Listen, Obey, Or Be Turned Into A Salt Lick:
The OTHER face of Ephesians 6
The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society exercises control over members primarily by using two motivators: love and fear, the former expressed by oft-repeated platitudes telling members what a loving environment they enjoy amongst their 'bretheren', the latter via the ever-persistent threat of social ostracism (disfellowshipping) possibly leading up to suffering a gruesome death at Armageddon if one makee Jehovah "sad" one too many times.
Anyone raised as a child of Jehovah's Witnesses likely remembers the images that appeared in literature written for the young (eg the orange "Paradise Lost" book). Forty years after it's publication, the unforgettable artist's depictions remain vividly burned into the minds of those who saw them (including yours truly).
For anyone who doesn't know what I'm referring to, here's a sampling of JW 'Armageddon Art':
Utilizing newer media to spread their message of "The Truth", the WTBTS released a DVD in 2012 called, "Become Jehovah's Friend - Listen, Obey and Be Blessed", using computer-generated characters (ALA Pixar's "Toy Story") to appeal to young children. The DVD contains short 'lessons': the 1st ("Obey Your Parents") shows young Caleb being gently encouraged by his loving father to obey his mother's orders, where the 2nd ("Obey Jehovah") depicts Caleb being persuaded by his JW mother to discard a 'magical' toy (called "Sparlock, the Warrior Wizard") to avoid making Jehovah 'sad'.
(In the video below, Lesson #1 starts at 2:00, after a short introduction by Anthony Morris III, member of the Governing Body of WTBTS. Lesson #2 follows: I'd recommend viewing both, if you haven't seen them yet.)
The DVD's message is fairly benign, and arguably even positive (that is, if you're willing to overlook the problematic aspects like assumptions Caleb's parents make, eg perpetuating their superstitious beliefs in "magic" in their children). However, it's clear that Caleb's parents love him, and seemingly want the best for him. The lesson goes no further than implying Caleb wouldn't be making friends with Jehovah by becoming BFF with Sparlock (a servant of Satan); hence Caleb wouldn't be "blessed" by Jehovah for befriending the "enemy".
Of course, not being "blessed" by Jehovah implies nothing more sinister than a slightly-miffed God who holds a grudge, but forgives humans of their sins. As presented, the scenario is analogous to parents telling a child he must finish his broccoli or he won't get any dessert: even though it's a threat of withholding something the child wants, he's not deprived of nutrition, or isn't sent to bed hungry after being denied his dinner. Hence "not being blessed" is neutral: it does not imply punishment will be given.
Of course, rewards and punishments are often used in tandem to influence the behavior of others, as exemplified by the classic idiom, "the carrot and the stick". On the Caleb DVD, we see his parents using a 'carrot' (AKA positive reinforcement, appealing to his desire to obtain parental approval) as a motivator. It would be unfair to call the WTBTS to the carpet for this, since the video depicts loving parental guidance being offered within the dictates of JW beliefs, something that falls with the parent's domain, ie it IS their right to choose how their children are raised.
But with the release of the 'Illustrated Bible Stories' comic series in late 2012, the WTBTS is finally revealing the sting of Jehovah's 'stick', using emotionally-laden, heavy-handed tactics in order to manipulate their most vulnerable captive audience: the young children of their members.
Here's a link to the WTBTS website, where the 4-page Illustrated 'Story of Lot' can be viewed and/or downloaded:
With this illustrated story of Lot, young children are introduced to what happens when a merely "SAD" Jehovah (as described in DVD Lesson 2) transforms into a "MAD" Jehovah, going on a murderous rampage by destroying everyone who doesn't obey His orders to the tee.
(On page 3, the angels warn Lot and family NOT to look back at the destruction of Sodom, since feeling any sympathy for those being destroyed is tantamount to questioning His judgment, and thus sharing in their sins. That line of thinking permeates the Bible, eg Aaron was warned by Moses NOT to mourn the deaths of his sons after they were struck down by Jehovah, lest the mourners also feel the wrath of God's "love").
