In the month since I launched this blog, I have become amazed at the amount of people on Jehovah’s Witness boards and blogs who currently consider themselves to be Jehovah’s Witnesses yet either do not agree with the teachings or live in accordance with the directives or organization leadership. This could be understandable if we were considering the Roman Catholic Church, where not every member agrees with the church’s stand on abortion, or the United Methodist Church, where not every congregant agrees with that church’s stand on gay marriage. But the Watchtower organization tolerates no dissension or disagreement whatsoever. To be considered as an active Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, you must agree that only the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has the one, true and accurate understanding and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. This means that as a good Jehovah’s Witness, you share in the beliefs that blood transfusions are forbidden, even if it means losing one’s life, and that you agree that you must cut off and completely shun anyone who leaves the organization for whatever reason, not even answering the phone if your ex-JW family member tries to contact you. These are just two examples of some major points of differentiation between the JWs and many of the world’s religions.
The demands on a Jehovah’s Witness are high. They must spend a certain amount of time going door-to-door. They must attend, and prepare for, two meetings a week. They must abstain from joining in holiday and birthday celebrations with co-workers and fellow students. They must abstain from voting and even discussing politics. The pressure to be different, act different, and think different is great, and not everyone can handle it. The temptations in the “world” overcome more than a few, as they seek out alcohol, drugs or even illicit sex as a means of relieving the pressure. As a Witness, I saw many brothers and sisters buckle and succumb to these “worldly” desires.
In my long adult life, I’ve come to realize that I have seen less “breakdowns” among the so-called worldly people than among the Jehovah’s Witnesses during my time as an active member. I’ve been in the same small community for 15 years now and know many, many individuals and families. I know of not one that committed adultery. I can count on one hand the people I’ve known with a drug or alcohol problem (all recovered). However, these were things I saw on a somewhat regular basis as a Witness, and I watched more than a few work hard to evade being “caught in the act” of doing something wrong. The rumor mill swirled briskly after the announcement of one’s disfellowshipping, as we would gleefully spread the word on the offense, occasionally taking great delight in the situation if it was a brother or sister who seemed to have it all. Someone in my family even suffered abuse at the hands of a child molester (who was an active Witness) while not yet a teenager, and this was my only experience in my life with this kind of horrific act.
So I’ve asked myself on many occasions, why does it seem like the very things the Witnesses are on guard against seem to happen more frequently within the walls of the Kingdom Hall than without? Why do so many Jehovah’s Witnesses live a lie? When I was a Witness, the often heard refrain was that these issues were cropping up due to the “sinful” and “imperfect” nature of the self. Wait for the “New System,” I was told, and these issues would disappear. I believe the matter is more complicated than that. While I’m sure there is research on this topic that I haven’t come across yet, I do believe that for many Jehovah’s Witnesses, God’s word is not “written in their hearts” (Romans 2:15). I’ve spoken with family members and others associated with the Witnesses, who when caught engaging in acts that would not be approved by the organization, would beg me not to tell their parents or the elders. If God’s word was truly “written in their hearts” they would have more to fear than parents and elders; they would fear disappointing the great being who represents the first word in the name “Jehovah’s Witness.”