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Judge Rutherford's drinking habits

Jack Ryan

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Few Witnesses are aware that Rutherford had a reputation as a drinker. In his book “Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” retired professor Jim Penton remarks…


“Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have done everything possible to hide accounts of the judge’s drinking habits, they are simply too notorious to be denied. Former workers at the Watch Tower’s New York headquarters recount tales of his inebriation and drunken stupors. Others tell stories of how difficult it sometimes was to get him to the podium to give talks at conventions because of his drunkenness. In San Diego, California, where he spent his winters from 1930 until his death, an elderly lady still speaks of how she sold him great quantities of liquor when he came to purchase medicines in her husband’s drugstore.”

Penton goes on to relate an open letter of complaint to Rutherford by Walter Salter, who had been one of his closest friends and confidants before breaking with him over doctrinal issues. In his letter, dated April 1, 1937, Salter complained of Rutherford’s excessive drinking, and of the fact that he bought large quantities of alcohol using Society funds. He bemoaned the fact that Rutherford “sends us out from door to door to face the enemy while he goes from ‘drink to drink’ and tells us if we don’t we are going to be destroyed.”
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Read for yourself how Rutherford "spiritualizes" his opinion to keep the booze flowing in the USA. This is the original text from:

The Watchtower November 1, 1924



By Judge Rutherford

Since the time of Abel there have been some good men who desire to eliminate evil from the earth. Various ods have been employed to this end and all without success. The Jews tried the method of keeping the Law, and were not able to keep either the spirit or the letter thereof. Some have tried to make themselves righteous, but have learned that such is impossible. Others have been trying to eliminate evil by legislation. This od also has failed.

God is not limited in power. He could destroy evil at any time. He has permitted it for some good reason. The fact that he has permitted it and has not destroyed it is a sufficient reason for Christians not to attempt to run ahead of the Lord in its elimination. One of the reasons, which seems apparent, is to give all intelligent creatures a full opportunity to acknowledge, accept, and serve Jehovah as God or to follow the way of the devil; in other words to give an opportunity to prove man's loyalty to his Creator. God has permitted man to have experience with evil, that he might learn lasting lessons; and when the time comes for God to establish righteousness in the earth, those who learn the lessons as he has arranged them will become righteous. The great Creator has made man a free moral agent, placed good and evil before him, and given him the choice of selecting one and rejecting the other.

The real issue before man is God or the devil. God has a well-defined plan concerning man, which plan will successfully eliminate all evil from the earth. Every part of the divine plan Satan, the mimic god, has tried to copy. The devil1s counterfeit plan has been for the purpose of deceiving mankind, making God appear a liar, and his Word untrustworthy. Up to this time Satan has succeeded well in blinding the people.

We have now come to a crisis in the affairs of man. Legally the devil1s dominion is at an end. The rightful King, the beloved Son of God, is here and has taken his sovereign power. Satan desires to hold the people in subjection to himself. Hence it must be expected that he will resort to every possible means of fraud and deceit to accomplish his end.


Duty of the Christian is Plain

What is the duty of each Christian under the circumstances? We answer: His duty is plain. Having entered into a covenant with God by sacrifice through the merit of Christ Jesus, and having been begotten to the divine nature, he has solemnly agreed to do the will of God. Any other course willingly taken would be disloyalty to God, and therefore a r epudiation of his covenant. There is no possible ground of compromise for the Christian. To be a Christian one must be on the Lord's side; and when he willingly ceases to be on the Lord's side, he ceases to be a Christian. Surely every true Christian will agree that these statements are sound and true.

Recently the President of our Association, responding to a question concerning the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquor within the United States and which is known as the prohibition law, said: "Prohibition is a scheme of the devil," referring of course to the law above mentioned. Some of the brethren have made strenuous protests against this statement. Because of the seeming misunderstanding we deem it proper for The Watch Tower to state the Scriptural view of the matter.

In the outset it must be conceded by all fair-minded people the prohibition is either the result of God's will being done on earth or else a scheme of the devil. Let each one judge which it is in the light of the undisputed facts.

A desire to eliminate intoxicating liquor and all other evils is a proper and laudable desire. All Christians should be in accord with that desire. But how to accomplish that end is a different thing. The devil has a way of appearing to accomplish it, and his way is that of fraud and deceit. God1s way of accomplishing that end if righteous and complete. In his own due time he will completely eliminate intoxicating liquors and all other evil influences. He has said to man: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God's way is not popular with the majority of mankind at present. All true Christians are for God1s way. He who seeks the approval of the world and who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. (Jas. 4:4) The Lord's friendship and his approval are the only things worth while.

