I often get a letter along the lines of this: "Whenever I ask one of those that claim to be of the `remnant' (144,000 chosen to go to heaven among the JWs) just how they know that they are anointed, they usually say something like, `It's a desire to be with Christ.' A lot of Christians say the same thing. Yet as an average earthbound JW, I was led to believe that this was some kind of supernatural experience that most people don't have, and when you have it you KNOW. What is the real story?"
Maybe this will help. A "desire to be with Christ" usually includes the following:
1. Longing for release from this world
2. Love for the person and traits of Jesus, to the point that one wants to be as close to him as possible, and is willing to give up ANYTHING else to get it.
Since this "desire" is accompanied by strong emotions in the case of those who would give up all else for it and who want it badly, it creates its own experience(s), which vary widely. For some, it is a special, warm hope which energizes much of their lives (true for many "anointed" at Bethel). For others, it is accompanied by miraculous evidences almost daily. (This is also claimed by some of the anointed. I pioneered with one in San Luis Obispo, who had been at Bethel during Rutherford's day, and I listened to his comments and love for Jesus daily. You could not have distinguished him from your typical born-again Christian, except for the Watchtower clichés). Just because a person doesn't have a certain doctrine doesn't mean they haven't had an "experience." Some non-anointed JWs have had experiences with "Jesus" either before or during their Witness days as well. (Most experiences are too complex to define in detail, though some people are able to articulate them better than others.)
Now, if you were in the Watchtower before 1935, there would be no reason to "reclassify" or "readjust" your "experience" to being a form of pride or satanic deception (as is often the case in the WT today), so if you had such an experience, you would automatically feel in your heart that your experience bears witness with the words of Jesus at John 14 and other places, and this "witness" (inner confirming) convinces you that you are going to be the recipient of Jesus' promise. From this point, the experience may not be further defined or subject to examination, thus the response, "I just know."
The Governing Body and other old-timers at Bethel is comprised of those who (a) would claim to have had the seminal (#1 and #2) experience I mentioned above, along with others who (b) just fit into the religion and interpreted their standing by the current "light" on the matter (which was based on the 1935 chronology). Thus, those in the WT before 1935 would be a conglomerate of people who are not unlike those in the churches, in that many have had some type of "experience," yet others are just in a religion and interpret their standing before God by the current tenets of the organization.
After 1935, a major change occurred, meaning that the second type just mentioned (those along for the ride) almost completely disappeared, since the organization now dictated that, unless you have this "experience" or "witness" you are presumptuous to claim being "of Christ," you are one of the rest of the earthly-bound people. Those who came along after 1935 and claimed to be of the anointed were sometimes subject to scrutiny and questioning, since being of this class took on an unofficially "elite" status (After all, they are the ones who are supposed to rule the world with Christ!) and they would be looked up to by the other blue-collar Witnesses.
Hence, as in the case of some African countries a few years ago, where entire congregations of JWs would suddenly claim to be of the anointed (apparently accompanied by the seminal experience), the WT would assume it to be of demonic origin and would warn the congregations, and probably didn't even count those of such groups who partook of the bread and wine in their yearly count of the "anointed." A very racist, elitist mentality.
What of the Christian "born-again" experience?
Many believe that God can call anyone to Christ regardless of what household they live in, even in the JWs (though the propaganda machine narrows it down considerably, and also attracts a certain element of elitism that may, in effect, be a false experience). The feeling among many Christians is that people can be "of Christ" and still be intellectually lost and confused. For us, "accurate knowledge" is not the key to salvation, at least as interpreted by the WT and some other church groups. I personally had such an experience at a Billy Graham crusade years before becoming a Witness, and to this day I feel it is valid, though I was lost in the Watchtower for eight years.
For those who have a binary (black-and-white) approach to the situation (attempting to narrow the classifications down to those with the "right" doctrine or standing in the "right" location) we find the "thought police" busy at work in the world of Christianity, never resting in their attempts to adjust the size and content of the sheep pen, moving the fenceposts around on the basis of (a) doctrinal creeds, (b) the "right" type of experience, (c) certain manifestations that supposedly "prove" the experience to be of God, (d) your attitude towards certain moral or political issues, or (e) many things not listed above.
I am familiar with all of the above mindsets, yet never acknowledged them to be "Christian" attitudes in spite of the fact that I believe in the Trinity, have spoken in tongues, have had many "experiences," etc. To me, the above classifications are the heresy of legalism that Paul warned against in his letters to the Corinthians and Galatians.
All of this is an observation, and I do not personally attempt to judge a person's experience as being from God or not. If they claim the seminal experience (#1 and #2) as mentioned above, then I'll take their word for it that they have had such an "experience." However, I'm not required to "do" anything with that bit of information (such as try and figure out if I'm going to associate with them or not). I choose to associate with people on the basis of whether I like them personally or not, rather than their claimed experiences or the lattice of doctrinal structures embedded in their minds. If Jesus recognizes them, then I will know for sure someday. In the meantime, I do not desire to judge anyone's experiences. If I think they are weird, I leave them alone! :-)
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