The last time I ever set foot in the kingdom hall of an English-speaking congregation was in 2012. It was an excruciating experience.
I was fully awakened, and attended only in an ultimately-vain attempt to quiet some of the gossip already circulating that I was a dreaded “apostate.”
The gossip was merely a product of sincere, albeit ill-advised efforts on my part to reach out to a few old friends and explain the reasons for my inactivity. By that point I was already learning there is no graceful way to distance oneself from “Jehovah’s organization” without being subjected to relentless character assassination. The JW grapevine can be merciless.
One of the abiding memories of my final meeting was the congregation study of a newly-released book about Jeremiah. I recall feeling somewhat embarrassed as I was handed a copy on dad’s tablet so I could follow along. Using flashy technology in a meeting felt alien to me.
God’s Word for Us Through Jeremiah was released at the 2010 district (or “regional”) convention – the last convention I attended as a believing Witness. I confess to never giving the book more than a flick-through, because by that point my indoctrination was disintegrating rapidly.
But any lingering pangs of guilt at not giving the book a fair opportunity to impress are now fully vanquished.
A letter has recently been posted to kingdom hall noticeboards notifying Witnesses of a long list of publications that are either being completely discontinued, or will not be available in print for the foreseeable future.
One of the casualties of this purge is, you guessed it, the Jeremiah book. After less than six years, the book I never made time to read has been deemed surplus to requirements by the Governing Body itself.
I have already written extensively on the organization’s downsizing as Watchtower scrambles to shrink itself to proportions better suited to the internet age without too much fuss. But even I am surprised at the extent to which the organization is slashing its printing commitments.
It seems cutting magazine printing by 57% since 2005 simply isn’t enough. Now even books that were released as recently 2010 must be jettisoned from the printing roster for the organization to balance its books. ‘Spiritual food’ has never had such a short shelf life.
More predictable victims of this “old light” purge include the highly-discredited Creation book, the All Scripture Inspired book, the Kingdom Interlinear, the Comprehensive Concordance, the Insight volumes, and the demonstrably-ludicrous Revelation Climax book (which was never even made available on JW.org).
The Reasoning book is also finally being retired, having been a mainstay of any self-respecting publisher’s literature bag since 1985.
Even though certain features of the new 2013 revised New World Translation are reminiscent of the Reasoning book, they don’t come close to tackling the range of topics covered by the silver sword’s diminutive brown, hardcover predecessor. It seems the Watchtower of the 21st Century is no longer interested in “reasoning” with potential converts. Either you surrender your thinking faculties to the Governing Body, or you don’t.
More recent titles deemed surplus to requirements include both Isaiah’s Prophecy volumes (2000 and 2001), the Creator book (1998), the Jehovah’s Day book (2006), the Draw Close to Jehovah book (2002), the Daniel’s Prophecy book (1999), the Worship the Only True God book (2002), the Bearing Thorough Witness book (2009) and the Come Be My Follower book (2007). All of these titles are either permanently out of print, or Watchtower is ceasing printing and not making any promises about their return.
Yes, I’m sure many of these titles will continue to be available in digital form, but the point is this: “spiritual food” once important enough to be printed in the form of books or brochures is now being consigned to digital purgatory, and all the evidence points to drastic cost-cutting as the main factor in this decision. The fact that these publications contain varying degrees of “old light” cannot be the only explanation.
The Reasoning Book, with its frank explanation of the 1914 “generation” teaching on page 200, was still in print and being widely circulated long after the Governing Body’s “overlapping generations” eureka moment.
So, if you happen to be a Jehovah’s Witness reading this, it is worth taking a moment to ponder the whole concept of spiritual food. If the material published by the ‘faithful slave’ is really new light from Jehovah, how is it so quickly deemed obsolete? Does the unending torrent of colorful shelf-fillers disgorged by “Jehovah’s organization” year after year, decade after decade, speak to genuine enlightenment – or a human organization that makes it all up as it goes along?
If nothing else, next time you find yourself in attendance when a new book or brochure is being released with much fanfare, you are well within your rights to ask: how long before some letter gets quietly posted to our congregation noticeboard consigning THIS ‘new light’ to Watchtower’s growing scrapheap?