Monday, November 17, 2008

Rape and the Watchtower Society

What has the Watchtower Society taught regarding the atrocious act of rape?

The Watchtower from January 15, 1964 on page 64 teaches this:

“Thus if a Christian woman does not cry out and does not put forth every effort to flee, she would be viewed as consenting to the violation. The Christian woman who wants to keep clean and obey God’s commandments, then, if faced with this situation today, needs to be courageous and to act on the suggestion made by the Scriptures and scream. Actually this counsel is for her welfare; for, if she should submit to the man’s passionate wishes, she would not only be consenting to fornication or adultery, but be plagued by the shame. There would be shame, not only from the repulsiveness of the experience, but of having been coerced into breaking God’s law by having sex connections with one other than a legal marriage mate.”

From such a viewpoint it would appear that God is so unmerciful and incompetent that He cannot read the victim’s heart and perceive that she is being raped and not participating in fornication. The Watchtower Society holds a position likening God to be someone who cannot see all things, including the circumstances that may inhibit a victim’s screams. Would God be ignorant of perhaps the paralyzing fear, shock, and the perpetrator’s hand over the victim’s mouth or around her throat?

Such bizarre and twisted reasoning does not end there. Additionally, in that same Watchtower article the Watchtower Society states the following:

A Christian woman is entitled to fight for her virginity or marital fidelity to the death. Just how best she can defend herself against anyone who wants to defile her depends upon her courage and quick wits.”

Furthermore, The Watchtower from June 1, 1968 added:

Would it be different if the man had a weapon and threatened to kill you if you did not submit? No, the Scriptures plainly state that Christians are under obligation to ‘flee from fornication.’ (1 Cor. 6:18) It is true that you face the possibility of death in this case.”

So rape is being equated with fornication by the Watchtower Society. Also, a woman must scream and fight being raped even if it means her death in order to not be guilty of fornication.

A year later though, it appears that the Watchtower Society had stopped equating rape and fornication through the ‘Aid to Bible Understanding’ publication from 1969:

“RAPE: Rape is defined as unlawful sexual intercourse without the woman’s consent, effected by force, duress, intimidation…” (p. 1374)

“FORNICATION: Sex relations by mutual agreement between two persons not married to each other.” (p. 601)

It seemed as if the Watchtower Society had final gathered some sense respecting their perspective of a woman being raped. Five years later, however, this appears not to be the case:

If she did not scream she would be as good as dead anyhow…Also, that if she did not scream she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation; that then she would be disfellowshipped or excommunicated from it and that this would be worse than being killed as far as she was concerned.” - From Awake! March 8, 1974, page 14.

Is this the teachings you would want applied towards your wife, daughter, mother or any other girl or woman you know? While a woman has the right to defend herself, should she be made to feel that she is better off dead if, for some reason, she could not or was prevented from screaming or physically overcoming her attacker? Better yet, if she does survive and failed to scream and fight “to the death,” she now faces the further psychological torment of being disfellowshipped.

Six years later, a different stance seems to take place from the Watchtower Society's perspective. Appearing in the July 8, 1980 Awake! magazine on pages 5 & 6:

“I never physically fought him off in anyway…I was overwhelmingly confused and defenseless against the whole suddenness.”

“Profound terror in the face of physical threats simply renders most women helpless.”

“Rape is the fastest growing crime in America.”

Only three months later in the October 15, 1980 Watchtower on page 7, the Watchtower Society flips back to their previous stance:

She told him that if he touched her she would scream as he had never heard anyone scream before. She explained that if she did not she would ruin her relationship with Jehovah God and the Christian congregation….A Christian woman is under obligation to resist, for the issue of obedience to God’s law to ‘flee from fornication’ is involved.”

Just two and a half years later the Society flips their stance again:

“What do we understand here by ‘fornication’? The Greek word in this text is porneia….A male or female who is forcibly raped would not be guilty of porneia.” - From The Watchtower, March 15, 1983, page 30.

To add insult to injury, the Watchtower Society presented this view in their February 22, 1984 edition of the Awake! magazine:

“But the rapist is asking a person to break God’s law by committing fornication"

Yet, it goes on to state:

"Treat Him Respectfully – The intended victim should remember that the rapist is a human. No doubt there are circumstances in his life that have precipitated his behavior. So although a woman should not cower in fear and permit a rapist to intimidate her, at the same time she should treat him understandingly as a fellow human.”

Now compare that to the Awake! magazine from July 8, 1980 on page 12 which states:

“May she properly inflict damage on her assailant? Indeed she may…she may use any means at her disposal to resist intercourse.”

Confused? Well, it doesn’t stop there; in the same article which counseled women to respect their rapist, the warning was also given:

But if I gave in and he raped me, I would eventually die and have no hope of a resurrection.” - From Awake!, February 22, 1984, page 25.

Now the victim was deserving of eternal death - no hope of a resurrection. Is intentional fornication deemed such a costly sin? Do not those who have committed fornication received forgiveness if truly repentant? At this point, the Watchtower Society is stating a woman who is raped is worse than a woman who commits fornication and repents.

Four months later, the Watchtower Society printed a letter from an upset reader in the Awake! June 8, 1984 issue, page 28:

“You say to show a rapist respect. These men show no respect for their victim. They don’t care that they are shattering a woman, leaving in her memory horror for the rest of her life.”

The Society responded in the same article:

“For the victim to be considered guilty of fornication, there would need to be proof of willing consent.”

Two years later, more wisdom from a so-called God directed organization in the May 22, 1986 Awake! magazine, page 23:

“Why you should resist an attacker from the first moment...Your conscience will be clear. (Even if you are raped, you will not sacrifice your self-respect or cleanness before God)”

Several months later, the “From Our Readers” article in the September 22, 1986 Awake! included a letter of response to the Watchtower Society’s stance in the May, 22 1986 Awake!:

“Thank you for your article “Now You Are Going to Die!” (May 22, 1986) I might note some concerns about the advice given, however. Some rapists are very angry and sadistic in their approach and come armed with weapons and the intent to use them if there is the least provocation. Our Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault suggests resistance, but if the woman is paralyzed by fear or her instincts tell her not to resist, we recognize that as appropriate. We would rather have someone live through the experience than be killed or seriously mutilated.
-P. R., United States”

The Society responded in the same article...

"The Bible does support the thought that a woman attacked by a rapist should scream and resist. True, the woman has to respond according to her assessment of the danger to her life, and we believe that is covered in the advice given in the box on page 23 (May 22, 1986). It should be kept in mind that submitting to rape gives no guarantee that the victim will not be beaten or killed afterward. See the article “They Resisted Rapists” in our issue of February 22, 1984.—ED."

A few years later, the August 22, 1989 Awake!, page 24 reiterated the Society’s original stance:

“It was then that I remembered the scripture in Deuteronomy chapter 22. It says that if a woman does not cry out when attacked, it indicates she is submitting to the man and is committing a sin against Jehovah.”

If the Scripture in Deuteronomy is to be understood so literally, then women who fail to scream during rape today should be stoned to death as well. The Watchtower Society arbitrarily decides when to apply scriptures whole or in part either literally or symbolically. Thankfully for Jehovah's Witnesses, the Watchtower Society has never written a doctrine of literally stoning to death a woman who did not scream while being raped.

Nonetheless, the subject of rape within the Watchtower Society has been one of inconsistency and confusion. Such information and flip-flopping back and forth of viewpoint shows not Godly guidance or direction, but lack of any God-given direction. It truly is just men guessing and changing their viewpoint haphazardly giving no consideration to the followers of their teachings and interpretations.