Sunday, April 7, 2019

Russell, Blacks and Discrimination - c

This is in response to an article entitled, “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Blacks and Discrimination“, written by Jerry Bergman, Ph. D. We are not with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, so our response is not to defend the JWs or their organization, but rather we are responding regarding statements made concerning Charles Taze Russell. Russell, himself, was never a member of the JW organization, but many view things he wrote and stated as though he were laying down dogma as does the JW leadership.

Bergmen presents several quotes from the Golden Age. The Golden Age magazine was not printed in Russell’s day, but we mention this because of the way that quotes that magazine; many may associate what is stated there with Russell, although Russell had no control over what was printed in that magazine.. A sentence is quoted from the October 15, 1919 Golden Age and is offered as proof of discrimination. In the context, however, the author of the article was simply pointing out some of the arguments being presented for the case of national prohibition. After that, the article presents some of the arguments of related the negative consequences of national prohibition. The one sentence, however, is quoted out of context and placed in the context of “racial discrimination”, although I highly doubt the author had any intent of racial discrimination.

Bermgen states:

Another article refers to Orientals as “coolies” who were “cutthroats and murderers” (Golden Age, March 10, 1926, p. 374).

What was stated in context:

The story is told of Dr. Clark that while a missionary in India he listened to a song from a band of coolies who had been cutthroats and murderers, but had become converted. The chief one had once been captured and sold as a slave. No master could keep him, he was so wicked. A missionary bought him with the hope of saving him. Here the coolie heard that the blood saves!
“Could it cleanse a murderer?”
“Yes.”
“One who killed five ment?”
“Yes; all sin!”
“One who killed ten, twenty, thirty?”
“Yes, all manner of sin.”
“I am that man.”
His life was transformed. Verily, can man do this, and can God not? (Jeremiah 18:4-6)
The story is evidently being retold from some other source, although the source is not stated, and we have not been able to find the source. At any rate, as respects the word “coolies”, the article simply reflects the common usage of that time. The word simply referred, not to all Orientals, but rather to unskilled Orientals. The term, like the term “darkie” as used by Stephen Foster, could be used in endearing manner, or it could be used as expressing a source of cheap labor. The former usage is, not, of itself, racism, any more than if one had said “Chinese”, “Japanese”, or “Khmer”. Nevertheless, it could also be used as derogatory term, but it should be obvious that this was not the intent in the article.

Bergmen further makes it appear that the author was claiming that all Orientals were “cutthroats and murderers”, which is definitely a deceitful method of quoting out of context, since it is apparent from the context that the author was referring to just this one “band”, not all Orientals. We do not know if Bergmen, himself, is the source of the material he is presenting, or if he is just repeating what he has read from someone else. Nevertheless, who ever came up with the quotes out of context had to know that they were misrepresenting what was actually stated.

Biological Inferiority of the Black Race

Bergman claims that the Watchtower “for decades officially taught the doctrine of biological inferiority of the black race.” We have found no evidence anywhere Brother Russell’s writings that he ever thought such a thing,

Getting to quotes from Brother Russell, the first is some selective quoting presented from The Watch Tower, April 1,1914, page 110:

Recognizing that it meant either the success or the failure of the…[Photo] Drama as respects the whites, we have been compelled to assign the colored friends to the gallery… Some were offended at this arrangement. We have received numerous letters from the colored friends, some claiming that it is not right to make a difference, others indignantly and bitterly denouncing [us] as enemies of the colored people. Some … told us that they believe it would be duty to stand up for equal rights and always to help the oppressed…. We again suggested that if a suitable place could be found in which the Drama could be presented for the benefit of the colored people alone, we would be glad to make such arrangements, or to cooperate with any others in doing so.

Bergmen then states:

The administration then concluded that the Watchtower interests were to be put ahead of efforts to achieve racial justice and human rights, a policy that continues today.


Brother Russell, like Jesus and the apostles in the Bible, did not believe that the Christian's mission is to reform Satan's world.

