As many of you are well aware, Jehovah’s Witnesses have never been known for having a charitable spirit, not even towards their own members. Why? Because charitable acts are not encouraged by their leaders. Rather than actually helping others, the message conveyed through Watchtower literature is that the most important thing for members is to spend their personal time and money to convert non-Witnesses to their religion. After all, they preach that after God destroys the world He would eliminate all suffering – so it was not necessary to try to relieve human suffering now.
It was while my husband and I were staff members at the Watchtower’s world headquarters in New York that several momentous disasters occurred. Several actually affected and touched the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses, some who were living right here in the United States.
As a result, many Witnesses who lived outside disaster areas came together to help their spiritual brothers in a large way. Traveling representatives reported those activities and the results to Watchtower leaders in New York.
Rather than stop members from assisting fellow believers and come under heavy criticism, headquarter’s staff announced during our lunch break that “the Governing Body was donating around $82,000 to help JWs in California” where a recent and particularly destructive natural disaster had occurred.
That was a milestone event which surprised and pleased the staff of 4,000 people. It came to my attention that soon after a committee at headquarters was set up which would thereafter coordinate disaster aid through branches and congregations near disaster areas. This was in the mid to late1980s and was the emergence of an appearance that this religious organization was engaged in charitable acts.
Why has this organization not been known for charitable acts not only towards its own members much less non-members? The lack of charity goes way back to the founder of the religion, Charles Taze Russell. In fact, the wife of Pastor Russell wrote in 1898, when speaking about her husband’s claim of doing a charitable work by providing food and clothing to the poor during a terribly cold winter, “We know of no such charitable work ever undertaken by either Mr. Russell or the congregation, and they are taught that the greatest and all-comprehensive charity is the distribution of his literature. It is quite unlikely that that winter was any exception to all the winters before and since.”
This then was the attitude from the earliest beginnings of this religion, and, over all, has continued to this day except when the magnitude of a disaster makes it impossible for their leaders not to provide or encourage their members to aid their own as it would be a publicity blunder. And even at that, Witness leaders have figured out how, if possible, to get reimbursed from local congregations for any money spent, all in the name of giving back the money to headquarters so it can go to towards the worldwide preaching work which consists of distribution of their literature.
Now that millions of people, who were once affiliated with JWs, have freed themselves from this uncharitable group, they take the opportunity, whenever possible to freely donate to assist those in need such as to those who are suffering in Haiti. We also take this opportunity to make up for the years we ignored the plight of this world’s needy. We have now joined the family of mankind with all its assets and deficits, and show ourselves to be part of it by having a charitable spirit towards all, unlike the Witness organization, who, for the most part, show a charitable spirit towards fellow believers and only when they have to.
I speak from personal experience having been a Witness for forty-three years and part of the headquarter staff for nearly eleven of those forty-three years. I join with all the other former JWs who are encouraging us as a community to take part in this momentous movement to provide humanitarian aid to Haiti.