Thursday, April 19, 2018

Out of Babylon - Temp Post

Personally, I think this merits more than two comments.

Some of this has been posted here before. This is an  updated version with, we think, important additions. This is the working version of a chapter for volume 2 of Separate Identity.

Usual rules apply. You may copy for your personal use but do not share it off the blog. If you do you compromise our copyright and interfere with volume 2. Any observations are welcome, including proof reading comments. If you're serious about proofing this send me an email and I'll send the word version.

3 Out of Babylon

Sociologists especially, but historians too, struggle to place the Watch Tower movement in an easily identifiable niche. The results are usually unsatisfactory. Watch Tower adherents were religious pilgrims, often unsatisfied by their original churches. They were religious seekers, some of whom moved from one small group to another.
The nature of Russell-era congregations is misstated by Biblically illiterate historians and sociologists. Some present adherents as isolated, disenfranchised and alienated from society. John Wigley, considering a cognate group, thought that early 19th Century British Sabbatarians came from among those who felt economically and politically threatened. He saw them as religiously “introverted.”[1] If there is such a thing as religious introversion, it characterizes those who seek New Testament separation from the world; those who would be ‘in the world but separate from it.’ This is a New Testament view of the world, and those who held it – including Watch Tower adherents – sought to maintain Bible standards. It is a mistake to find the roots of belief in a pessimistic world view. Simplistic, economic, or social explanations for belief systems are suspect as are “chiliasm of despair” explanations.
Edward Abrahams asserted that, “Russell used the words ‘alienated,’ ‘isolated,’ and ‘troubled’ to describe his congregations.”[2] Abrahams meant that Watch Tower adherents were disenfranchised and alienated from an evolving social structure. We ask, “Where?” Where did Russell use these terms in this way? Between 1879 and the end of 1916, the word alienated appears in fifty-nine issues of the Watch Tower. Watch Tower writers used it as commentary on Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” This is not a statement of social alienation, but of the need for reconciliation with God through Jesus.
            The word appears in quotations from other sources, usually as commentary on the alienation of the young from contemporary churches and the Bible. This is not a reference to Watch Tower congregations. Russell never uses the word alienated in the sense meant by Abrahams. Russell said the Church has no part in the world’s social upheavals and essential sinfulness. But the Church has an obligation to uplift, to declare salvation, and to rebuke wrongdoing. Christians are not to approve of the world’s ways. This is not the social alienation that led to the Haymarket affair or the Railroad Insurrection. This is a push for holiness and engagement. 

The remainder of this post has been deleted. I post portions of our work for comment. We seldom get any. I continue to see this blog as largely a waste of time. The lack of comments reinforces this belief.


Andrew said...

Thank you for this detailed and personal research. The stories of individuals, to an extent I did not think possible, make the times come alive.

If you ever for a moment think your efforts are not appreciated, it may be that those who appreciate your research are too busy to remind you that they are still listening. I plead guilty to that. I and many others in my local congregation want to thank you for your incredible research. Many in my congregation are reluctant to post here. They are in fear of learning about their history from "unauthorized" sources. But the veil is lifting, thanks to your honest and accurate research. They read your blog, and cannot wait for the second volume. I think the stories of honest and sincere individuals contributes immensely to the story, and makes many want to come back for more. Many of us in our small study group have always wished to learn more about the early Bible Students, but we never thought it was possible. Your incredible research, to us, is like a breath of fresh air that gives us a perspective that we never though we would have. All we can say is thank you. And we will continue to contribute to your research in whatever small ways we can.

Andrew Grzadzielewski

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Andrew, what a nice thing to say. Im glad you like our work.

Anonymous said...

I just want to subscribe wholeheartedly to Andrew´s words. Incredibly well done. I like your work so much.
Love, German girl

Gary said...

