David Splane, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has recently completed a Zone Visit to the Scandinavian Branch. As part of the visit, Splane addressed crowds at the Malmo Arena in Sweden on May 2nd with the aid of an interpreter.
Though not a parent himself, Splane issued pointed advice to parents in the audience about their attitudes towards raising their young ones as Witnesses.
Splane bemoaned the fact that so many children between the ages of 13 and 15 are not yet baptized. He then mocked the idea that youths should be given the freedom to choose their own religious views, using a curious illustration about McDonald’s to drive home his point.
The full talk can be viewed by visiting the YouTube channel frequifroy. However, for the sake of brevity, I have produced a video of the relevant part of the talk with the voice of the interpreter edited out and subtitles added. This is the only alteration of the original dialogue.
Many will be surprised at the inadequacy of Splane’s MacDonald’s illustration in reinforcing his views. A summer job at McDonald’s can in no way be compared to a lifelong commitment to a religion. Apart from anything else, a boss at McDonald’s has no power to separate his employees from their families if they later choose to leave their jobs and find employment elsewhere.
When Witnesses get baptized too young, before they can more fully understand the connotations of their decision, they expose themselves to the risk of disfellowshipping and shunning if they later step beyond the Witness moral code. Splane’s advice shows a reckless disregard for the pain and turmoil that can be experienced by a family that is forced to shun a delinquent teenager.
A 2011 Watchtower article even encouraged parents of disfellowshipped teenagers to view their children in the same light as Nadab and Abihu – the errant priests who were struck down by Jehovah for offering illegitimate fire.
“But what will those dear parents do? Will they obey Jehovah’s clear direction? Or will they rationalize that they can have regular association with their disfellowshipped son and call it “necessary family business”? In making their decision, they must not fail to consider how Jehovah feels about what they are doing. His purpose is to keep the organization clean and, if possible, to incite wrongdoers to come to their senses. How can Christian parents support that purpose?”
“Moses’ brother, Aaron, faced a difficult situation with regard to two of his sons. Think of how he must have felt when his sons Nadab and Abihu offered illegitimate fire to Jehovah and He struck them dead. Of course, that ended any association those men could have had with their parents. But there is more. Jehovah instructed Aaron and his faithful sons: ‘Do not let your heads go ungroomed, and you must not tear your garments [in mourning], that you may not die and that [Jehovah] may not become indignant against all the assembly.’ (Lev. 10:1-6) The message is clear. Our love for Jehovah must be stronger than our love for unfaithful family members.” (w11 7/15 pp. 28-32)
With such disgrace and rejection awaiting any teenagers who get baptized too early, you would think that a Governing Body member (who should be aware of the disfellowshipping statistics) would advise caution in making the serious commitment of baptism – but not so.
Splane’s use of the story of Jonah is just as confounding as his McDonald’s illustration. Many scholars believe the story of Jonah to have been deliberately included in the Hebrew canon as a fictional allegory, not to be taken literally. However, even if Jonah’s story is a historical narrative, there is no correlation between a prophet of God refusing an assignment and a teenager’s reluctance to make a lifelong religious commitment for which he will face serious reprisals further down the road if he gets it wrong.
Though Splane’s words will come as a surprise to many Witness parents, they at least reflect a candor that is rarely seen in Watchtower literature. I for one appreciate the Governing Body coming out in public and saying what they really think rather than watering things down. It is just a shame they are still reluctant to clearly express such controversial views in their printed publications for all Witnesses to consider, and not just those who dare to search the internet.
For a discussion on other things Governing Body members have said from the platform, please click here.