I was recently perusing an ex-Jehovah’s Witness Recovery FB group when I came across the post you see below. It summed up as succinctly and accurately as I have ever seen what life as a JW child is like. The fears……the thoughts……the reasonings (or lack thereof) etc. Below that is my take on the matter as well as examples and stories from my life that closely parallel the thoughts and ideas of the initial author.
As soon as I read this post, I contacted the author via PM on Facebook. I wanted her permission to post it on my blog because of how perfectly she described the mindset of a Jehovah’s Witness child. Thankfully, she endorsed my efforts.
I am posting this because…….this was me as a 5-6 year old kindergarten child back in the mid 1980s. This was my oldest daughter two years ago. And this is my youngest child…….today. As a young child, you are taught that very soon God is going to bring about paradise for obedient mankind (a.k.a – Jehovah’s Witnesses). In that paradise, you will live forever and ever here on the earth…..free from worry, sin, sickness and death. You will have a perfect family. You will have a perfect relationship with God. You will have a perfect relationship with nature. The leaders of the JW organization do a masterful job in the artistic portrayals of what this paradise will look like within the pages of their religious publications. And these portrayals easily captivate the mind of a small child that likes pretty pictures and the idea of having a lion as a pet. Below are some samples:
Jehovah’s Witnesses like to talk about this paradise when they are proseletyzing at your door as well. Accuracy of the merits of their beliefs aside………it seems like a harmless…..maybe even encouraging thing to teach a child, no? Until…..you look at the flip side. What they don’t broadcast quite so brazenly, but what is most certainly taught to JW children just as forecefully as well is……what happens to those that aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses when God brings forth this paradise? You see, in their teachings…….before the paradise is brought forth by God…….Armageddon must come. And at Armageddon, it is taught that all non JWs will die at the hand of God. Here are some artistic renditions of what that will look like…..taken directly from the pages of their very own publications:
You see…….children are easily swayed……manipulated and controlled by those with an agenda. You can show a child 99 pictures of a fairytale paradise and that child may be motivated to be there someday. But you know what motivates a child much more than that? Fear. Intimidation. Guilt. Fear – Show them pictures of mounds of dead bodies piled on the street. Show them pictures of fireballs from heaven destroying entire cities. Show them pictures of people and animals falling out of crumbling skyscrapers. Show them the horrified facial depictions of those that are shown to be experiencing “armageddon” who AREN’T Jehovah’s Witnesses. And trust me………THOSE are the images that stay within the mind of a youngster. Morbid fear of avoiding such a catastrophic death is what becomes the chief motivator. Intimidation – Have them listen to stories of what “armageddon” will be like. Some stories are told at the dinner table. Some are heard from the platform at their kingdom hall. Some are heard at their conventions and assemblies. If pictures aren’t enough…….imagine how the mind of a 6 year old wanders as the awaited mass persecution of “Jehovah’s People” that will assuredly be much worse than that which was seen during the second world war is described in great detail. Guilt – Let the child know how many people are counting on him/her to choose the JW lifestyle at a young age. Make sure the child knows that any dissent will not only result in his/her loss of life at armageddon……but that he/she making God……grandpa……grandma……mom…..dad etc…. sad and disappointed.
Yes, as a JW child, you are taught to pay attention in school so you can get good grades. After all, (since Jehovah’s Witnesses are the ONLY ones that are truly serving God) it is important that you put on a good show to make the JW faith look good. But that’s where it stops. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that teachers and professors and doctors and scientists have a mere “secular” education. They have a “worldly” knowledge. Such education is tarnished and nothing more than a mass distraction caused by Satan the Devil. Whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses have “godly” education. Learning what the JWs have to say is NOT tarnished. It is approved by God. In this sense……although I had respect for my teacher……I…at the age of 6….viwed her with pity because she didn’t have a “godly education”. She didn’t “know Jehovah” like I did.
I played with the other kids…..and in my opinion……did a much better job of assimilating myself in the social context of school than most JW kids do. But I was careful not to make close friendships……..just like my 8 year old daughter is today. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be accepted. But being accepted meant cultivating a relationship with these “worldly” kids. And I knew very well that it is taught that those who aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses are bad associates (1 Cor 15:33). They will only lead me down the path to destruction. So I distanced myself from them….knowing that it would be better to keep a safe distance and be lonely while maintaining the approval of God than to risk becoming friends with someone that God is going to destroy soon.
Speaking of such destruction……the author of the post hits next on yet another level of guilt that a JW child feels. Remember, any minute now……armageddon is coming and non-JWs are as good as dead when that happens. So how do you save people from this impending demise? You preach to them. Yes……even at that age. There is a term in JW land known as “blood-guilt”. It is basically the same as vicarious liability (yay!…..this coming from an insurance underwriter!). Vicarious liability is basically a situation where someone is held responsible for the negligent acts of another person. A good example would be that of a workplace environment. Your employer is held responsible for the mistakes YOU make at work. Blood guilt works in a similar fashion. It is taught that if you choose not to preach to someone and that person loses his/her life at armageddon……God may hold you liable when he kills that person. In other words……you’re as good as dead too. You see, a 6 year old child struggles with these thoughts. As I mentioned one paragraph above……everyone…..even Jehovah’s Witness children have a desire to be liked and to fit in. It is a psychological need of ours. Imagine struggling with that as a child. Imagine having the desire to fit in but being riddled by guilt because “fitting in” means siding with Satan against God. Now take it a step further. Imagine trying to fit in well enough to not be ostricized……….yet taking very seriously the idea that you may need to save these other children’s lives by preaching to them. Imagine how many times a child “fits in” while preaching to others. Yeah. It doesn’t happen. Children don’t like to be preached at so it is kind of hard to be liked and accepted. So…..as a child……. do you take a brief hiatus from the playground condemnation of your peers so you can try to be normal? Do you dare take a break from the “life saving responsibility” of preaching that has been heaped on your tiny little shoulders? Sounds enticing! But wait! What if armageddon comes that week and you find yourself blood-guilty? The struggle is real. And NO 6 year old mind is equipped to deal with it.
