Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Piñatas Are In. Probably. But Toasting is Out. Why Being "Good" is So Important to Jehovah's Witnesses

Being good, doing well, is very important to Jehovah's Witnesses. As they are not assured of their salvation and are not born again, they constantly have to work to make sure they aren't displeasing Jehovah in anyway. Failure to make sure of even seemingly minor points could result in a Jehovah's Witnesses being destroyed along with billions of others at Armageddon.

Hence, the Governing Body publishes much print on how to make sure we're not upsetting Jehovah.

In this refutation I again want to address Stand Firm's series whereby he tackles "Things Jehovah's Witnesses Can't Do"
82. Toast drinks (pagan origin) 
The "God's Love"[*] book explains on page 154:
"A common practice at weddings and on other social occasions is toasting. The 1995 International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture says: “Toasting . . . is probably a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods . . . in exchange for a wish, a prayer summarized in the words ‘long life!’ or ‘to your health!’”
True, many people may not consciously view toasting as a religious or superstitious gesture. Still, the custom of lifting wine glasses heavenward might be viewed as a request to “heaven”—a superhuman force—for a blessing in a way that does not accord with that outlined in the Scriptures.—John 14:6; 16:23." [emphasis added]
Is this really so difficult to skip? If you think it is, then it truly is superstition.
* "Keep Yourself in God's Love", a book published by the Watch Tower Society that is chocablock full of additional rules and regulations, over and above what's found in the Bible.

I always have to wonder at the Watch Tower Society's need to impose rules where surely Christian freedom should prevail. I mean, if a Jehovah's Witness did offer a toast, what would happen? Let's imagine we're talking about a male Jehovah's Witness. Would they be counselled by the elders? Would they perhaps lose certain privileges, such as microphone handling? What if they had been considered for further privileges of service, would there now be a question mark over their spiritual maturity?

What I find interesting about the Governing Body's official policy on toasting is the use of the word 'probably'. Probably toasting is a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations. Probably.

Would Jehovah probably be displeased if a Christian were to offer a toast, click glasses and say 'cheers'? Could a Jehovah's Witness probably loose the chance of everlasting life? Would Jehovah probably decide to execute them at Armageddon?

It's of note that the Governing Body, via the Watch Tower Society, has a very inconsistent view of practices that probably have pagan roots. For example, wedding rings probably date back to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs about the third finger of the left hand being linked, in some way, to the heart. But because people don't make that association anymore, it's definitely ok - in fact, encouraged - to wear a wedding ring.

And wedding dresses, bridesmaids and wedding cakes all have probable ancient pagan roots, perhaps even steeped in occult beliefs, but in those cases it's very much up to an individual's conscience.

But how can a Jehovah's Witness be absolutely sure that the Governing Body is right and that Jehovah probably won't be angry with them for wearing a wedding ring, eating wedding cake and hitting a piñata? Well, as long as they don't offer a toast they should be ok…

And while we're on the subject of piñatas, in Mexico the piñata originates with the Myans who are thought to have made clay pots in the shape of their gods. The pots were broken using poles and sticks, spilling the contents to signify favour and blessing from these false gods. The idea was eventually adopted by Christians in the country, and piñatas were featured during masses leading up to Christmas.

So, it's fairly clear that the piñata has false religious and pagan origins. With that in mind, and factoring in the Governing Body's policy on toasting probably having links to false religion (where as the piñata definitely does), can Jehovah's Witnesses use piñatas?

Here's what the Awake! magazine of 8th July 2004 has to say;
I read with interest the article “The Piñata—An Ancient Tradition.” (September 22, 2003) It left me with some questions. The ties to false religion are well-documented. But the article seemed to take the position that as long as it doesn’t bother someone’s conscience, it is OK. What about birthdays and holidays such as Christmas?
S. W., United States
“Awake!” responds: Christians refrain from any celebrations or customs that continue to involve false religious beliefs or activities that violate Bible principles. For example, the Bible definitely puts birthday celebrations in a bad light. (Genesis 40:20; Matthew 14:6-10) However, if it is very obvious that a custom has no current false religious significance and involves no violation of Bible principles, each Christian must make a personal decision as to whether he will follow such a custom.
We found that for many people in Mexico, the piñata has lost its religious significance and is considered by most to be just harmless fun. In fact, piñatas are used in Mexico on many festive occasions, not just for the posadas or for birthdays. And piñatas can be purchased in many forms other than the traditional star shape. They are sometimes made to resemble animals, flowers, clowns.
When considering whether to include a piñata at a social gathering, Christians should be sensitive to the consciences of others. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) A main concern is, not what the practice meant hundreds of years ago, but how it is viewed today in your area. Understandably, opinions may vary from one place to another. Hence, it is wise to avoid turning such matters into big issues. The Bible says: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24. [emphasis added]

The Governing Body has decided in the case of piñatas to allow Jehovah's Witnesses to exercise their own Christian conscience and decide for themselves whether piñatas are for them or not. And they shouldn't get all fussed about what piñatas probably meant years ago.

Why isn't this principle applied to toasts or throwing rice and confetti at weddings?

One thing I'm curious about, how does Jehovah communicate with the Governing Body to let them know what's probably ok and what definitely isn't? And does Jehovah ever change his mind? For instance, once upon a time Jehovah hated organ transplants, according to the Governing Body. But now he's probably ok with them, so it's up to your conscience to decide whether to have this medical procedure.

I have to ask, with the Governing Body's inconsistent rules, with them heaping onto the inspired word of God additional laws of their own making, how are they any different from the Jewish Pharisees of Jesus' day?

And if they are inconsistent with their laws, deciding for a while that something is abhorrent to God, then later changing their minds (as per organ transplants), how can they say they have "the truth"? Does the truth ever change?

But here's the real issue; since when is our making sure we're really, really good and well behaved important to Jehovah? If in some way us being good, doing really well, avoiding clinking glasses and saying "cheers", could win us favour with God, then why did Jesus need to die? Aren't the Governing Body completely missing the entire point of Jesus life, death and resurrection?

Jehovah's Witnesses, please meditate on the following from God's Word the Bible;

Romans 6:1-23
1 Consequently, what shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, that undeserved kindness may abound? 2 Never may that happen! Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it? 3 Or do YOU not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be [united with him in the likeness] of his resurrection; 6 because we know that our old personality was impaled with [him], that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. 7 For he who has died has been acquitted from [his] sin.

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