the good news" with "no hell." He assumed the title "Pastor Russell" in 1879 when he was founding his new religion.
Charles Taze Russell
Russell was not a Scripture scholar, learned in the Greek language. Under oath in court at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1913 he declared in support of his claims to be an expert Scripture scholar that he knew Greek. Handed a Greek New Testament, he was forced to admit that he did not know even the Greek alphabet. Neither did he know Latin or Hebrew. He wrote on the Bible, but every acknowledged Scripture scholar in the universities of the world today will agree that Russell's explanations are for the most part quite contrary to the obvious meaning of the words of the Bible. Russell was never a scholar in the accepted sense of the word.
Nor did Russell lead a saintly life such as we might expect of the founder of a religious sect. His followers write: "Russell must have had a rare capacity for business. Before he was thirty years old he had expanded his father's clothing store in Alleghany, Pennsylvania and rapidly established four more. By the time he was thirty he had sold out the chain for 250,000 dollars, which in the 1880s was equivalent to more than a million dollars today" (Marley Cole, <Jehovah's Witnesses>, 73). He was an expert, too, at making money by investments in mines and real estate, and by selling his books. He sold what he called "miracle wheat" at sixty dollars a bushel to credulous farmers, the fraud being eventually stopped by the federal authorities, who made him refund the money (Leslie Rumble, <Radio Replies>, 2:1,352). In 1911 the Brooklyn <Daily Eagle> published a caricature of Russell and beneath it this question: "If Pastor Russell can get a dollar a pound for miracle wheat, what could he have got for miracle stocks and bonds as a director in the old Union Bank?" Russell sued the <Eagle> for libel. The <Eagle> won the case. Russell had begun by preaching the "Millennial Dawn." His followers then became known as "Millennial Dawnists." Soon Russell adopted the title "Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society." In 1896 this was changed to "Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society." For a time he thought the "People's Pulpit Association" sounded better. In 1914 the name became "International Bible Students' Association." Russell died in 1916.
After Russell's death he was succeeded as head of the sect by a man named Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who called himself "Judge" although he had never held an official appointment as such.
On May 8, 1918, together with other "Russellites," he was arrested under the Espionage Act and later sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment for spreading insubordination and disloyalty in the American Navy and Army. He was released after serving nine months in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta.
<The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church> states that Rutherford "was the descendant of a Baptist family of Morgan County, Missouri. Though he had never studied, he was given an attorney's license in 1892. He frequently defended Charles Taze Russell in the courts and became a resourceful supporter of his sect, and in 1917, after Russell's death, its head. Under his leadership, the organization took on an increasingly revolutionary aspect. He was frequently accused of fraudulent practices, even by his own followers. He originally assigned the Second Coming to 1914. Later he held that Christ had returned invisibly in that year and that the final Armageddon between Jehovah and Satan was imminent, though no precise date was fixed."
It was Rutherford who in 1931 devised the new title "Witnesses of Jehovah" and publicized the slogan "Millions now living will never die." He was not one of the millions. He died in 1942 in the palatial villa he had built at San Diego as an official residence pending the return of the Lord to judge the living and the dead.
Nathan Homer Knorr
Rutherford was succeeded as head of the Jehovah's Witnesses by Nathan Homer Knorr. He had been on the board of directors since 1934. Knorr began a face-lifting and public relations program which paid dividends in converts. Door-to-door evangelists no longer carried portable gramophones and collections of Rutherford's records. They were given a thorough training in speech, apologetics, and salesmanship which enabled them to deliver their own Bible talks. The "one-foot-in-the-door" approach has been abandoned. The new technique is to pet the dog, speak softly, and accept refusals and even door-slams with some degree of graciousness. Householders are now urged to buy a magazine or a copy of <Let God be True>, a 320-page exposition of strange theology. More than ten million copies were printed for the first edition in 1946 and it is said that by now several times that have been distributed.
Knorr died in 1977 and was succeeded by Frederick Franz, who continued the policies of his predecessors and who, at his death in 1993, was succeeded by Milton Henschel, the current head of the church.
What JWs believe
Some say the Witnesses have altered their creed. If they have, they stand condemned for having misled all their followers for many years. If they have not, they still merit the universal condemnation of the works of Russell and Rutherford by all orthodox Christians. But there is no evidence that they have altered their essential beliefs. Their <strategy> has changed.
