Francis Schaeffer (20th Century Philosopher and Xian Apologist) talked about “going where Truth leads”. That is my motto. There are some things that I will choose not to read, but these are for personal reasons and convictions that I have arrived at over time. I do, however, try to understand the framework of other people’s beliefs and honestly listen to their questions and objections to my beliefs with open ears and heart. The irony to me… is that my openness to the faith of others is due to my studies of the Christian scriptures. My journey has made me more open to seeking truth (TRUTH) than shying away from the difficult task. I don’t have answers to everything about my Christian faith, but I am not closed off to the questions or materials that would challenge me to do a double take and reflect a little longer beyond what the Church, pastors, fear of hell, or parents have told me to believe.
So… with that… My good friend John had a friend who’s relative had died. This is how I made it to the JW funeral. I was humbled to be there. Many good people mourning the loss of their friend. I was the outsider in their midst… (I did not feel dressed for the occasion, but I did have my sleeve of tattoos covered!). I walked in late (never have been in a Kingdom Hall before). It was a small but warm worship space. The room was packed, and I arrived just in time for it to start.
I looked through the memorial bulletin as some decent music was played. Soon a gentleman (pastor, elder, minister I assume) began to talk about the deceased life. The funeral was nothing out of the ordinary from my Christian/Protestant experiences except when it came to the scripture usage. The minister used the often-quoted funeral passages from Ecclesiastes, Gospel of John (John 11, not John 1 or John 14!), Psalms, and Revelation. The main theological point that was drove home was the certainty concerning the deceased destination which was the grave (Ecclesiastes was used to make this part of the case closed). The deceased was asleep awaiting the resurrection to the earthly paradise.
I think… It was kind of hard to follow. Of course, I had my own presuppositions about the JW theology concerning death, annihilation, and the revered (or coveted) 144,000 (those who actually make it to heaven). I heard the name Jehovah used at any opportunity and Jesus was only mentioned when he was caring about “Lazareth” (should be Lazarus, not sure if that was an honest mistake of combining Lazarus with Nazareth or if there is a legitimate usage of Lazareth to describe the man from Bethany (John 11). Anyways… what my main take away from this was…
The minister did a good job of honoring the deceased’s life. Those from the congregation that showed were dressed finer than any funeral I had been to before. The elderly woman sitting next to me was incredibly faithful to try and thumb through her NWT Bible to attempt to follow along.
As I sat there in the short 30 minutes of the service, I had a lot of feelings. I reflected on the theology I was being handed. I was feeling the loss of those in the room. I also had a couple of other observations… Most Protestant funerals I have been to you don’t see many people bring their Bibles to. The usage of scripture was extensive (even if I thought the usage was misleading and furthered group think). I was forced to also reflect on the importance of what outsiders to Protestant Christian funerals feel/think when they attend. I was invigorated at rereading the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This post is already super long… Sorry (kind of). A few of take away questions that could (and is meant to) spur further thought and contrast. These are obviously from what I believe… which I believe to be derived from Orthodox Christian beliefs:
- What does a JW do with the unavoidable failed predictions of the return of Christ of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?
- Should an individual be only allowed to ask questions that a faith organization is comfortable answering? Should a faith organization practice strict information control? (as mentioned, I recognize that my tribe has been guilty of this too).
- According the Christian scriptures… Is God’s name Jehovah? Or is this an issue of letters from Adonai being placed in the YHWH and then a German pronunciation of the “Y” as a “J”? According to the Bible and History is God’s revealed name Yahweh/Trinity? (This is a fascinating question to me, and it is meant as thought provoking… not a slam toward JW’s)
- Who was Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford, and Nathan Knorr and how does one qualify as being the only authority on interpreting/translating Scripture?
I have a bias against JW theology (not against people who have these beliefs) for the nature of their origins and their beliefs not corresponding to exegetical and historical scrutiny (my opinion). This, however, does not mean that I think that the people are bad or should be silenced etc. I simply disagree and know that many would disagree with me. An observational difference (too often) is that I would listen to their points of argument and in my experience, they would not do the same. When we have closed communication concerning our faith or an indecency regarding how we communicate our beliefs we all lose.