Note the artist's rendering of Sodom's Armageddonesque destruction on page 3 (not shown here, but in the downloadable pdf), complete with the requisite corpse partially buried beneath rubble (for what depiction of God's wrath would be complete without at least one cadaver to be shown, affording the kids an opportunity to play, "where's the dead Waldo?"). Since the destruction of Sodom is considered as foreshadowing for Armageddon (much as how Noah's Flood is considered as "a preview of coming attractions"), here's yet another work to add to the collection in the WT's Gallery of Apocalyptic Art.
At the top of page 4 (the picture shown at the top of this page), notice the look of anguished terror on the faces of Lot's daughters, helplessly watching as their mother signs her death warrant by disobeying angelic orders. In the panels that follow, her death is depicted in gruesome detail, with imagery that is certain to become the grist of many a young child's nightmare (that is, if they don't lie awake at night, imagining what it would be like to see THEIR mother being turned into petrified salt, right before their very eyes).
The message to children is brutally clear: your parents are disposable, but more importantly: YOU, the child, are disposable, if you don't obey.
Lets consider the questions which appear on the bottom of page 4, focusing on #3 (shown above, with red pointers surrounding it):
WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS WHEN THEY TELL YOU NOT TO DO SOMETHING? CLUE: EPHESIANS 6:1-3
Now, if a child didn't get the message by looking at the graphic imagery showing how salt is made, the WTBTS helpfully provides a "clue" in Ephesians 6:1-3:
1 Children, be obedient to YOUR parents in union with [the] Lord, for this is righteous.
2 "Honor your father and [your] mother" which is the first command with a promise
3 That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.
You'll recall the SAME scripture was presented in DVD Lesson 1, where Caleb's loving father shared it with him while focusing on it's positive aspects (ie 'obey your parents because it is the right thing to do, and you will live a long, happy life'). The scripture is actually paraphrasing the 5th of the 10 Commandments (found at Deut 5:16), adding the observation that it's the first commandment that includes the promise of blessing if it's obeyed.
However, note that the illustrated story of Lot focuses on the negative aspects of failing to honor one's parents (via obedience): punishment. That's not mentioned ANYWHERE in Ephesians 6. There's no mention of punishment.
So while it's the same Ephesians 6 is cited, the WTBTS offers a quite different interpretation in the Caleb video compared to which is offered for Lot's wife, where the context (what information precedes and follows the scripture) plays a critical role in setting the tone and content of the scripture itself. This is a CLASSIC example of the importance of considering context, since we see how the same scripture is seemingly being used to support vastly-different conclusions, even when the interpretations are coming from the same source, the WTBTS!
With the images of Lot's wife fresh in the child's mind, that 3rd verse suddenly takes on a menacing under-tone, sounding less like the loving advice offered by a father to his son (ie as in Caleb's video), and more like a thinly-veiled threat used to enforce compliance.
The cliched scene used in countless gangster movies comes to mind, where a Mafia racketeer picks up a family portrait from the desk of his intended extortion victim, saying, "That's a nice-lookin' family you got there, Mr Jones. It would be a REAL SHAME if anything untoward were to happen which might adversely effect their health.... Say if their father didn't want to pay to protect them from unfortunate harm...."
But in a very real sense, JW parents who use this illustrated story of Lot's Wife to teach their children a lesson ARE even going a step beyond: the racketeer would have to show his would-be extortion victim a gruesome crime-scene photo of the prior victims of his "protection racket", just to convince that their threat was credible. The comic make it perfectly clear what happens if a child disobeys his parents: bad things. VERY bad things.
So with such emotionally-packed comic book "art" being offered by the Governing Body, we'll likely see a fresh crop of youngsters traumatized by such imagery, willingly served up by their 'loving' parents who trust the 'Faithful and Discrete Slave' to provide "proper spiritual food at the proper time". The Governing Body wouldn't offer 'poison' to their members, would they?
The message is delivered in a manner that's quite unprecedented, with emotional anguish and turmoil seen in the tortured expressions of Lot's wife and her daughters, who helplessly look on as their mother suffers a slow, horrible death by asphyxiation. This imagery is emotional anguish porn; it's a comic book version of a snuff film that relies on the same macabre morbid curiosity; it is driven by the same dynamic of "Lookie-Lous" who slow to rubber-neck when passing the scene of a gruesome automobile wreck. It's too gruesome to look, but they simply cannot resist taking a peek (ironically just like Lot's wife couldn't).