Their aim now is to manipulate mankind's natural feelings and fears. They play on such things as the destructive force of nuclear weapons, the scare of overpopulation, corruption in high places, and the spread of pornography. The Witnesses claim that they have "resigned from the world." Its problems, wars, and politics are so complex, so pervasive, that they no longer concern the Witnesses. They claim to be "citizens of a better society, Jehovah's New World Theocracy."
In the orthodox sense the Witnesses are not Christians, for they deny that Christ is God. Their teaching is certainly new, but they themselves deny that it is a religion. They conceive it to be their first duty to denounce all other religious bodies. Rutherford declared that "religion was introduced into the world by the Devil." "For more than three years," he declared, "Jesus continued to proclaim the truth and to warn the people against the practice of religion." "For religion," declared Rutherford, "dishonors and reproaches the name of Jehovah God" (Rumble, 7).
According to him religion and Christianity are exactly opposite and opposed one to the other. All Christians believe the opposite. Christianity is the one, true religion revealed by Jesus Christ, who was God himself.
The Witnesses have no time for the Christian churches. Russell said that in 1879 God had rejected all existing Churches and made the Russellites the only spokesmen thenceforward. Rutherford went further. He did not like to admit that the churches were all right till Russell came on the scene. After Christ's Resurrection, he said, the devil built up a great empire, the papacy. Later, he inspired the creation of the Protestant churches. So, all Catholic priests and Protestant clergymen are of the devil, enemies of God, Antichrist.
The Witnesses deny that they are a church or a denomination. There is no justification, they say, in the Bible for a church or a hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, and the Free Churches are the constant butt of abuse in publications of the Witnesses, who deny most fundamental Christian doctrines.
As for civil authority, they say they owe their only loyalty to a "Theocratic Kingdom" and refuse the duties of earthly citizenship. There are two groups in the world, the "Theocratic Kingdom" and "Satan's Organization." This latter includes all churches and governments. Just as among the churches the papacy is the "Beast" <par excellence>, so among the nations are America and Britain.
Some people think the Witnesses are pacifists like the Quakers. They are not. The truth is that they worship a vengeful God who plans the bloodiest war in history, "Armageddon." They seem to delight in realistic descriptions of the fate of the wicked who are slain for allying themselves with Satan's armies. Witnesses have no scruples against blood being shed in such a war, but they refuse to become involved in the petty squabbles of Satan's nations.
The Witnesses have often been condemned by the civil courts of law. For example, "From 1946 to 1953, Jehovah's Witnesses were involved in 1,665 prosecutions in Quebec" (Cole, 188). We continually read of the fining and jailing of individual Witnesses in many parts of the world.
In Australia and New Zealand during 1940 their organization was declared illegal. The New Zealand Attorney-General said at the time that they were devoting themselves to "vilification of religion, of their fellow-citizens, of the State, and of the Government."
The Witnesses maintain they are persecuted. In fact, they get themselves into trouble (often deliberately, for the sake of publicity) by attacking the cherished beliefs of their fellow-men on which our civilization is based and by promoting disloyalty to lawful authority.
"For conscientious cussedness on the grand scale, no other aggregation of Americans is a match for Jehovah's Witnesses. Defiance of what others cherish is their daily meat. They hate all religionsand say so from the housetops. They hate all governments with an enthusiasm that is equally unconcealed.... For being generally offensive they have been getting their heads cracked, their meetings broken up, their meeting-houses pillaged, and themselves thrown into jail" (<Saturday Evening Post>, September 14, 1940). Such "cussedness" is not so evident today, but their opinion of other religions has not changed significantly.
It would be interesting to know how the Witnesses reconcile their contentions that they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs and that their preachers are ministers of religion (entitled to many privileges, like that of traveling at reduced fares in America) with their basic article of faith that religion is of the devil.
