Growing up a Jehovah's Witness
A person raised as a Jehovah’s Witness has a unique way of thinking that is difficult for others to comprehend. The best way to understand how a Witness thinks is to look at the information they receive as they develop and grow.
Let’s imagine a child called Matthew born in 1960 to Jehovah’s Witness parents. We can trace what he is taught to believe through the Watchtower in order to understand his view of life.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are directed by a Governing Body. A Witness can only be understood by comprehending the power these leaders have over them. The Governing Body claim to be God’s “Faithful & Discreet Slave” and that God uses them to dispense “truth” through the Watchtower. Matthew must follow information in the Watchtower as if it is from God
“[Have] complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and "the faithful and discreet slave.” Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
“Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?” Watchtower 2009 Feb 15 p.27
As a child, one of the first things Matthew learns is Jehovah alone is God. Since only Jehovah’s Witnesses worship Jehovah, only they will survive Armageddon.
“There is no middle ground. We are either actively for Jehovah God or actively or tacitly for the gods of this world. Make your choice, and know that your decision means life or death for you.” Watchtower 1965 Feb 15 p.119
“Yes, today, with Armageddon staring us in the face, we must keep in mind the sobering thought that millions, even billions, of lives may shortly come to a swift and decisive end, putting their onetime owners beyond the reach of any expression of love on our part.” Watchtower 1965 Apr 1 p.212
Children will die with their parents
“... at Armageddon ... parents will be held accountable for their children, and children will suffer for the failure of their parents.” Watchtower 1968 Feb 1 pp.83,84
So Matthew preaches to save them.
“Are you training your children in the field service? And when you work in the field service with your children or others, do you see that they have a part?” Kingdom Ministry 1978 Nov p.8
As a minor in his teens Matthew will be encouraged to be baptized.
“… at 12 and a half years of age, Dustin was baptized at a circuit assembly.” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
“On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will? … Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit directed organization?” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
Matthew is taught Armageddon is about to happen.
"If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. ... Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in highschool and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!" Awake 1969 May 22 p.15
“They expect it to come at any hour, and almost certainly within the next 10 years.” Watchtower 1968 Aug 1 p.466
Matthew was told he would"
- … Never finish school
- … Never fulfill a career
- … Never grow old
“Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.” Kingdom Ministry 1974 May p.3
“As One Brother put it,stay alive till 75” 1968 District Convention talk by Charles Sunutko Matthew is told he will never die Never Die? “THERE are thousands of millions of persons living on earth today. Millions of these are now learning of the wonderful opportunity of keeping on living upon it without ever dying off it.” Watchtower 1983 Jul 1 p.17
Despite destroying Billions of people, God will save Witnesses and allow them to live forever.
“They’ll run screaming out of their houses with this striking them, and yet they’ll see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are untouched.” 1967 District Convention talk by Charles Suntuko
How can a person be convinced that God will soon murder billions of people, but that they are so special as to never die? By belonging to a law driven group with a unique set of rules to set them apart from others. Matthew is repeatedly told Witnesses are unique.
“Who are no part of the world ... ONLY Jehovah's Witnesses.” Watchtower 1992 Apr 1 p.12
“Who in our time demonstrate ... love? ... ONLY Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 1989 May 1 p.28
“ONLY one group of people is doing this work that Jesus foretold ... Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 1994 Jun 1 p.18
“Jehovah's Witnesses [are] the happiest people on earth.” Kingdom Ministry 2002 p.1
"Jehovah's servants are the most loving, united, peaceful, law abiding people on earth." Watchtower 2007 Aug 15 p.26
He will be warned against those around him and told normal, healthy activities are wrong.
"It is the satanic 'air' breathed by the world today, ... the satanic thinking that permeates every aspect of life outside Jehovah's organization." Revelation - Its Grand Climax at Hand (rev. 2006 ) pp.233,234
"We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people." Watchtower 1994 Feb 15 p.24
“Birthday celebrations … Christmas ... Easter, ... Halloween … All Saint’s Day … New Year’s Day …Valentine’s Day … May Day … Mother’s Day. We appreciate it very much when teachers kindly excuse our children from participation in all activities that in any way commemorate these holidays.” School and Jehovah’s Witnesses pp.18,21
“Witness parents feel that schools often overemphasize sports. ... Participation in organized sports, we believe, would expose Witness youths to unwholesome associations.” School and Jehovah's Witnesses p.23
“The essence, the soul, of disco was shown to be free, “liberated” sexual expression…. Satan is manipulating this world for his own purposes, shouldn’t we expect that he would also use the world’s entertainment in his efforts to turn people from true worship?” Awake 1979 Dec 22 p.20
“Dancing in the past, and at the present, has often been done in a way so as to arouse sexual passions and to lead people into sexual immorality. … Therefore, favor home gatherings with whole families present.” Awake 1984 Apr 22 pp.12,13
On the topic of Sex
Sex is used as a source of guilt - even masturbation.