I was much pleased to see the article yesterday, thank you Rachael, and read some of it with the intention of reading and digesting more today. Sadly that opportunity has now been missed. One scripture speaks about being "quick to listen and slow to speak", a reminder for me that spontaneous thought is often erroneous, especially if verbally reproduced. (Sometimes my long thought out comments aren't great either!) Consequently I can now only say that readers such as myself need more time to think things through please, so as to formulate sensible comments.

It is good to see the project makes progress, especially after your recent bad health.

All good wishes,

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Gary, email me and I'll send it to you. We can't leave posts such as this up more than 2-3 days

jerome said...

I was fortunate in obtaining a properly formatted version of this chapter, having volunteered to proof read it. I can understand Rachael’s need to leave it in situ for only a limited time, and can only advise any readers like Gary who have come to the blog to find it has disappeared to contact Rachael direct.

The chapter has lots of fascinating information on how early Watch Tower groups started – and the sacrifices some individuals made in the very early years to stand out in their communities and former churches as different. It is well written, very detailed, and we should be thankful to Bruce and Rachael for all the work they have put into writing (and re-writing) this material.

For me too, it also shows what a fantastic resource the St Paul Enterprise/New Era Enterprise newspapers are. Having benefited from the work of Jeff in obtaining some key years and then been involved in obtaining further years, I can only stress how much historians need this material. (An unfinished article on this resource might even end up here at some point). The Enterprise was a local newspaper for the St Paul area that sort of evolved into a Bible Student newspaper around 1914 and remained such until its demise in the late 1920s. Personal letters, testimonies and obituaries provide historical insights going right back to the 1880s and in at least one example the 1870s. What the Separate Identity authors have done is to marry this later testimony with letters and notices in ZWT at the time. In some cases the different pieces of the jigsaw seem to make a satisfying picture – and if that is not possible – at least a good stab at documentary proof of what really happened. This sort of detailed work has never been achieved, or even attempted, in other works on the work of CTR and the Watch Tower Society. Congratulations to them!

Gary said...

Thank you for sending on the rest of this fascinating article which I much enjoyed.

I agree that sociologists and historians struggle to place Watch Tower adherents into an easily identifiable niche. Due to similarities in millennial doctrine, geographical location and overlap in the origin of some members, for many it is too convenient not to use the 'Adventist' label. Likewise, secularist modern thinking demands too simplistic a conclusion in suggesting religious thinkers of the late nineteenth century were somehow incapable of making rational conclusions unless led by philosophical or political ideals.

This is a fantastic collection of information relating to early Watch Tower adherents which must have involved considerable painstaking research. I'm so glad you cared enough to do this. My congratulations to Rachael and Bruce.

I share one point for your consideration however. You mention the problem of a certain element wishing to compromise belief to appeal to a wider audience and comment in passing about this being an issue in Canada in the 1980s. As someone who knows nothing about the subject you mention, to my mind this comment needs either to be dropped or referenced via a footnote. To raise the subject but then leave it hanging in the air serves little point.

"B" said...

Among the early Adventists of some decades earlier, it was Charles Fitch who had a talk about "Come Out of Her, My People" in 1844. (You probably know that.)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Thanks B. Yes we know that. We discuss the Out of Babylon movement in Volume 1 of Separate Identity. Key elements and points in this chapter are that Watch Tower adherents were part of a broader conservative behavior - holy behavior movement and the ways in which the movement grew.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Gary, we will consider your suggestion. Bruce is unwilling to lead readers to the propaganda of a Canadian writer. Personally, I'd do it. It's an important part of this history. But this is B's project. ...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

General comment: If you think you can do a better job than we do, write your own book.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I should add that the above comment from me is not directed to anyone who's comments I have allowed.

Gary said...

Rachael - thanks for explaining the situation. In these circumstances I entirely understand Bruce's caution. Though it is an interesting point made, since your book is not covering reference to comparatively recent history it might be better therefore to drop the mention of the 1980s issue altogether. It's your book, of course, and nobody does this better than Bruce and yourself ... but you asked for comments!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Gary, it's a good observation. We will probably delete the reference.