Intoxicating liquor is a great evil. The devil stands for all things evil. He is the very personification of wickedness. Then how could prohibition of intoxicating liquor be the devil1s scheme? St. Paul answers: "For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness." (2 Cor. 11:14,15) In the prohibition scheme he appears as an angel of light; his ministers likewise. Fraud and deceit are Satan's principal methods of operation. He is the god of this evil world, and has long deceived the nations and blinded their minds to the truth of God's plan. -- 1 Cor. 4: 4.


Satan Beguiles Ruling Factors

More than a century ago good men and women, seeing the evil of intoxicating liquor, started a movement to expel it from the earth. In America they organized the Prohibition Party. That party is now , and had nothing to do with the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment. But even had that party succeeded in its plan, such would not have been God 1s way. Long ago Satan caused the union of church and state in Europe, and therefore the downfall of the clergy. He desired to accomplish the same thing in America. Union of church and state is repugnant to the fundamental American principles. To accomplish his end Satan knew that he must resort to fraud and deceit by putting forth something that had the appearance of good. The World War furnished the opportunity for him to act, and he did act.

Jesus taught his followers to pray: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and also taught them to wait for his second coming for the setting up of that kingdom and the establishment of righteousness. Satan induced the clergy to believe that they could set up God's kingdom on earth without waiting for the Lord, and that to accomplish this they must bring into the church men of wealth, influence and power. The clergy fell under this temptation, brought in the profiteers, politicians and other men of influence, and made them the chief ones in their congregations. The ruling factors have long been under the influence of Satan, whether they knew it or not. The chief ones amongst the rulers are those of commercial power. It is a well-known fact in America that this power has nominated the candidates for the leading parties for several years, and has elected the one they desired.

Next, the commercial powers were induced to see that if liquor could be taken away from the laboring man the result would be beneficial to bankers, manufacturers and merchants. Big business, the real controlling power of the politicians of the land under the supermind of their guiding and invisible god (Satan), set about to unite the forces of the Democratic and Republican parties to accomplish their purpose. It was an easy matter to get the preachers to do the shouting and to make the noise, because they felt that now big business and big politicians were with them and that they could set up the Lord1s kingdom in earth. The World War furnished the opportunity, and an appeal was made to the people by the politicians and the preachers to patriotically support the movement for prohibition in order to win the war, and thus many were induced to support it.

The appeal was made to the order-loving ones by the preachers that it was the will of God that prohibition should be enacted; and the people were again deceived, and acted accordingly. By the combined action of big business, big politicians, and big preachers they induced the Congress to take the necessary steps to amend the Constitution, and the state legislatures to ratify it. At the time, the New York "Tribune" editorially said: "This legislation seems to be propelled by some invisible force." It was indeed an invisible force, and that force was the devil. The result was a union of clergy with big business and big politicians in a combination to control the American people.

Can any Christian, who believes God and his Word, for one moment think that the Lord God of righteousness used the Democratic and Republican parties, and the higher critics and evolutionists, and those who deny the of Christ Jesus, to enact the prohibition law; and that such was his will and plan? Does the God of righteousness need any s uch unholy alliance as this to accomplish his will on earth? Does any Christian believe that this is the plan of God? If not, then whose scheme is it?


God's Word Gives Wholesome Advice

It is well known that the ultra-rich, the politicians, and even many clergy are supplied with all the intoxicating liquor they can consume, while they are making the greatest noise for the enforcement of the prohibition law. As an illustration: One influential clergyman, who led the fight in his vicinity for prohibition, shortly after the enactme nt of the law had his house burglarized. The burglars found his cellar stocked with liquors, and indulged in same so freely that they broke up his furniture. The clergyman refused to prosecute the guilty ones because it would expose the fact that he, an advocate of prohibition, had stocked up well in advance, that he might to need to deny himself things that he was willing to take away from his neighbors merely for show.

It is also well known that many of the agencies employed to enforce the prohibition law have taken the illicit liquor away from the bootlegger and either used it themselves or sold it to others. Many of the prohibition law officers have connived with others to steal great quantities of liquor from warehouses, and have then wrongfully sold it to ot hers or divided it amongst those particularly favored by them. Can any Christian for a moment believe that prohibition, as we now see it, is the result of God's will done on earth?

Intoxicating liquor is a great evil, and the saloons a curse to humanity. The good American people do not want either. They are also sick and disgusted with pious-faced frauds, who parade in the name of Christ, hypocritically claiming to representing God and righteousness, who join hands with the conscienceless politicians and profiteers to enact and enforce a law, and claim it to be the carrying out of God1s will. When Jesus was on earth he denounced above everything else fraud and hypocrisy. God1s Word admonishes Christians to abstain from every form of evil. Fraud and hypocrisy are amongst the greatest evils.

