Watchtower “breakdown” on the Highway to Paradise

By Terry Walstrom

All of us at one time or another have owned an automobile that was a real lemon!  While the car may have been  shiny, stylish and totally cool-looking – the problem was it was a piece of crap.

Repair, after repair, after repair! A never-ending spiral of maintenance kept it in the shop more than it was on the road!

You may have really loved that car. In fact – it might well have been a classic – but was totally useless for basic transportation because IT COULD NOT GET YOU WHERE YOU WANTED TO GO!

And that, my friends, applies to the religion known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses!”

The engine which drives this “tour bus to a Heavenly Paradise” keeps breaking down, forcing the bus to the side of the road and making the passengers wait for repairs.

All the while, the tour guide and the bus company offer glowing reassurances that you are “IN GOOD HANDS” and the arrival will be well worth the trip!

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Takeover in Menlo Park – Part One

A small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, former elders at the Menlo Park (CA) Kingdom Hall, have filed a lawsuit in federal district court charging several ranking representatives of the Watchtower Society with “Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Commit Fraud, Collusion, Fraud, Extortion, Defamation, Mail and Wire Fraud, and Religious Fraud.” [United States District Court For the Northern District of California: CV10-3907 – click here to read the actual complaint as filed in court.]

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, as all Christians do, that theft of another’s property, and then lying about it, is a sin. In fact, three of the Ten Commandments speak to this issue:

The 8th Commandment: “You shall not steal.”

The 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The 10th Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

For the most part, faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses try to live by these standards, even though they teach that Jesus replaced those Ten, and in fact all the Law of Moses, with just two commandments as recorded in Mark 12:30, 31:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

It’s clear that true Christians would not consider using theft, misrepresentation, outright lies, or illegal manipulation to take away the property of another brother – or anyone else. It would be considered a “sin” – a clear violation of the commandments of both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses are often punished by being reproved or disfellowshipped for violation of those commandments, and that’s in addition to any secular legal penalties.

We might argue about some of the predictions, teachings, and practices of the Watchtower Society. But most of us, Jehovah’s Witnesses and non-Witnesses alike, would assume that every Christian should strive to follow those clear commandments. Most would agree that a “Christian” stealing from another brother is not really a “Christian” at all, but would be considered “an evil one, demon possessed, or serving Satan.”

Apparently the Watchtower Society’s leaders feel that they are not bound by the same rules that apply to rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses. There have been many past examples, but the latest and most blatant violation by the Society of the Lord’s Commandments is taking place in Menlo Park, California (USA).

How Kingdom Halls were built and financed in the past

Like most Kingdom Halls built between 1945 and 1970, the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall was financed and managed by local Jehovah’s Witnesses. In order to hold the deed, order utilities, and meet local land use and building codes, a non-profit corporation was formed to hold title to the property. In most cases, little or no financing help was forthcoming from Bethel Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. Any loans or mortgages were arranged locally, usually through a bank or a private party – often arranged with the original owner of the land or by a wealthy JW who was willing to guarantee the Note.

Trustees of the Kingdom Hall corporations were selected from among the local Kingdom Hall servants, and usually included the Congregation Servant, the Assistant Congregation Servant, and one or two others. If one of the Trustees left the Kingdom Hall for any reason, including death or disciplinary reasons, the Trustees would nominate a replacement. The nominee would be announced to the assembled congregation and a vote was taken to affirm the appointment.

Local contributions and donations paid for the mortgage, utility bills, insurance, and maintenance. The Watchtower Society rarely assisted local congregations financially, except in very extreme situations not fully covered by the Hall’s insurance policies.

Menlo Park’s Kingdom Hall

This was basically the method used to build the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall. The local brothers and sisters OWNED the Hall at 811 Bay Road, just a stone’s throw from the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). There was easy access to the Hall from surrounding communities. It was the “parent” of several other local Kingdom Halls built over the next 50 years. As the local community grew, so did Jehovah’s Witnesses within the region.

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Going to the Public Talk

The following YouTube video, while presented with a huge dose of satire, nails the basic concepts of attending a local Kingdom Hall’s “public talk.” Written and produced by an Australian observer of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their unique religious practices, this little bit of expanded reality should bring a chuckle or two to anyone who has actually attended a JW meeting.

