I recently took a look at the ‘Bible Teach’ book again to see how the information would look to me after everything that has happened over the last year. Since the book is, for now, the main book JWs use to study out of with interested ones, I was curious to see how the organization is sold to people. I focus here on just the introduction of the book, as it is the very first impression people have and will be the strongest selling points.
What Is God’s Purpose For Us?
The opening paragraph presents the narrative that JWs want you to have of the world around you. That is – Everything is horrible and your going to die! Crime, war, terrorism, suffering, illness, and death is front and center. It’s an odd choice for the opening arguments. Unless of course your aim is to target ones that are vulnerable and looking for relief. By framing the narrative as absolutely negative it is manipulating the reader to view the organization that published the book as the lifeline that they need, their relief. Which is exactly who JWs are looking for. They are trained to look for these type of people. They write to family of those mentioned in obituaries, they are active in jails and prisons. Even when people don’t show interest at the door they are reminded that ‘after some time the person’s situation may have changed because of a death of a loved one or other tragedy and they may be more open to our message’. They search out the vulnerable because that’s when people are the most susceptible to indoctrination, and that is the back story of the majority of people joining the religion.
An honest look of the world around us presents a different picture. To be sure, there are PLENTY of things that are bad going on, including the list the book presents. People do suffer today. However, compared to all of human history there as never been a better time to be alive. Advances in medical knowledge alone is why the average age is drastically higher today than in times past. For those that love to harp on the ‘last days’ argument, I dare you to name ANY time period of human history you would rather live in. And remember, you can’t take vaccines, sewage and water treatment facilities, well organized police and fire departments back with you. Along with governments and economies that have made poverty ,hunger, and war at their lowest levels in all of history. So a person to claim that we clearly are in the last days because of the unprecedented suffering going on today clearly needs to talk to a woman living in the 1300s who has watched 7 of her 12 children die from plague, or infection before the age of 5.
The Bible Teaches That God Will Do Amazing Things On Earth
After that somber opening we are treated to a 2-page colorful spread with 6 verses quoted to show what the Bible foretells about the future. The blind seeing, lame walking, dead brought back to life, plenty to eat. The verses are presented to show what God will do ‘on the Earth’, and is the go-to sales pitch of JWs, their bread and butter. Anyone who is suffering to some degree will surely be intrigued by this possibility. We have already discussed a type of person the Witnesses are looking for in the previous section – the vulnerable. Here we see another aspect of that person that the Witnesses find highly desirable in a convert – Bible ignorance.
3 of the 6 verses quoted in this section are from the book of Isaiah. Those that concern the blind seeing, the lame walking, and no one getting sick. Lets notice 3 things about these verses. (1), if you look at their context, all initially are referring to the conditions to be enjoyed by the Jews returning from Babylon. Isaiah 33:24 about ‘no one getting sick’ is applied to the nation as a whole and refers to their sins being forgiven, not a literal sickness. (2) Early Christian writers have always applied them to Jesus and the effects he had on people in his time. The ‘eyes of the blind being opened’ applying to men’s souls. (3) Even the Watchtower itself applies these verses not literally but spiritually. First with the Jews after the exile and then to people today as they hear the ‘kingdom’ message. Only then does it say it can refer to a physical earthly reality in the future. Its primary application is found in the restored spiritual conditions of the returning exiles and then to the spiritual condition of God’s people since 1919 (sigh). With that in mind, its pretty disingenuous of Watchtower here to use these verses in this way while knowing at the same time it doesn’t usually apply it that way it its publications.
The other verses used on the page have also been greatly misused. Psalm 72:16 about having plenty to eat is a psalm about the reign of Solomon and has been used in Bible commentaries as foreshadowing and describing the spirit of the Gospel, not a literal earth-wide application. Revelation 21:3,4 and John 5:28,29 have also likewise been used for centuries as either spiritual blessings or heavenly life.
You would never know any of this by just looking at the page and the happy people celebrating their physical healing. That’s what they count on. No serious Bible student and certainly no Bible scholar would take this seriously. Only the people that have no previous Bible knowledge or very little will not raise objection to this. That is who they look for. Those are the “humble” ones that will listen….because they don’t know any better.
Benefit From What The Bible Teaches
The last 2 pages of the intro again set the narrative they want to tell. They double down on the trouble your having in your life: “Think for a moment about the things that make you worry. These include money or family matters, bad health, or the death of someone you love.” Wow. Your life sucks right now, huh? You want to be happy, right? All you need is the Bible to solve your problems. Well…the Bible and something else too:
“The fact that you are reading this book shows that you want to know what the Bible teaches. This book will help you. There are questions for the paragraphs which will help you understand the Bible better.”
Got it. Jesus is the way. But we control the tollbooth.
One final thought. A common strategy when it comes to manipulating people is a line of reasoning called ‘Fear-Then-Relief’, or ‘FTR’ (seriously, look it up). It involves creating a perceived danger, whether real or imagined, that elicits stress or fear in your subject. Once done, then the subject is presented with the convenient solution that will fix the problem that you created in their mind. Good thing too, because that problem was scary! The subject is now hooked.
Think back again at the structure of the introduction. A problem is presented to the reader. In this case its the ‘terrible conditions’ in the world. Now the reader is worried. What can fix this? Flip the page and you have the solution. God will fix it by means of a solution that is only usually presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fear-then-relief. Just to make sure the point is across they then do it again. Flip the page and your asked to think about all your worries and your barriers to happiness. How in the world can you get answers to your questions? Its the Bible which can be understood correctly with this book by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fear-then-Relief.
So that’s their sales pitch. Any takers? Well can I interest you in some snake oil?