Let the people adopt the Lord's way, accept Christ and his kingdom, and be submissive thereto; and their ways will be right. But so long as the people adopt Satan's fraudulent ods and ignore the Lord1s way they can not accomplish a lasting good. All Christians should refuse to stultify themselves by joining hands with any scheme that has the appearance of good when in truth and in fact it is honeycombed with fraud and deceit, and denies the Lord and his ods of accomplishing the blessing of mankind.

No Christian advocates the use of intoxicating liquor. The question is not concerning the existence of the evil, but the % od" of elimination of that evil. Instead of running ahead of the Lord and joining hands with some scheme that is contrary to the Lord's way, the Christian should remember the scripture: "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for a n example of suffering affliction, and of patience."

Reformation Impossible by Legislation

The Lord Jesus is now present. His kingdom is at hand. Satan, in his desperation to deceive the people, has appeared as an angel of light and has put forth a thing, to wit, prohibition, which appears to be good but which in truth and in fact is a fraudulent scheme to turn the minds of the people away from Christ and his kingdom. God, in his own d ue time, will eliminate intoxicating liquor and all other evils from the earth; and when he does so, there will be no apostate preachers ("Ministers of Satan appearing as ministers of righteousness"), no politicians and no profiteers advocating prohibition that their own selfish ends may be accomplished. There will be no fraudulent a gencies claiming to enforce the law, and at the same time violating it. Shortly Satan will be aborn of his power. (Rev. 20:1-4) The eyes of the people will be opened to the truth. The Lord will rule them in righteousness. He will have no dishonest agencies representing him; but, as he says, 3when thy judgments [the Lord's] are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.² Experience shows that it is impossible to reform men of evil merely by legislation. This does not mean that men should not be reformed, but when the great Jehovah God has plainly told us in his Word how these reformations will be brought about, every Christian should adopt the Lord's way because it is right and every Christian should refrain from the devil1s way because it is wrong. -- 2 Cor. 6:15-18.

The Christian would be more popular with the world to advocate the present scheme of prohibition. It is better to be right than to be popular. The Christian's allegiance must be to God and his kingdom. Remember the issue now is, The Lord1s kingdom against Satan's rule. If we are followers of the Lord, then let us hear and obey his Word: "Wait yet upon me, saith the Lord...For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."(Zeph. 3:8,9.)

The Lord could prohibit intoxicating liquors at any time, but it is not yet his due time. It follows, then, that the scheme put forth at this particular time in the light of the evidence is not God1s plan or scheme but that of the devil. In God's due time his kingdom will rule the nations and enforce righteousness. He will so reform the hearts of men that they will refrain from evil. For a Christian to be loyal to the Lord he must now stand for the Lord1s way, and not for any other. With the kindliest feeling toward all who desire the elimination of every form of evil from the earth, as Christians we must follow the Lord's way and wait upon him. The evidences are so conclusive at this time that his kingdom is at hand that there can be no doubt in the mind of one who is really informed on the Bible. Let each believer in t he Bible then ask himself: Has God brought about the present condition of prohibition? If not, then should I advocate it? Is God going to reform through Christ1s kingdom the world and eliminate evil and bring blessings to the people? If so, then I must be on the Lord's side.

The Watch Tower has nothing to do with politics. Prohibition is not a political question. If the people of the world wish to make a prohibition law and enforce that law, well and good. That is not our affair. A Christian can not consistently participate therein. He must keep himself separate from the world. The sole question is, Who is on the Lord's side? If we are on the Lord's side, our way is clear: Be patient and wait upon him to fully establish his rule in the earth.

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Rutherford was known for excessive use of alcohol, even printing an article against the prohibition in the Watchtower 1924 Nov 1 pp.323-326. Olin Moyle worked as legal counsel for Jehovah's Witnesses during the time of Rutherford. After writing a letter of complaint to Rutherford over issues within Bethel, including Rutherford's excessive drinking and extravagance, Moyle resigned from the position. A court case ensued, described in the Watchtower's publication Consolation 1944 Dec 20 p.21.


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Sorry. I was just pointing out the same thing that The Librarian pointed out. I just saw his post so I removed mine. Not that you could't fill one of those kegs with real beer, and not that Rutherford didn't have a reputation for drinking. (Homebrewers reuse these types of kegs all the time, but the root beer flavor is the hardest flavor to remove completely. You end up still tasting or smelling a bit of root beer with your beer, unless you go to a lot of trouble with all the little parts.)

My table head at Bethel disliked him, and included alcohol, smelly cigars and philandering among the habits that he "semi-accused" him of. But his primary complaint was that he would send out Bethelites to places where he thought they had the best chance of getting beat up or landing in jail.

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