If you think this depiction is too far over the top, I suggest that you go to a Kingdom Hall and experience a public talk for yourself.  Then decide how accurately this video portrays a Sunday meeting. My guess is that if you do go,  you’ll never want to go again.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxmJM0muVVs

Every Sunday, Jehovah’s Witnesses go to their local Kingdom Hall to hear the “public talk” and then later attend the weekly Watchtower Study, a rather boring question and answer session using an article from a recent Watchtower magazine.

Public talks are the Witnesses’ version of a sermon. They began as one hour speeches, but shortened to 45 minutes a few years ago. Although they still seem like an hour, they now last only 30 minutes.

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Kingdom Halls – Who owns them?

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t “go to church;” they attend meetings at a “Kingdom Hall.” Unlike most traditional churches, Kingdom Halls do not have altars or Christian crosses (even though the JWs are “Christian”). You won’t find religious icons, paintings, or statues of Jesus, Mary, or any saints. Nor will you won’t find an orchestra pit or an area for a choir to sit. In fact, most Kingdom Halls won’t have an organ or even a piano.

Who owns this Kingdom Hall?

Kingdom Halls are never named or memorialized after anyone – even if someone donated the land and building.

My very first visit to a Kingdom Hall was in the fall of 1951. My family lived in West Los Angeles in a small rented home on South Bundy Drive. We’d only been studying for about a month when my mother and I went to our first meeting at the Venice Kingdom Hall. At that time it was located in a rented store front just a couple of miles west of our home.

We’d only been there a couple of times before we had to transfer to the “Mar Vista Congregation,” also in a small rented store just a few miles south of our home. Even though the Venice Kingdom Hall was closer to our home, this change was forced upon us because we were told that we “lived on the wrong side of the street that was the dividing line.”

In early 1953, just before we left to go to the International Convention in New York City, we moved back to our family home in Riverside, California. Because we lived near downtown in the “University District,” we were assigned to the Riverside Central Kingdom Hall, then at the corner of 5th and Park Ave. It had been a Pentecostal church at one time and the local congregation purchased it from the owners with a loan from one of the wealthier brothers. They maintained the hall and made payments to the brother by using local donations from the members.

Who owns this Kingdom Hall in California?

Once a month, near the end of the Thursday night Service Meeting, the Congregation Servant would read the Kingdom Hall’s Financial Report. (This was typical for all congregations during that era.) The report would account for all money taken in for literature, from the donation boxes, from private contributions, and from interest earned on bank accounts. We then heard a complete listing of all expenses: utilities, cleaning supplies, fire insurance, literature purchased from the Watchtower Society, reimbursed expenses, and money set aside for reserves. One of the items reported was the payment on the remaining Note on the Kingdom Hall.

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A Sad Day

By Marco Garcia

It’s a sad day – sad because we have lost a great man. He was a man who was a defender of common sense and justice, someone who stood up for the truth and fought against imposing lies on naive people. He was someone courageous enough to go up against a powerful organization who manipulates millions of people by intimidation and fear.

A few years ago, while serving as an elder in a local congregation, I started reading Ray Franz’s book, Crisis of Conscience. I realized that the anomalies that I saw locally were not unprecedented and that the patterns and contradictions came from the very same world headquarters. I realized that corruption, lust for power, envy, personal conflicts, political games, and nepotism also take place within the Governing Body. That’s not exactly what most of us expected from the place that claims to be “guided by the Holy Spirit.”

I sincerely thank Ray Franz for his courage and the sacrifice he made when he decided to leave a very comfortable life as part of the nucleus of power as a member of the Watchtower’s Governing Body. He left a life where he got preferential treatment, surrounded by blind sheep serving “supermen” who claimed to be directed by the Holy Spirit of God.

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Raymond Franz, RIP

Raymond Franz
Raymond Victor Franz, 1922-2010

It was announced this morning (June 2nd) that Raymond Franz passed away due to a stroke injuries he suffered on May 30, 2010.

Mr. Franz was a much-loved and respected Christian all of his life. As active and dedicated Jehovah’s Witnesses, he and his wife served for over 40 years in various assignments, primarily in the Caribbean and at Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. He was a former missionary and member of the Watchtower Society’s Governing Body. Since the early 1980s, after leaders of the Watchtower Society excommunicated him, he lived privately and quietly in the southeastern United States.

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