Does Loyalty to a Religion Mean Sacrificing Your Children?
My eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I adjusted the video frame to full screen and turned up the volume.
“Did he just say what I think he said?”
I couldn’t unsee or unhear what I had just watched.
The man in the video was Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah Witnesses, testifying on August 14, 2015 that he and members of the Governing Body see themselves as fellow workers with other Jehovah Witnesses. They are NOT appointed by Jehovah under the capacity or authority of Jehovah God. They had given themselves responsibility to be guardians of doctrine.
He was then asked, ‘do you see yourselves as Jehovah God’s spokespeople on earth?’
“Ahhh! That I think to be quite presumptuous to say that...eh, we are the only spokesperson that God is using, the scriptures clearly show…eh, that someone, eh…can act in harmony with God’s spirit in giving comfort and help in the congregations”.
I was completely floored. The lies!
The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have always said that they are the only channel being used by God today. Thus, the implication that if you were to leave the Jehovah’s Witness organization, you were essentially leaving God himself.
Mr. Jackson refused to accept that the organization had any culpability for silencing over 1,000 members of alleged child abuse over the past six decades to protect the organization’s reputation. Because of Mr. Jackson and the WBTS policies, not one of the alleged perpetrators spent a day in jail because none of the incidents were reported to the police.
I watched the ARC proceedings in shock, disgust, and disappointment.
The ARC had done their due diligence, unlike Watchtower, and closely examined all of the child abuse allegations and found that over a 65-year period, three to four allegations were reported internally by one of the members on a monthly basis. Since 1950, 1,600 incidents were reported to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBS), the religion’s parent organization and global headquarters in New York, USA, but never to the authorities in Australia.
I could no longer look the other way.
Pandora’s box was open…thanks Mr. Jackson!
Your testimony blew the lid off the box.
I was a born-in Jehovah’s Witness, meaning my parents were practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was born.
Around the time of my birth, my father curiously watched as 1975 came and went, waiting for the end of the world to come as promised by the WBTS. Obviously, it did not come, but he still fervently believed in the lie propagated by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society since 1920, that ‘millions now living will never die!”
He passed away in 2016, still clinging desperately to the dream that he would never ‘taste death’.
As I watched him succumb to his two year battle with cancer, I could see something in his eyes that deeply saddens me to this day.
In his eyes were the unfulfilled dreams that were going to die with him. The pain of knowing he had inadvertently crushed similar dreams in his own children, as he patiently waited for a promised ‘new world order’ that never came.
Over four decades of loyal service.
Being loyal does not lessen the blow of feeling duped.
There is only so much one can do when faced with reality on their deathbed.
The firmly fixed scales of spiritual denial that had covered my eyes since my teen years, when I got baptized as a JW, began to slip. Something within me shifted.
I remained an active JW, readily dismissing and repressing any doubts. Until I saw Mr. Jackson, deliver the most damning testimony in an Australian courtroom.
The blatant lies and arrogance displayed by Mr. Jackson in that courtroom made me drop my defenses and do something I had never done before…research my own religion.
To someone that is not a Jehovah’s Witness or familiar with the group, you might not understand the simple act of researching your religion’s origin, history, and doctrines, is considered one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses biggest taboos.
All the information about the religion is strictly controlled by the Watchtower Bible Tract Society. The Propaganda Triad which consists of the Writing, Service, and Public Relations departments control the flow of information to the eight million members worldwide.
Generally, the information is recycled content that most Jehovah’s Witnesses vigilantly adhere to as they wait for ‘new light’, a change or update in their religious doctrine and scriptural understanding.
I wasn’t waiting for ‘new light’.
I was no longer ‘waiting on Jehovah’ to clean up this mess. Because it was never about any god. It has always been about control.
Where is the loyalty?
Why would a god that is supposed to be the Supreme Being require the silence of victims to keep his name clean?
Why would the Supreme Being need humans to help him have a clean reputation and be popular? Seriously?
Most importantly, if God is expecting loyalty to the death from humans, then where is his loyalty to the people he is supposed to protect?
Wouldn’t a loving god want to protect the most vulnerable segment of his people, the children? A people that call themselves his property and took his name? If a human father did this, would you consider him a good parent?
I could not answer those questions. Matter of fact, I had never allowed myself to ask questions and receive answers. In most cases, when you have questions, you don’t always get answers and that is okay. In a high control religion or a cult, you cannot question the group’s leaders answers.
It was time to start questioning.
Down, down, down the rabbit hole I tumbled.
My findings about the cult triggered many emotions…disappointment, anxiety, sadness, but there was one emotion that bubbled forth repeatedly like a volcano with tremendous amounts of built up pressure after being dormant for so long.
A. Lot. Of. Anger.
After months of research, it was painfully clear that I had given my life to a lie. Several decades of my life…gone… to a pipedream.
All of the dreams I shelved to ‘give my youth to Jehovah’ as the Jehovah Witnesses are admonished to do, was really nothing more than giving my time, resources, energy to a publishing corporation.
It was painful coming to terms with my ‘lost youth’, but it did not hurt as deeply as the realization that I was raising my children in an oppressive organization and feeding them the same lies and damaged bill of goods that I was sold.
I had to get them out!
My greatest concerns were not the social aspect of not celebrating birthdays, missing holidays, or peer pressure at school for being different.
My concern was my children’s safety and not being adequately able to protect them from predators within the congregation. I’ll share a few concerns below:
1) If they were sexually assaulted by someone in the congregation, they would only be believed by the elders IF there was an eyewitness to corroborate their story. Obviously, this would be an issue because most child molesters don’t invite an audience to watch them assault other kids. This is known as the ‘two-Witness’ rule. Watchtower policy dictates that two witnesses must be present at the same sexual encounter, for the perpetrator to be considered to have committed a Scriptural offense.
