When glancing through the latest March 15th Watchtower Study Edition, I was struck by an arresting statement that would previously have escaped my attention.
The final magazine article, entitled “Your Speech – ‘Yes’ and yet ‘No’?” discusses instances in which breaking promises may or may not be acceptable for Witnesses. On the final page, the bold claim is made that the divorce rate is “skyrocketing,” and 2 Timothy 3:1,2 is immediately cited to suggest that this is further evidence that we are living in the “last days.”
Only a few years ago I would have swallowed this statement as truthful without a second thought. Now, however, I have learned to be a little more skeptical when it comes to Watchtower publications.
I decided to do some research on what is actually happening with the divorce rate in certain countries. What I found was that, if anything, the divorce rate is decreasing in the countries of a considerable number of Watchtower readers.
Take, for example, the United States of America – home to 1.15 million Witnesses, and the place where this magazine is written. According to the website PublicNewsService.org, “The divorce rate in America peaked at around 50 percent in the 1980s and slowly has been trending downward. It is now slightly more than 40 percent.”
A similar state of affairs is observable in my home country of Great Britain. A 2012 Guardian article begins thus: “Divorce rates have fallen – as shown by the latest figures out today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that the number of couples getting divorced has decreased.”
Already, the use of the word “skyrocketing” was looking more applicable to Watchtower’s propensity for exaggeration than anything to do with divorce.
Intrigued, I decided to do a more detailed study to see whether Watchtower’s “skyrocketing” claims had any substance in other lands. I decided to look at the UN divorce rate figures for the 20 countries with the most Jehovah’s Witnesses (according to 2013 yearbook figures), which account for 5.4 million publishers combined – a decent majority.
Here is what I found…
|Country||2012 Av. Pubs||2002 C.D.R.||Latest C.D.R.||Latest avail. stats||Notes|
|Congo, Dem. Rep. of||163,349||*|
* = no complete data available | C.D.R. = Crude Divorce Rate (no. divorces per 1,000 population) | Source = United Nations
Though it was frustratingly difficult to get UN divorce figures for certain African and South American countries, the above table shows that only Mexico and Poland were exceptions among 11 countries reporting divorce rate decreases or inertia over the past decade. And increases in divorce rates in these two lands could hardly be described as “skyrocketing” in nature by any but the most alarmist.
Likely many Witnesses will think I am nitpicking in pointing out this discrepancy, but I do so for two reasons.
Firstly, as already mentioned, Watchtower here uses its “skyrocketing” claim as evidence that 2 Timothy 3:1,2 is finding fulfilment where it says, “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” In other words, what happens to the divorce rate supposedly has some bearing on how imminent Armageddon is. That Watchtower would stoop so low as to invent a piece of ‘evidence’ to scare its readers into believing the end is nigh is extremely telling.
Secondly, such fabrication of evidence stands in direct contradiction to the claims Watchtower makes about its honesty and commitment to being factual. Page 13 of the 2011 Yearbook assures Witnesses that “the Writing Department insists on using only material that is accurate and truthful, even regarding seemingly insignificant details.”
Then there is Watchtower’s recent December 2013 Awake! magazine, which launched an extraordinary attack on the media. It bemoaned the “false assumptions” in modern reporting before warning: “Facts may not be carefully checked. Numbers too can easily trip up a journalist who, in the scramble to meet a deadline, might easily type 10,000 instead of 100,000.”
After this blatant false assumption about divorce, it seems as though the authors of the December Awake! were writing from experience.