A YouTube video recently uploaded by a delegate to one of the 2014 international conventions is causing a stir among current and former Witnesses alike.
Now with over 11,000 views the video, shot on June 6th by a delegate to the Detroit international convention, shows an entertainment event being hosted in what appears to be a kingdom hall.
Jehovah’s Witnesses from three different congregations are shown partying with their delegate guests to a series of songs, mostly comprising ‘worldly’ hits from the Sixties.
Classic hits such as “Stand By Me,” “Up On The Roof” and “Stay” are performed by a musical ensemble led by an older brother on the drums, who introduces each song as though it has a ‘theocratic’ angle. Delegates are told that “Stand By Me,” for example, has “lyrics that emphasize the closeness that we have to each other in Jehovah’s organization.”
Once the band has vacated the stage, the kingdom hall later erupts into dancing to the song “Happy” by rapper Pharrell Williams (see time marker 29:55). This is the same song that was recently danced to by a number of former Witnesses, including yours truly, in a special video.
Interestingly, as any relatively well-informed Witness will tell you, kingdom halls (as buildings dedicated to worship) are usually deemed as fitting venues ONLY for regular meetings, ‘theocratic’ arrangements, weddings or funerals.
And as the following excerpt from page 127 of the Shepherd the Flock of God elder’s manual shows, even couples getting married should not expect the playing of so-called ‘worldly’ songs at their ceremony.
After reading the above, you might be tempted to see the YouTube video as evidence that Watchtower is becoming more relaxed and mainstream. But if this is the case, please don’t get your hopes up!
As already explained in a recent article, international conventions are a huge money-spinner for Watchtower. Those wealthy enough to be “delegates” (and who meet the physical and ‘spiritual’ criteria) must fork out eye-watering sums of money to stay at Watchtower-approved hotels, and in some cases will pay a premium on their flights if they book through one of the organization’s prearranged travel agencies.
I write with some personal experience on the matter after being told how much a close relative from the UK once paid to attend an international convention as a delegate in mainland Europe. The amount he paid Watchtower for an event only two hour’s flying time away was closer to what I would have expected him to pay to jet off to Australia.
Unsurprisingly, those who are willing to pay handsomely for the privilege of attending an event where they have an opportunity of rubbing shoulders with a Governing Body member (which is the only significant difference between an international and a regional convention), are treated like royalty.
After all, Watchtower wants these elite individuals to also consider being delegates for future events, and not become disillusioned.
And so it is that the rulebook can so easily be thrown out of the window where international convention delegates are concerned.
A couple getting married are not giving hundreds or even thousands of dollars to Watchtower, so they don’t get to walk down the aisle to Celine Dion. An international delegate, on the other hand, is lining Watchtower’s pockets quite nicely, and so can expect some bang for his buck when it comes to entertainment and ‘hospitality’.
And when it comes to keeping their wealthy backers happy, the Governing Body are only too willing to oblige.
***UPDATE – Since this article was published the following video has been obtained showing line dancing at a kingdom hall in Euless, Texas, to entertain international delegates***