The belief of the Witnesses that a hierarchy or a church is contrary to the Bible and the existence of their own organization is just one of the many contradictions inherent in this fantastic system. In his contribution to <Religion in the Twentieth Century> Nathan Homer Knorr asserted that Christ directs affairs through a "visible organization" with headquarters at Brooklyn, New York. The visible head of this visible organization was, of course, Knorr himself. He was, and his current successor is, surrounded by a very visible board of directors. All over the world there are visible local congregations called "companies." They meet in visible rooms called "Kingdom Halls." Visible "organizational servants" oversee all the "company" activities. Visible full-time field-workers, called "pioneers," are given visible money by the Society. Every active Witness of Jehovah is regarded as "a minister ordained and commissioned by God, not by man." If this system is not a visible hierarchical organization, what is?
They claim exemption from military service on the grounds that they are all "ministers of religion." Their own <Yearbook> enjoined, "Every thirty days each and every branch office in operation on the earth . . . makes a report in writing to the President of the Society, setting forth in detail the work accomplished during the month. At the end of the fiscal year all branch offices . . . will submit to the President in writing a report."
The Jehovah's Witnesses sell many thousands of publications each year. Little information is available about the disposal of the profits from all this literature. The <Watchtower> and its companion magazine, <Awake!>, report circulations in the millions. They have the widest circulation of all religious periodicals published in the U.S.
"There never was such a religious racket as that of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society" (Rumble, 13). Rumble estimated that a profit of ten million dollars must have been made in the thirty years following 1918, and that is a very conservative estimate. We are not surprised when the Witnesses' <Year Book> says that no financial statements are published because enemies would use them "to hinder the work of the Society."
No works of public charity are maintained by the Witnesses corresponding to the great charitable institutions of the Catholic Church. Decades ago, when the Witnesses' secretary was challenged to state what his Society had done "for the poor devils who find themselves economically deprived of a living and in starvation and hunger or penury and want," he replied, "That is not the purpose of this activity. That is not the purpose of this Association. The commission entrusted to Jehovah's Witnesses is to bear testimony among the people."
The Jehovah's Witnesses are not true Bible Christians. They reject the only authority there is in the world for the Bible, namely the Catholic Church. Russell, Rutherford, and their successors have no means of knowing that the Bible is God's word, apart from the Catholic Church. Rutherford actually wrote that Russell found "no Christian denomination teaching what the Bible contains," so he went to work himself.
Russell's followers seem to have been convinced that he had been inspired by God, but, when Russell died in 1916, Rutherford began to teach some very different doctrines. There was strife within the organization, but Rutherford triumphed. The Witnesses believed that Rutherford's explanations of the Bible were not human opinions, but were inspired by God. The pope's claim to be infallible is mild compared with that.
The Witnesses contradict almost every basic Christian teaching, and those they don't contradict they usually ignore. They are fundamentally Unitarians. A leaflet published from their London office, called <What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?>, tells us: "Since there are many 'gods' and many 'lords,' the true God has a personal name to distinguish him from all other gods." The name is "Jehovah."
The truth is that there is only one God, and he does not need a name to distinguish him from other "gods." Even the word "Jehovah" is not really biblical. The original writers of Holy Writ did not know it. In Hebrew they wrote "Yahweh," which means "He who is." It is an alternative to "God." The Witnesses, in contrast, claim that "Jehovah" is a personal name for God. It is hard to decide exactly what they mean by all this, but it seems that for them Jehovah is to God as oak is to treeone among many, but the best of the lot. The expression "Jehovah God," so commonly used by the Witnesses, is nowhere found in the Bible.
The Witnesses do not believe that God is everywhere, nor do they believe in the Trinity. In his book <Reconciliation> Rutherford said that "the constellation of the seven stars forming the Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of Godthe dwelling place of Jehovah." Witnesses constantly ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity. Rutherford wrote, "Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind and that the mind of Satan, the Devil" (<Reconciliation>, 101).
The Witnesses do not believe that Christ is the eternal Son of God, equal to the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is the third equal divine Person. Although Christ revealed the doctrine of the Trinity and spoke of the Holy Spirit as personal (John 14:26), Rutherford said the Holy Spirit is any power or influence exercised by God.
Christ, according to the Witnesses, was Jehovah's "first creation." He is not equal with the Father (<What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?>, 2). Russell taught that Christ was "Michael, the Archangel." "In obedience to God, he gave up his spirit-being and was born of Mary as a wholly human being." The Witnesses teach that Jehovah God (their favorite title for the deity) created a spirit-son, Christ Jesus, who, before becoming man, was also known as Michael the Archangel. This spirit-son, not God but more like a favorite angel, took on human flesh as a perfect man.
