I recently attended all three days of the 2016 Loyalty RC. I’ve enjoyed reading several reviews and opinions and have been debating whether to add to the discussion. Now that a few days have passed and I have had more time to process and think about it, I want to share with this forum some of the things I noticed and have been weighing on my mind.
I should preface my remarks by saying I am not a naturally alarmist kind of person. I tend not to believe some of the more outlandish EXJW conspiracies nor do I always assume the most nefarious of intentions.
With that said, the 2016 Regional Convention was unlike anything I have ever witnessed in my 30+ years of attending. It was more desperate and controlling than I can possibly describe. The guilt was heavier and the demands for loyalty were more extreme. It reeked of desperation as worldwide numbers continue to decline. In years past, great efforts were made to shroud the more controversial topics with christian platitudes and doublespeak to attract outsiders and the general public. Those days are gone. This entire convention was overtly aimed at shaming those in the congregation for not doing enough and threatening even the slightest disobedience with death.
Some of you might think I may be exaggerating a bit, that conventions have always been this extreme. But trust me when I say that this is different. Conventions are the platform in which the governing body attempts to correct what it perceives are the most pressing problems facing the congregations. And they clearly have determined that a lack of loyalty (ie disinterest and fading) are those problems.
To make my point, I want to highlight some parts:
In the very first talk, they specifically discussed having a negative attitude towards organizational and doctrinal changes. Show your loyalty by not speaking negatively about the changes in the “generations” and about who the “anointed” are. Brothers and sisters are complaining and the GB are taking note. One of the bunker videos also highlighted two brothers who were critical of the changes and, as you might guess it, they did not survive. The opening part is a discussion of whom to be loyal to. As expected, the three that are mentioned are: Jehovah, Jesus, and the “Faithful Slave” The speaker goes so far as saying it is impossible to be loyal to one and not loyal to the other two. This talk sets up the rest of the weekend, any disloyalty to the organization is disloyalty to God and that theme gets hammered each and every day. Even the slightest offense (I’ll get into more details below) could result in you being destroyed at Armageddon.
It should also be mentioned that the now infamous “bunker videos” are not the only egregious series that were shown. Each symposium had its one series, with each speaker introducing one short segment in that series. In one series, a brother learns that one of his close friends leaves the organization because “he got a pamphlet at work” and “started having doubts about the organization” Our good example of a brother reacted like his friend had died, rather overtly showing the audience they should do the same.
We also need to talk about “kevin” He is the unlucky chap to not make it into the bunker. As good little witnesses sit around and discuss the bad choices he made, their momentary sadness gives way to an acknowledgment that he had his change. Screw Kevin. So what was so terrible that made Kevin not survive the great tribulation? Was he abusing children or stealing money from the congregation? No. In fact, we only know two “negative” things about Kevin. One, he wasn’t able to go out in service after the meeting on Sunday because he had to work. And two, he didn’t aggressively preach to his co-workers. Pretty terrible guy eh? I am sure the audience could see themselves in Kevin and immediately feel guilty.
In another one of those videos, a young couple discusses how they simplified in their life. They were both pioneering but owned a home and had a degree of comfort in their life. Those bastards. Fortunately, they watched a JW broadcasting together, sold their home and went to the School for Kingdom Evangelizers. Nothing is ever enough. You always have to do more.
There are plenty of other examples of the insanity that was this convention, but I am already getting a bit long here. The convention did make it clear to me that this organization is desperate and it may be declining faster than most of us realize. In some sense, this convention shows how effective EXJW activism can be and how big a role the internet can have. In previous decades, the organization has thrived do to the great “middle class” of witness families. The regular meeting attenders and Saturday service crowd who never pioneered, lead a relatively normal life, and held more moderate views of the organization and the congregation. That “middle class” is rapidly eroding as their kids leave the organization or get pushed out by the more extremely zealous demographics in the congregation. As the control mechanisms get tighter, the already devout will get more devout and the moderates will fade away. THIS is the big crises facing the organization now.
So for us in the EXJW community, it is a bit of a mixed bag. One one side, it is exciting to see the effects of declining numbers and an organization in retreat. For those of us “stuck in” or with family still in, we are in a world of hurt going forward. The control will be stronger, the videos will be more intense, and the blatant attempts to guilt congregants to pioneer will continue.
NOTE: This was original published on Reddit /exjw in May of 2016. There are over two hundred comments that are definitely worth checking out.