And while it's true the "obey your parents" message IS delivered loud and clear (just as it was on DVD), the price is children are being told not to think for themselves, NOT to ask questions; instead, they should follow orders unflinchingly, without the slightest bit of hesitation. With images like these, the child's will to resist authority is being broken, told only to obey, obey, obey.
There's really no other way to spin it: this is indoctrination, pure and simple, starting at a younger age than ever (although, some JW parents spank newborns, apparently believing it's never too early to start teaching their children who 'the head of the household' really is).
So the question remains: why does the Governing Body seemingly want to handicap the decision-making capabilities of the children of members, turning them into blind followers?
The WTBTS understands that an important recruiting source for future members lies in 'internal marketing' (ie avoiding attrition of those already under their sphere of influence), so they can assure a crop of future members by targeting "born-ins" (the unbaptized children of current members). If the Society manages to break the will of "their" children to think for themselves, they win in the long-run by hamstringing the emotional and intellectual capacity of the young to leave when they grow into adulthood.
The famous saying of the Jesuits comes to mind: "give us a child before the age of 4, and we'll shape the man."
But how does this mechanism work? What is the mechanism of breaking someone's will?
JW leadership understands human psychology well enough to know the most effective way to block rational thinking is by preventing it from developing, in the first place (hence their anti-education stance). They know that rationality is hindered by eliciting strong emotions: humans simply don't think clearly or make sound decisions when they're unduly influenced by strong emotions (whether positive or negative, love or anger will do; the old expressions, "love is blind" and "I was so mad, I couldn't think straight" indicate the vulnerability of rational thought to emotions). So by softening the minds of their young targets with emotionally-laden imagery, the WTBTS gains an upper hand.
So with the Illustrated Story of Lot, Ephesians 6 finally comes full circle, and the proverbial "other shoe" is dropped.
While Caleb's father used the "carrot" of love (where cults similarly "love-bomb" prospective recruits, to soften their natural skepticism of strangers), the story of Lot's wife shows children the "stick" of a death threat. Thus the WTBTS is "running both interpretations up the flagpole", and children can choose which one they will "salute". It's as if the Society is saying, "Look kids, we can do this the EASY WAY or the HARD way...." Is that loving?
This dual usage represents the "carrot and stick" method in action, relying on the child's previous unconscious acceptance of other logical fallacies (eg the fallacy of presumption, AKA false dilemma, where dualistic (binary) thinkers tend to consider only two options, when many others may exist. The "obey your parents" lesson also relies on creating a false equivalency, where disobeying one's parents by not picking up toys up is conflated with disobeying angelic direct orders to not look back at the destruction of Sodom).
Of course, instilling fear in children is literally as easy as stealing candy from a baby, and a fearful child won't dare to consider (let alone ask!) reasonable questions, eg how does the story of Lot's wife serve as an example of disobeying one's PARENTS, when it was the parent (Lot's wife) who disobeyed orders? Should Lot's daughters have obeyed Lot's wishes when he offered them up to be raped by the mob?
Similarly, children probably shouldn't bother asking why the Illustrated story of Esau and Jacob (the story featured in another comic) contradicts this one, since it depicts Jacob deceiving his father (Isaac): how exactly is that "honoring" his father? Worse, Jacob gets away with his deception!
Unfortunately, offering sufficient logic that supports the messages they wish to deliver seemingly isn't a prerequisite for the Governing Body: like most authoritarians, they don't feel any need to excuse their desires to present brutal imagery to children, in their attempts to gain control. Thus, it's probably just as good most children of JWs won't stop to think about troubling use "flawed mortal logic", since putting up any sign of resistance would only be futile (much like in the gangster movies when the extortion victim calls the Police, only to realize they're "on the take" and paid off to look the other way).
And while it's true that the principles of freedom of religious worship and parental rights means all parents enjoy considerable leeway in determining which values they wish to instill in their children, 'legal' certainly doesn't imply 'moral': it's unconscionable to sacrifice the emotional well-being and intellectual capabilities of one's own children upon the altar of the Governing Body, in the name of worshiping Jehovah.