Bergment then presents some selective quotes:


Our explanations were … it is a question of putting either the interests of God’s cause first, or else the interests of the race first. We believed it our duty to put God first and the truth first–at any cost to others or to ourself! We explained that we thought that all the colored brethren should know… that we love to serve them in any way possible and to give them the very best we have to give of the Gospel message; and that it is only a question of whether our giving to them in one way would entirely deprive us of giving the truth to others (Watchtower, April 1, 1914:110).

Bergmen’s method of quoting and his comments make it appear that as a result of the incident at the Photo-Drama showing, that Brother Russell decided a new policy for the WTS. In reality, Russell was reiterating the policy from the beginning of not getting involved in the world’s politics and social issues. However, the kind of selective quoting presented by Bergmen is very misleading, for it leaves out various parts and often combines one thought as being associated with something that was not originally intended.

We will present the entire article below.

THE COLOR LINE FOUND NECESSARY
   WE might have anticipated that many colored people would be deeply interested in THE PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION. But it did not impress itself upon us until gradually their number increased to about twenty-five per cent. of the whole audience. Of course, we were glad to see them, glad that they were interested in the DRAMA. We had the same feeling respecting them as others; but it was quickly discerned that it was not a case of feeling, but that, whereas the colored people of New York City are about five per cent. of the population, in our audiences they are about twenty-five per cent. and the number increasing. What shall we do? As the attendance of the colored people would increase, proportionately the number of the whites would decrease; for explain it how we will, a majority of whites prefer not to intermingle closely with other races.
Recognizing that it meant either the success or the failure of the enterprise of the DRAMA as respects the whites, we have been compelled to assign the colored friends to the gallery, which, however, is just as good for seeing and hearing as any other part of The Temple. Some were offended at this arrangement.
    We have received numerous letters from the colored friends, some claiming that it is not right to make a difference, others indignantly and bitterly denouncing us as enemies of the colored people. Some, confident that Brother Russell had never sanctioned such a discrimination, told that they believe it would be duty to stand up for equal rights and always to help the oppressed, etc. We were obliged to explain the facts, assuring all of our loving interest in the colored people, and of our desire to do them good, and not injury. We again suggested that if a suitable place could be found in which the DRAMA could be presented for the benefit of the colored people alone, we would be glad to make such arrangements, or to co-operate with any others in doing so.
   Our explanations were apparently entirely satisfactory to all of the fully consecrated. To these we explained that it is a question of putting either the interests of God’s Cause first, or else the interests of the race first. We believed it our duty to put God first and the Truth first– at any cost to others or to ourself! We explained that we thought that all the colored brethren should know our attitude toward them–they should know that we love to serve them in any way possible and to give them the very best we have to give of the Gospel Message; and that it is only a question of whether our giving to them in one way would deprive us of giving the Truth to others. [R5434 : page 111]
    Some who were still tenacious and quarrelsome we merely reminded of our Lord’s declaration that in inviting visitors into the house it is the place of the host to say where they shall sit, and then we showed them the parable of the man who chose the chief seat of honor and was given a lower one.
   In answer to the query as to how our course of conduct squared with the Golden Rule, we replied that it squares exactly. We would wish others to put God first. If our personal interests are or ever have been in conflict with the real and apparently best interests of the Lord’s Cause, it is a part of our consecration vow to ignore our interests in favor of the interests of the Lord’s Cause. This is what we mean by the declaration that we are dead to self and alive to our God as New Creatures.
   We reminded one dear sister that the Lord enjoins humility, and assures us that unless we humble ourselves we shall not be exalted. If nature favors the colored brethren and sisters in the exercise of humility it is that much to their advantage, if they are rightly exercised by it. A little while, and our humility will work out for our good. A little while, and those who shall have been faithful to their Covenant of Sacrifice will be granted new bodies, spiritual, beyond the veil, where color and sex distinctions will be no more. A little while, and the Millennial Kingdom will be inaugurated, which will bring Restitution to all mankind–restitution to the perfection of mind and body, feature and color, to the grand original standard, which God declared “very good,” and which was lost for a time through sin, but which is soon to be restored by the powerful Kingdom of Messiah.

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