Friday, February 12, 2010

Evangelical Reflections on the 2010 Circuit Assembly

Well, both days of the 2010 circuit assembly, themed "Safeguarding Your Spirituality", are over now. And so, just as I did after the 2009 district convention, I'd like to offer a few thoughts. It's been a while since the assembly now, so my memory is shrouded in some haze. Still, here's what I remember. First of all, a positive note: props to Jehovah's Witnesses on the new songbook, or more specifically on the music. It sounds significantly less "canned" than the recordings they used with the old songbook. Of course, I still think that live music would be nice for a change, but hey, baby steps, I suppose. Second, the circuit assembly really does resemble a smaller scale district convention. It was kind of surprising the extent to which that was the case, at least for me. Third, the social dynamics among Jehovah's Witnesses aren't wholly dissimilar to those you might find in an evangelical church, which is both good and bad. Young children playing in the aisles are doted on by loving older folks, and yes, kids are cute. On the other hand, younger Jehovah's Witnesses--by which I mean, generally, those in their 20s or younger--give the impression of being every bit as cliquish as their evangelical counterparts. With basically the sole exception of Almog and company, the younger Witnesses kept themselves in socially isolated groups; only a select number of the middle-aged Witnesses took much interest in greeting outsiders.

As for the content of the assembly, I think it's very clear by now that 1 Peter 5:8 is the favorite Bible verse of Jehovah's Witnesses as a whole. It gets mentioned numerous times each day at both district conventions and circuit assemblies. Beyond that, I found it interesting to listen for what was particularly attacked from the podium, in hopes of reading beyond that into what issues particularly plague or concern Jehovah's Witnesses. If that can be done, it's safe to say that they're very worried about pornography and sexually explicit communication. That topic came up several times throughout the course of the talks, being mentioned by a substantial proportion of the speakers. (This leads me to wonder whether these days there's an upswing in porn use among Jehovah's Witnesses.) The same was true, interestingly enough, about severing social ties with disfellowshipped friends and relatives. What this all tells me is that these days, there are a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses out there who are finding the Watchtower Society's attempts at social control to be overly restrictive and so are maintaining greater contact with disfellowshipped family members than the Society thinks they ought.

Those are just a few thoughts, aside from the somewhat ridiculous measures to keep people from saving seats too early (particularly in this weather!).

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