As a child, I most certainly do recall hearing stories of what “the great tribulation” leading up to armageddon would be like for JWs. I do not recall hearing stories about rape but I do recall being told that we would likely be rounded up like the Jews (and some Jehovah’s Witnesses) were in WWII. We would be persecuted……beaten and killed when the governments of the world all turn on us. We would be separated from our parents and our families and the only thing that would help us when that times comes would be our fervent faith and belief in the paradise. We would be offered food, shelter, stability and perhaps even the opportunity to see our loved ones……so long as we compromised our faith in our religion. But we mustn’t do that. We must remain strong. This would be our final test. Would we pass?
Most of my extended family lived far away from me. The majority of my dad’s family lived in Wisconsin and the majority of my mom’s family lived in Alabama. My mom’s parents were dead and my grandma on my dad’s side of the family died when I was 7. But I did have one aunt from my mom’s side of the family that I was close to. At least relatively. I would sometimes spend the weekend with her at her house and go swimming at the private pool of her condo association. Of course…..she was “worldly”. So to be honest, I am still a little surprised at how much time I was allowed to spend with her. I enjoyed our time together, but as a very small child……I would sometimes agonize over the thought of losing her. I didn’t understand why God would just kill her at armageddon like everyone else that wasn’t a JW. I mean…..SHE was special. But I didn’t dare question the rules either. If only we could reach her and convince her to become a JW before time ran out! There was actually a time that I surmised to myself that instead of killing ALL non JWs at Armageddon…….God would allow each SAVED JW to take a person with them to paradise. Almost like a special Godly pardon if you will. I would use my pardon on my aunt to save her life. Of course this was NOT an official teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the idea sure helped me sleep a little better at night.
I’ll never forget the very first time I stepped into a church. I was 25 years old. Yep. 25. Any and all funerals or weddings I had previously attended had been either in Jehovah’s Witness kingdom halls or in funeral homes/reception halls. Simply put…..if a “worldly” person was getting married or having a funeral……..I was raised to choose God over them. Yep. God hated churches. All of them. Even when a person is getting married or being eulogized, because all churches teach “false religious” ideas and all “false religion” is being lead by Satan. By choosing not to set foot in such a Satanic place of ritual as a church……I would be making God happy. I would be doing his will instead of compromising his righteous standards. As I mentioned, I was 25 the first time I entered a church, and I chose to enter it for a reason. It was half because I was beginning to wake up to the mind-screwing I had received from the JW religion most of my life and half because…..for professional purposes…..I needed to. The patriarch of the family insurance agency that I had started my career with had died. I needed to be there for the funerl. So I went. I broke into a sweat as I got out of the car and approached the church. I felt hot and agitated as I walked through the doors. Before I knew it…..there I was…..standing in the foyer of Satan’s home. I pushed through the feelings of guilt and discomfort. When the service started, I feigned not feeling well so I could stand near the back of the church. As if superstitiously standing at the back of the church as opposed to the front meant that God wouldn’t be as mad at me. I later forced myself to take a seat. I could swear that I could actually feel demons surrounding me on the pew. Again…..I told myself that my thought process was ridiculous and managed to make it to the end of the service.
I consider myself to be an agnostic/athiest at this point in my life. Unable to disprove the existence of God but highly doubtful of it. Not only am I free from the damaging mindset of JW teachings…….but I don’t even believe in the existence of spirit beings! Yet here I am, at the tender age of 35, and I STILL get an initial creepy chill when I enter a church! Just last weekend my children and I attended an Easter service at my girlfriend’s church. During the service, I admitted to her what I just wrote. That the fear and indoctrination that had been a part of my childhood growing up still sometimes manifests itself and I have to use reason and logic to push it away. She took my hand and calmly and lovingly informed me that she already knew…….simply because of my change in posture and demeanor upon entering the church. Yep. 35 years old and STILL feeling the effects of my messed up childhood.
Thankfully I can say that I never wrote any letters to my aunt, telling her that I don’t want to be around her anymore. In fact, shamefully, when I became a horny adolescent I would purposely WANT to go to her place for no other reason than because she had Cinemax…..or should I say…..Skinemax! And thankfully I haven’t received any of those letters from my children…..but nearly three years ago…..I did have a very uncomfortable conversation with my oldest child. She asked me why I want to be friends with Satan. No matter how many times I told her “pumpkin…..I am NOT friends with Satan”……..she didn’t believe me. She even started to cry later and told me she doesn’t want me to die and that she wants me to be in the paradise with her.
I can proudly say that since that day, I have made great strides with both my girls. I have an incredible relationship with both of them and they realize the importance, even at such young ages, of sound reasoning…..critical thinking…..and unconditional love. For those of you that follow me on Facebook and sometimes wonder why I don’t compromise with my ex-wife more often when it comes to the religious upbringing of my children……THIS is why. For those of you that wonder why I’ve spent SO much money on my divorce attorney, custody evaluator, child psychiatrist and parenting coordinator…….THIS is why. For those of you that wonder why I might sometimes come across as obsessively motivated…….THIS is why. I fight with the hope that someday….my children won’t have to anymore.