Witch Hunt at Bethel (1979-1980)

part I: the Bible becomes "suspicious"

One might wonder, why all the fuss about reading the Bible?

Especially at the headquarters of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, one would think that Bible reading is encouraged.
It is.
Within certain limitations.
Preferably the New World Translation, and NOT with the aid of commentaries produced outside of Bethel.
What happened when small, disconnected groups of Bethelites began a systematic reading of the New Testament, particularly Romans and Galatians, to find out more about the possibility that the Governing Body's interpretation of it might be possibly just a teensie weensie bit off?

Spies were selected and recruited by the Watchtower's Service Department to ferret out such "independent thinkers." Like stinking weeds corrupting a beautiful bed of flowers, they were to be uprooted and destroyed.


Because it was happening simultaneously to the unwelcome discovery that the Watchtower's whole system of chronology was not historically based and inaccurate.

So what?

Well, since they base their entire authority as the chosen "faithful and discreet slave" of Matthew 24:45 on this chronology, the discrediting of it would mean that Jesus Christ did NOT choose them at all, and they are impostors and even worse, false prophets deserving of death. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Their solution?

Quelch and destroy all dissenting voices before the rank-and-file discover the truth. How? Get them out of Bethel, and make it "apostasy" worthy of disfellowshipping to even talk to such dissenters.

Now, the dissentees were not stupid. After a few "spiritual lynchings" of their buds, they got wise. Bible readings and discussions were soon held in private rooms right after the Monday night family Watchtower studies. Watchtower magazines were brought along with their "other" Bibles and commentaries (such as Barnes' Notes on the New Testament), just in case their rooms were "raided" by their neighbors who wanted to "borrow" some cream or who used some other excuse to spy them out. Spies came in numerous and unexpected shapes and sizes...



One might think that they were not "spiritually satisfied" with what the "faithful and discreet slave" had to offer in the form of nourishment.


This ANGERED those who loved the old men in charge and their excellent articles in the Watchtower magazine, and they cried out to God for vengeance on those who dared to think otherwise!



Suddenly, the Bible took on ominous overtones. Bethelites started leaving their Bibles in their rooms, carrying only the Watchtower magazines to family studies. Non-Watchtower Bibles were boxed up, and commentaries by Christendom were hidden away. The irony of the matter caused some to quietly leave Bethel.


The evil, wretched apostates! They should have been satisfied with their provision of spiritual food! They were not of the anointed, they were only the "other sheep."


Those of us who knew what was going on and decided to stick around for a while learned to keep our mouths shut about certain doctrines...


We noticed that the Governing Body began to respond by printing certain articles in the Watchtower that put us in our place, so that none might think that they didn't belong in this sorry sheep pen!


Why, Jehovah miraculously saw to it that the articles even correctly identified three of the major "apostates"! (We called them well-rounded B.A.'s - affectionate term for those with a "bad attitude" towards authority, though an exaggeration). GB member Bert Schroeder was chosen by Jehovah to give the terse dressing-down of those BA's at each meal, so as to aid in our digestion of the food. Ed Dunlap, Ray Franz and Rinehart Lingtadt were served up for breakfast.


It was hard to eat, spiritually or physically!


Yet, the effect of absorbing the TRUE message of grace and salvation as taught by the apostle Paul had a kinder effect on us B.A.'s than it did on the rat finks, who just got nasty. We, on the other hand, were thrilled to know the Word in such a new way, that had already been known by other Christians for nearly 2000 years!


The rat finks got jealous, and were about to mob. We started making up reasons to leave Bethel without being discovered or disfellowshipped.

But some were not so fortunate...

They were victims of the Bethel Inquisition!

 On to the Witch Hunt II: Inquisition

to read some of the sample Sayings of the Governing Body of the Eighties (which shows their responses to these events quite lucidly), don't go here.

Note: All ClipArToons were made in the pressroom during working hours.