A former worker at the Brooklyn Bethel has leaked an embarrassing video of former Watchtower president Joseph Rutherford cavorting in the grounds of his San Diego residence, Beth Sarim.
Beth Sarim, Rutherford’s summer hideaway, was ostensibly built due to his poor health and in expectation of faithful Bible characters of old one day returning to rule over the Earth.
This rare film was broadcast during a bethel family evening in 1990. Eric Bottorff, who now runs JWstruggle.com, captured the footage on his VCR at the time and subsequently mislaid it before finding it again recently. The film was apparently shot some time during the 1930s at “Beth Shan,” a property adjacent to Beth Sarim, which was in the process of construction at the time.
The silent footage shows Rutherford sticking his tongue out at the camera (twice), ploughing a field, kissing fruit while fooling around among fruit trees with a laborer, and drinking some unknown fluid from a cup.
It is impossible to confirm whether Rutherford was drunk in this video or just unusually happy and playful, but he does strike the viewer as being inebriated on more than one occasion. After all, sticking one’s tongue out at a camera is not the sort of thing one usually does when sober. It’s no great stretch of the imagination to suggest that whatever Rutherford was drinking from his glass towards the end of the film was more than just orange juice.
Rutherford’s drinking habits
Few Witnesses are aware that Rutherford had a reputation as a drinker. In his book “Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” retired professor Jim Penton remarks…
“Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have done everything possible to hide accounts of the judge’s drinking habits, they are simply too notorious to be denied. Former workers at the Watch Tower’s New York headquarters recount tales of his inebriation and drunken stupors. Others tell stories of how difficult it sometimes was to get him to the podium to give talks at conventions because of his drunkenness. In San Diego, California, where he spent his winters from 1930 until his death, an elderly lady still speaks of how she sold him great quantities of liquor when he came to purchase medicines in her husband’s drugstore.”
Penton goes on to relate an open letter of complaint to Rutherford by Walter Salter, who had been one of his closest friends and confidants before breaking with him over doctrinal issues. In his letter, dated April 1, 1937, Salter complained of Rutherford’s excessive drinking, and of the fact that he bought large quantities of alcohol using Society funds. He bemoaned the fact that Rutherford “sends us out from door to door to face the enemy while he goes from ‘drink to drink’ and tells us if we don’t we are going to be destroyed.”
Regardless of whether or not Rutherford was drunk in this newly-uncovered video, it unquestionably shows him in a less than flattering light – lurching around in his own private paradise playing the fool. It’s a far cry from the sober and pristine orator recently portrayed in Watchtower’s “Faith In Action” DVD series.
Any Witnesses watching this rare footage of their glorified former leader will be bewildered to consider that it reveals a man now believed to have been hand-picked by Christ in 1919 to be part of his faithful and discreet slave. They would do well to ask themselves, “was this really the best guy for the job?”