“The real question, then, is, not how much physical harm could result from masturbation, but whether spiritual harm results. ... to help to avoid or reduce sexual tension... you may find it helpful to sleep on your side rather than on your back or face down. Another thing that may be helpful is to see to it that your clothing does not unnecessarily cause friction with the sexual organs. … In fact, masturbation can lead into homosexuality… Contrary to what many persons think, homosexuals are not born that way, but their homosexual behavior is learned.” Your Youth –Getting the Best Out of It pp.35,42
University Education Is Discouraged
“Rather than being content with "sustenance and covering," those who devote themselves to getting a "higher education" usually want to be able to enjoy "the rest of the things" that money can buy.” Watchtower 1967 Feb 1 p.76
"The time left is reduced"! ... For all its presumed benefits, would four years or more in a university be the best use of that remaining time?” Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13
Rather, volunteer labour to grow the organization is promoted
"In the early years, put before your children theocratic goals U regular pioneering, Bethel service or missionary work." Kingdom Ministry 1983 Oct p.2
It is the 1980’s and Matthew has reached his twenties. He was told he was not going to leave school. Now he has a job and considers starting a family. Even that is discussed.
“… Christians to ask themselves how getting married or, if married, having children will affect their share in that vital work. … During all this pre-Flood period, Noah's sons and their wives had no children.” Watchtower 1988 Mar 1 p.19
(Fortunately most ignore that advice)
Matthew may start having doubts, but is told this comes from the Devil
“Be assured that the Devil is ready to sow seeds of doubt and revolt in such fields of impatience. Endurance and faith are needed.” Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.17
If Matthew discusses his doubts he risks being disfellowshipped and shunned as an apostate by family and friends.
“The fact is that when a Christian gives himself over to sin and has to be disfellowshipped, he forfeits much: his approved standing with God; . . . sweet fellowship with the brothers, including much of the association he had with Christian relatives." Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.25
“The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home. It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum…” Watchtower 1988 Apr 15 p.27
That can be the start of a spiral into depression, living an unwanted life out of fear of loss. Loss of family. Loss of friends. Loss of identity and belief.
It is 2010 and Matthew is now 50. Some may say the Watchtower has changed. But the Watchtower still:
Directs to SHUN loved ones
“Is strict avoidance really necessary? Yes... Loyal Christian family members do not look for excuses to have dealings with a disfellowshipped relative not living at home.” Keep Yourself in God's Love (2008) p.207
Witness children are still told they won’t grow old.
“Those blessed with a lasting place in the new earth will not grow old and inevitably die.” Watchtower 2000 Apr 15 p.16
Still discourage university
"What though of higher education received in a college or university? This is widely viewed as vital to success, yet, many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah's service. ... Rather than looking to the advanced educational systems of this world for security, a Christian trusts in Jehovah." Watchtower 2008 Apr 15 p.4
From its inception in the 1800’s, the Watchtower has said the world is about to end. It was supposed to end in 1914.
“… we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished at the end of A. D. 1914.” The Time Is At Hand (1889) p.101
And soon thereafter ever since
"... the remaining months before Armageddon." Watchtower 1941 Sep 15 p.288
100 years later, Witnesses are still told it will be SOON ... In the next few years
“... the good news that soon God will rock the nations at Armageddon.” Watchtower 2006 Apr 15 p.24
For how much longer will Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to be misled to believe the fantasy that they will never die? We have seen the Watchtower has a strong emphasis on eschatology and attempts to differentiate itself through excessive use of rules. A religion that enforces shunning of family members violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12, which states:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation."
Although I am averse to suggesting governments encroach on freedom of choice, there should be sanctions when religions encourage breaking the law.
More importantly, the education system needs to teach critical thinking skills so humans learn to be less vulnerable to manipulation, be it by politics, corporations or religion.
That witnesses are so gullible as to believe their religion is the only truth, despite its false predictions of the world’s end, and ongoing contradictory changes, is a shameful reflection on the intellectual capabilities of humans and shows how badly our education system still fails. I look forward to the ongoing progression of human rights through dissemination of information now widely available through medium such as the Internet.