The view from the new Etsy Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY is an incredible one. This is a photo I took when I toured 117 Adams Street, back in September 2006*. Only at that time this wasn’t the global headquarters of the renowned community of Etsy artisans. This was the propaganda factory of Jehovah’s Witnesses, known to JWs as “Brooklyn Bethel”.
This building held significance to JWs everywhere. As a child of 11 in 1997, my family drove across country, from California to New York, just to tour it.
In 2006, 5 months into marriage, Jake and I made a business trip to New York and made a special effort to visit, tour, and pay our respects to the work being done.
On November 8, 2014, Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body, the group of leaders that make up the self proclaimed “Guardians of the Doctrine” for Jehovah’s Witnesses, gave this following talk (beginning at the 10:05 mark) and said, “Spiritual families have spiritual goals… Have you ever visited Bethel?… And if you haven’t, my next question is, have you been able to find a way to get a trip to a well known amusement park? Explain that to God.”**
Keep in mind that this was a factory.
With no area specifically designed to appeal to children.
And he compared it to and guilt tripped JW parents everywhere to visit it over Disneyland. (In the same talk he delivered in Italy, he specifically named Disneyland.) Such is the level of reverence expected among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Brooklyn Bethel and what it was made to represent- as indicated by the meaning of its name, “the house of God”- carried spiritual significance to every member of the JW organization. Maybe that explains why I had mixed feelings seeing the photos of the transformation into the Etsy offices.
On the one had, I love Etsy and what it represents. I love that they have put their signature innovative and sustainable approach to work, transforming an office space into a stunningly beautiful, artistic, imaginative work environment. The irony is not lost on me that there is now a yoga room- in the very place where yoga was condemned as a practice of emptying ones’ mind, and once that is done, “the demons can take advantage of a mind that is empty and fill it with their own thoughts. So beware! This practice could make you their prey.” (Read the full quotes condemning yoga here.)
And yet, seeing the progress and massive improvements to the building only makes it more obvious the rapid decline of the belief system I once held dear.
A series of videos were released this summer as part of the Regional Convention program and they are nothing if not despicable. The videos consistently use fear, obligation, and guilt as a means to control the viewers. In one video, shunning is compared to a divine execution. One scene in particular shows a mother deliberately ignoring a phone call from her adult daughter, who had been disfellowshipped for committing fornication.
They are publicly endorsing emotional blackmail. They proceed to call it “a loving provision.” An excellent overview of the contents of this video can be found here.
And then. (Did you think it couldn’t get worse? It’s about to.) Then there are the bunker videos, where a group of witnesses hide out in someone’s basement to escape persecution during the great tribulation.
This is what they think is actually going to happen.
I wish I was making this up.
It’s a rapid decline. And it’s mind boggling and heartbreaking that so many are going along with it because they are scared to think on their own.
*I am not certain that this photo was taken from the top of 117 Adams, as we toured multiple buildings which were connected by above-street tunnels.
**This is the talk which branded him “Tight Pants Tony” in response to the tirade he launched against women wearing spandex (he refers to Spanx, but the general consensus was that he meant to say spandex) and young men wearing form fitting suits.