To make it fit in with their strange beliefs the Witnesses do not scruple to manipulate the words of the Bible. For example, where John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel, "the Word was God" (John 1:1), the Witnesses' version is "the Word was a god."
For our Christian teaching about Christ's death, Resurrection, and Ascension, the Witnesses substitute a series of contradictions supported neither by Scripture nor Tradition. In Cole's work we read: "Jesus had to be wholly human. This mighty spirit had to become human in every way, and incredible though this may seem, why should it be doubted?"
Although they use the words "Jesus did rise from the dead," the Witnesses do not, in fact, believe in the Resurrection of Christ in the orthodox Christian way. The man Christ is dead for ever. "The Person who died," Russell tells us, "remained dead, and he will never be seen again in his human nature." No one knows what became of his body. Russell suggested that it might have been dissolved into gases. Similarly, the Witnesses reject the true scriptural and traditional teaching on the Ascension of Christ and substitute for it some of their own inventions.
The soul and eternity
According to the Witnesses, man does not have a soul. He is a soul. "Adam was a soul .
The lower animals also are souls
. Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the doctrines of eternal torment and immortality of the human soul" (What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?, 3-4). Thus in a few sentences do they deny several basic Christian doctrines which are clearly taught in Scripture and by all the Fathers of the Church.
As for hell, although few things are so clearly taught in Scripture as the existence of an eternal hell, where the wicked will be punished, the Witnesses reject it. "Once the Devil has invented immortal souls, he had to invent a place somewhere outside heaven or earth for wicked immortal souls to go to. What else could he do but fall back on eternal conscious torment as the explanation?" (Cole, 163).
The Witnesses do not believe God will punish sinners. "The Bible does not teach that man possesses an 'immortal soul' that can endure endless roasting in torment" (Cole, 72). The world already belongs to the Devil. " God never punishes either in this life nor in the next," declared Russell.
There is no hell. Russell says that all are to be raised again and given a second chance. So everything depends on how we behave then, not on how we behave now. The more wicked a man has been in this life, the more likely he is to make good in the next. Even if he doesn't make good and continues to defy God with contempt, he will simply be put out of existence and experience no future evil consequences whatever.
Sacraments and prayer
Witnesses teach nothing about the Eucharist and other sacraments. They are almost completely ignored, as are so many other vital Christian truths. The purpose of baptism is obscure. Further, you will search Witnesses' literature in vain for any coherent teaching on prayer and Christian perfection. The great saints of God are apparently as much children of the devil as the rest of us. They have no significance whatever for the Witnesses.
The Catholic Church is the arch-enemy of the Witnesses. But on this point, as on everything else, they distort the meaning of the Bible. Let us have their own words: "Since Pentecost God has been calling and preparing a 'bride,' a 'little flock,' a body of 144,000 . . . to share heavenly life and rulership 'as kings with [Christ] for the thousand years'" (<What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?>, 5). We note that God has been preparing a bride since Pentecost, but the Witnesses only came into existence in 1879! They are rather late on the scene.
There is not the slightest evidence in Scripture that our Lord intended his Church to be restricted to a membership of only 144,000. The Witnesses conveniently forget the parable of the smallest of seeds which grew into a great tree (Matt. 13:31). The 144,000 are found in the Apocalypse of John (14:3). All scholars believe it to be a figurative expression referring to the whole company of the redeemed. Similarly, the span of a thousand years (Apoc. 20:4) is not to be taken literally and numerically but figuratively, as the whole context demands.
The Second Coming
As their central doctrine the Witnesses believe that the present world is the reign of Satan and his toolsgovernment, business, and organized religionin conflict against the Theocratic Rule of Jehovah. All men have mortal souls, but they will be recreated and given a second chance of salvation during the millennium. Those who reject it by wickedness will be annihilated; the just will reign everlastingly in this renewed world.
Christ and the 144,000 elect alone have immortal souls, and, as a reward for their obedience to Jehovah, they will reign as spiritual creatures in heaven, not on this earth. The task of the Jehovah's Witnesses is to announce that the Second Coming of Christ will be marked by the battle of Armageddon, in which Satan and his allies will be defeated.
