I would venture to guess that most adult Jehovah’s Witnesses have trouble listening/paying attention at their church services (hereafter referred to as “meetings”). I was one of them. You have 5 meetings each week crammed into 2 days. Three (back to back to back) on Tuesday or Wednesday night. And two (back to back) on Sunday. Let alone the door knocking requirements……..family study…..meeting preparation…….personal study etc. The same basic messages are repeated over and over and over again. What are you doing for Jehovah? (a.k.a. – what are you doing for the organization?) Could you be doing more? Are you spending too much time pursuing personal goals instead of “spiritual” goals? In other words……have you made advancement perhaps at work but not in the congregation? Etc. My self diagnosed situational ADD certainly didn’t help matters but WOW…..were some of those meetings boring!
Leadership insists that the ENTIRE bible is there for us to learn from. As such, there are sermons and meetings that focus nearly entirely on some of the most mundane topics you could think of. Imagine sitting in your seat and listening to a man describe the dimensions and materials used to build Solomon’s Temple for 20 minutes. Yeah. That happens because leadership says that is what God wants. They also insist that “unlettered and ordinary” men (not women) can climb the ranks of the congregation and become “elders” based on how well they listen to and obey the dictates coming down from the hierarchy. Imagine a window washer (elder) with a 10th grade education because he dropped out of high school in order to preach the good news that Jehovah was coming to destroy everybody in 1975…….so they’d better shape up and convert. This man has been a JW his whole life. He ascended the JW ladder because of his obedience. He has been taught that a “worldly” education is practically worthless because after all……”this world is passing away”. He speaks with sentence fragments and run on sentences. He has no pitch to his voice and he is glued to his notes. Double negatives, triple negatives…….even the vaunted quadruple negative is no match for his linguistic ignorance. He invents his owns words, like “strategery” and “humbleness”……..and quite sadly…….he doesn’t read well. He attempts to read scripture from the stage but he stumbles over words……skipping some that are intimidatingly complex altogether. Yet here he is…..on the stage…….a representative of God himself……teaching the congregation. Now imagine if this man was discussing the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple or the ancient Jewish Law Code.
You find yourself nodding off……waking back up……and nodding off again. You turn your head to take a peek at the clock in the back of the auditorium and swear that somehow time has found a way to move laterally. And then guilt sets in. You remember the lecture you received from a traveling overseer who once reminded you that ALL the spiritual food you receive (i.e. the boring meetings included) are put in place by Jehovah himself. If you find the subject matter or even the delivery of it to be boring…..then YOU are the problem. If you are bored…….it is the equivalent of saying that God did a bad job of oranizing the sermon. You force youself to stay awake but now your mind wanders……wondering why you can’t pay attention……wondering why you apparently lack the desire to make God happy. Guilt.
It all makes me think back to the very last meeting I ever attended back in 2011. It was the last talk (sermon) I would ever hear from the JWs. I had already been awakened to the fact that I was in a cult. In fact, I was knee deep in a 2 1/2 year research project about the entire history of the organization. At this point…..I was still attending meetings……trying not to wave too big of a red flag…..while I tried to figure out a way to get my family out of the cult. I remember certain aspects of the lecture well. It’s kind of funny how well I paid attention to the sermons given once I realized how chock full of lies, deceit, misinformation and logical fallacies they are. The speaker wasn’t bad in terms of his delivery. But it was one logical fallacy after another. The same fallacies that would have guilted me back into the fold several years before.
He made several appeals to authority. “This wicked system can’t last much longer. We must trust that the end is coming soon.” He made generalities because in JW land…….they are accepted without question. “Jehovah’s people are the happiest people in the world.” There’s no doubt in my mind that he really believes that. If you can make people afraid of what God will do to them if they don’t listen and obey……and then tell them that they are making God happy through their obedience and then remind them that everyone else is hopelessly lost and deserving of destruction but THEY are on the road to everlasting life…….then after enough repetition……they too will believe they are happy.
He used circular reasoning. He bashed secular education. But what really got to me and quite honestly nearly brought a tear to my eye was his conclusion. Of course the ending push was for all listening to do more for the organization…….trust……listen and obey. Doing this would ensure that they would have an eternity to spend in paradise (after God kills all non-JWs at armageddon). And in that paradise…….they could finally take time to enjoy life. He even mentioned that he personally has some goals. He mentioned a few places he’d like to travel. He mentioned that he wants to learn how to play the guitar. But all these pursuits…..he is putting off “until the new world”. “Why spend all this time on selfish pursuits now and endanger my prospects of everlasting life……when I can serve Jehovah now to the fullest extent…..knowing I will have an eternity to learn other things?” he reasoned.
The title of his discourse that day? “Take Hold of the Real Life”. THAT is what saddened me so deeply. Jehovah’s Witnesses like him view their lives as inconsequential. This life they are living…….the ONLY life they will ever have……is viewed with disregard. It isn’t important. It isn’t “real” to them. It is just a temporary collection of minutes, hours, days and years they can use to prove their worth to God by serving the organization as instructed by leadership. It is this type of mindset that allows a pregnant JW mom to refuse a life saving blood transfusion……thus taking not only her life…..but that of the baby too.
The “real” life to them? It’s the imaginary paradise that has been painted in their minds through incessant indoctrination. It’s intellectual and psychological slavery that causes them to willingly and physically endenture themselves to the whims of the organization. Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses have enslaved themselves to the rules and regulations of leadership that claims to speak for God……eschewed personal goals such as travel, hobbies and education…….all while taking the time and resources saved and pouring it right back into the cult. Personal goals…..replaced by “spiritual goals” (why would you want to travel Europe when you could spend that time preaching to save lives before the end? Besides….in the new world….you’ll have an eternity to travel the WHOLE WORLD! etc). Education replaced by propaganda driven indoctrination (Why would you want to learn so much secular knowledge? Are you really choosing to learn “worldly” things as opposed to learning about Jehovah and his coming kingdom? Why would you want to be a doctor? There won’t be a need for doctors in the paradise. Is this desire of yours an indication of weak faith? etc)
Yep. Millions of lives lost entirely…..forever already, and millions more being wasted as I write this article. The discourse I listened to that morning was the last straw for me. Even with my then wife and kids “still in” the cult……I couldn’t bring myself to go back again. I couldn’t listen to the prideful way they willingly shackle themselves. I couldn’t deal with the mindless obedience. I couldn’t take the veneration of leadership coupled with the intolerance of criticism any longer. I was officially liberated from their control and I immediately began paving a road to mental and emotional freedom for my girls.
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere” – Voltaire