2) The elders do not notify the parents if there is a sexual predator in the congregation. The organization (WBTS) claims they keeps an offender’s identity secret for privacy reasons. The predator can be in close proximity with children (car groups, gatherings, sleepovers, door-to-door ministry) and the parents would be completely unaware of the danger and risks. For example, there is a sexual predator in the same Kingdom Hall (meeting place of JWs) that my ex-husband attends. No one would have known he was sexual offender, but thanks to the efforts of one courageous ex-JW, he was reported and convicted of his crimes. Also, the WBTS had to pay a settlement of $20 million in 2012 to the survivor of his abuse because the elders did not report the abuse to the authorities, which brings me to my next point.
3) If one of my children were sexually assaulted by a member of the congregation, the elders would strongly discourage me to report the incident to the police. They would want to handle the matter internally and help the ‘sinner’ but not report the crime. If the ‘sinner’, in this case, the predator, shows repentance, he or she can remain in the congregation. To add insult to injury, my child would be forced to act like nothing happened, because if ‘Jehovah forgives the repentant’ than my child would be expected to do the same.
4) My child would not be expected to receive therapy by a licensed professional, because as a parent, my priority would be to protect the organization and it’s good name, not my child. Also, therapists are mandated reporters and would contact the authorities if they thought my child was in danger or had been assaulted.
I knew leaving would come at great sacrifice and required careful planning, similar to leaving a domestic abuse situation.
When I was planning my exit strategy from the deceitful organization, I was also leaving an abusive twelve-year marriage to a devout Jehovah’s Witness man. The marriage had never been good because we were woefully mismatched. The elders knew he was abusive, but because he remained a Witness and I left, I became the enemy. They rallied behind him and treated him as if he were the victim because I left.
When you leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses, mentally prepare yourself, because you will be shunned.
The Jehovah’s Witness community is directed to shun people that leave, regardless if they were kicked out for committing a ‘disfellowshipping’ offense or those that become inactive in the religion. Shunning is one of the most heartless, but effective ways the organization controls members.
The JW group is an insulated community. They do not befriend non-JWs. If you join the religion as an adult, the JWs will methodically weed out every non-JW in your life. They will exert their influence, by quickly filling your schedule with JW activities. They will ‘love bomb’ you with hugs, smiles, compliments, and offer assistance at every turn. This process of conversion is highly effective among the emotionally vulnerable and mentally impaired individuals.
It gets worse.
If you are born into the religion, the JW life is all you know. If you decide to leave the religion, you will have to spend time discovering who you are, because you are not allowed to have an identity in the religion. You are told, ‘do not stand out’. Your life is not yours. It belongs to them. They control or exert undue influence over your behavior, thoughts, dress and grooming, information sources and intake, even what is allowed to take place sexually between mates.
Leaving the religion is similar to a divorce. You can lose everything. Overnight.
In a single announcement made from an elder at one of their meetings, you can lose your entire social network. You can lose your family and best friends.
Your life, in some causes irreparably damaged, will change drastically in a thirty second announcement.
Imagine, your mother, father, siblings, grandparents, cousins, best friend…stop speaking to you…overnight! You no longer exist to them.
Where is the loyalty?
The agony of knowing your parents seeing your phone number flash across their screen when you call, and they refuse to pick up the phone because they believe they are being loyal to God by ignoring your existence.
Where is the familial bond? Again, where is the loyalty?
I have not been disfellowshipped, but I am being shunned.
At this time, I am engaged in a bitter custody fight with my JW ex-husband to get them out of the religion. My kids don’t want to be JWs, but they don’t want to upset their father and grandmother, so they feel torn.
It’s an emotional struggle, but I keep in mind the life they could have outside of the cult.
For example, they can pursue a four -year degree or higher. The JWs discourage their young people to attend university and obtain a degree. Many young people within the organization are proud to say they have turned down scholarships. They are busy working as clerks, window washers, maids, stock clerks, and low-level staff to make ends meet, so they can stand next a cart for hours and direct people to religious website.
Also, my children will be given the opportunity to use their gifts and talents to create the life they want and pursue their dreams. They have a bright future that doesn’t include visions of fireballs coming from the sky to annihilate them at Armageddon. They will stop believing in altered realities, fables, and myths. They will no longer serve a God that commits genocide so that a few people from the earth’s population, the Jehovah’s Witnessess, can play with pandas and lions for eternity over mass gravesites.
More important than a degree or living their best life, is life itself. If my children ever need a life-saving blood transfusion, they can accept one to preserve their life without guilt or fear. The won’t have be martyrs to the Jehovah’s Witness warped cause and false doctrine.
I am excited about my children’s futures.
My daughter can grow up to be a woman with an opinion and use her cognitive abilities, empowered voice, and ambition to lead and achieve greatness. If she became a Jehovah’s Witness she would have to ‘remain silent’ and let a man speak for her. As one Governing Body member said, ‘as a woman she has a small brain and cannot lead’. Argh! The misogyny within the organization would have repressed her dreams, robbed her of her brilliance, and silenced her voice.
My son won’t suffer from high levels of anxiety from the incessant communication from the organization that his best is not good enough. There is always more to do. Work until you are exhausted, like a ‘good slave’. His dreams and aspirations will be more than serving as a volunteer, providing free labor to an organization that steals the youth and happiness from the young. He will have career, doing work that he loves, and he won’t feel guilt about living the life he deserves.
Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses was one generational curse, of many, that I ended before it consumed my children.
One person left. Me. Three lives saved. Us.
Genuine Loyalty and Love wins.