It is hard to know what the Witnesses mean by Armageddon. They have changed their explanations often. The summary of beliefs we have already quoted describes Armageddon as the day when all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of God's jealousynot the literal earth, of course, but this wicked system of things or the world of which Satan is the god. The starting point of Russell's system was Armageddon or Christ's Second Coming. He said it actually took place in 1874, when Christ returned as a spirit to the "upper air." In 1914 Satan began to wage a ferocious war against Christ and the saints in the "upper air." At the same time war broke out on earth.
Russell believed that Armageddon, the end of the world as we know it, would be in 1914, when Christ would descend from the "upper air" and be enthroned as king on earth. After a reign of a thousand years the final judgment would take place.
When Christ failed to appear in 1914, the Witnesses moved the event up several timesto 1916, 1918, 1924, 1928, and so on. They teach that after his death on a torture stake (not a cross), Christ was raised by Jehovah to a new spirit existence. Together with 144,000 selected people who have merited heaven, Christ will rule the earth from his heavenly throne. His invisible Second Coming in 1914 also heralded the great battle between good and evil.
"For many decades, the Witnesses concentrated on finding remaining living members of the 144,000 remnant who will govern the new world from heaven. In 1925 Rutherford instructed them to enlarge their efforts to gather as many as possible of the 'other sheep.'
"These latter are thought to be men of good will who will join the New World Society and thereby survive Armageddon unscathed. According to their doctrine, the Witnesses will not actually fight at Armageddon, but will observe the battlefield at a safe distance. They will see the wicked and the religionists annihilated.
"Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and the millions now living who will never die (Jehovah's Witnesses) will begin to repopulate a paradise on earth. Over the years, the righteous dead will be raised and given an opportunity to declare themselves for Jehovah. Unlike Armageddon's survivors, they will not be allowed to marry and beget children. The wicked stay in the graves, since they have earned no second chance. At the end of the millennium, Satan will be set free to tempt a few away from Jehovah; they and the seducer will finally be annihilated.
"Inhabitants of this earthly paradise will live for ever. They will enjoy the prime of life and tend gardens, sing hymns, and play with the now friendly beasts of the jungle. For many people in the 'out' group of a society which bestows its choicest rewards on those with more education, social status, wealth, and ambition, this picture of an eternal Garden of Eden and a final comeuppance for those now on top has its appeal" (William J. Whalen, <Faiths for the Few: A Study of Minority Religions,> 82).
Nowhere is there to be seen in print a concentration of nonsense in any way comparable to the writings of Russell and Rutherford about Armageddon and the millennium. Their ramblings, prophecies, and warnings, which have again and again been proved false, are completely devoid of foundation. They are flatly contradicted by Scripture and by the constant teaching of the Church Christ established.
How many Witnesses?
When one is asked how many Witnesses there are, all kinds of difficulties arise. All baptized members, including children and women, are considered ordained ministers. An active Witness will attend three or four meetings a week at which the Bible and Watch Tower materials are studied. The sect schedules, according to the Jewish calendar, only one communion service a year; it is held on Nisan 14. Only those who are considered to be among the 144,000 elect may partake of the bread and wine. One of the memorial services recently reported was attended by 1,971,107 people (meeting in various Kingdom Halls), but only 11,179 actually received communion.
Witnesses refuse to serve in the armed forces of any nation or to salute the flag, vote, or hold any political office because they regard themselves as citizens of a theocracy. But they are willing to pay taxes. The committed Witness avoids the secular world. He finds fellowship in the congregations that meet in Kingdom Halls. Feasts such as Christmas and Easter may not be celebrated by Witnesses. They will not participate actively in trade unions, lodges, or secular organizations. Drinking, dancing, smoking, and card playing are not flatly forbidden, but they are discouraged. Witnesses are asked to turn over the excess of their income, after providing a decent living for themselves and their families, to the Watch Tower Society.
Each member is expected to devote at least ten hours a month to door-to-door missionary work. Some sell copies of the Society's publications in the streets. Around the world about 35,000 'pioneers' devote their full time to missionary efforts, and 1,500 men and women work at Bethel headquarters in Brooklyn and at other centers. They set type, print, and bind the books and magazines and write and deal with correspondence. Books, tracts, and copies of their own New World translation of the Bible are published by the Witnesses. This latter edition is edited and annotated according to the beliefs of Witnesses.
The sect grew as much as 25 percent a year during the 1930s and 1940s, but this has leveled off to one percent a year in the U.S. and five percent worldwide. In the U.S. there are 936,000 Witnesses, according to the 1995 <Yearbook>, and considerable concentrations are found in Canada, Germany, Nigeria, the Philippines, Mexico, Zambia, the British Isles, and Brazil. Membership throughout the world totals 4.9 million.
Thousands attend meetings in Kingdom Halls, attend Bible classes, and read the Society's literature but have not been baptized and are not recorded on membership rolls. Traditionally members come from the lower social classes. Witnesses make special efforts to attract blacks, Hispanics, and members of other minority groups.
A highly centralized structure frames the whole organization. Orders and reports come from and move back to the Brooklyn headquarters, directly or through various levels of authority. In important countries branch offices supervise the work and channel the distribution of publications. Local congregations are visited regularly by district and circuit servants who meet local members. They keep detailed statistics of all activities. The Witnesses are brought together by conventions of all types.
As to whether the Witnesses are a church, the <New Catholic Encyclopedia> has this to say: "In 1965 the group was gradually losing some of its specific characteristics as a sect. Although the Witnesses did not yet consider that they belonged to the society in which they lived, they had toned down their strong language against religious and civil institutions. Old Witnesses and neophytes remain extraordinarily active, but some have begun to show less fervor. Apparently the various social classes were also somewhat better represented among them than they were ten or twenty years earlier, when it was said that less than one per cent of the Witnesses had more than a high school education. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses appear to be taking on more and more of the characteristics of a church as opposed to a sect" (7:865).
A real danger?
A system that contradicts basic Christian ideals must be a danger. Particularly in countries like those of South America, where there is such a serious shortage of priests, great ignorance of religion, and much material distress, Jehovah's Witnesses represent a real menace. Their system is based on the destruction of Christianity, of all organized religion, and of all lawful civil authority. It is hard to imagine anything more false or more dangerous than that.
The Witnesses claim that the Bible forbids blood transfusion. This is a highly dangerous doctrine. It is also quite wrong. Typical texts quoted by Witnesses are Leviticus 17:10,14 and Acts 15:29. Insofar as these texts refer to abstaining from blood, they are simply dietary rules which were obeyed by the Jewish people until the time of Christ.
The apostles made a temporary rule that new Christians should abstain from blood, but it is clear that this was done as a compromise to pacify the Jewish Christians and to avoid giving scandal to them. It is stretching the meaning of these texts beyond all sense to make them forbid blood transfusions. It is one thing to drink the blood of an animal or to eat meat that has blood in it and quite a different thing to receive a blood transfusion.
When a Witness calls
If a Witness calls at your home, be charitable. Say quite frankly and definitely that you have your own fixed beliefs and you are quite satisfied with them. Generally speaking it is a waste of time to argue with the Witness on the doorstep. There can be little common ground between Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses. For the latter such fundamental terms as God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Church, religion, and salvation have a meaning quite different from that which they have had for nearly twenty centuries for the Church and all her Fathers, Doctors, saints, and scholars.
Remember too that your Witness visitor is almost certainly unreasonably prejudiced. Only those Catholics who are sufficiently qualified might hope to gain anything by discussion. They should always retain the initiative by talking about the Church as they see it and not about the errors of the Witnesses. Remember that the poor Witness knows nothing of the beauties and treasures of the Church. The only hope in a discussion with him is to be positive, refuse to be drawn into an argument, and concentrate on passing on the picture of the faith that is in the true Catholic mind.
Never accept or buy literature from the Witnesses. Never give them money. Never lose your temper or use insulting language. Remember that Witnesses do not always reveal themselves for what they are. If anyone comes to your house and asks, for example, if you are interested in the Bible, ask at once if he is a representative of the Witnesses of Jehovah. Then act accordingly.
We should pray for the poor misguided souls who have been led into this sect.
Canon Francis J. Ripley is a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool and a frequent contributor to <This Rock>. Earlier versions of this article have appeared as booklets published by the Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, London.
This article was taken from the February 1995 issue of "This Rock," published by Catholic Answers, P.O. Box 17490, San Diego, CA 92177, (619) 541-1131, $24.00 per year.