I’ve been doing some Spring cleaning, and cleaning out stuff. It’s amazing the things you come across.
When I wrote my post on Hypocrisy, I wasn’t thinking about a journal entry I had written years ago, but finding it and reading it, I thought it might be interesting to post my reflections from back then. Unfortunately, I didn’t date it, but from reading the entire journal entry, the best I can figure it was written sometime in 1988. Here is part of the journal entry.
I am a victim of religious mental abuse. Being the child of Jehovah’s Witnesses is giving up the term itself as a child. There are no Jehovah’s Witness children. They are only small people being taught to speak adult words with child-like voices. The saddest part of being one of these small people is the persecution that you endure from those around you.
In the kingdom hall they preach to you that if you are living the life that God wishes you to, you will be persecuted. Ironically, those that are the worst tormentors are often those that speak these words. I never felt that I was different from other boys and girls until I went to school. Until that time you feel that you are no different than those around you because you are constantly surrounded by people that are the same. Children’s playmates are all “good” Jehovah’s Witness children.
Then the reality of life is thrust upon you. You go to school. At first the truth does not become too apparent because most children are busy readjusting to the rigors of school life. In those first few hours at school, you spend time trying to learn more about those around you. As you learn more about the children in your class, you being to realize you are different. Your classmates describe the things that they do at home, the games they play, the birthday presents, the holiday happenings, the group parties, children’s parties, etc. All these things are alien and forbidden to you. Now begins the deepest conflict you will encounter; good versus evil.
Seven days a week you are taught that holidays, sport activities, pursuit of careers, pursuit of artistic talents, and those children and people that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses are worldly people. Worldly people in the sense that they are not fit associations for you to be around. You are taught that they do not know any better, that it is your duty to tell them that they are behaving in a manner that is displeasing to God. Such an emotional torment begins because you cannot see the evil in all those around you. Sure in children that are trouble makers or bullies, it is easy to label them as being bad, but those children that you like to think of as potential friends, and may even admire will always be labeled as “worldly” and as such unbecoming associates.
Any sign of rebellious attitudes, such as wanting to associate, get together with other children or play after school is discouraged by those professing to be true Jehovah Witnesses.
Such was the life that I led. I would go to school during the day, envying those children around me that had friendships, those that played in groups after school and those who enjoyed holidays that I was forbidden to. We were instructed not to salute the flag, not to stand during the national anthem, not to participate in any after school activities, not to participate in any activities which were in any way related to celebrations or holidays. That meant that we were not allowed to work on school projects, draw, sing, wish anyone a happy birthday, or show any interest in holidays. We were taught that all these things were pagan originated. If you were “caught” participating in, even in such a small thing as saying “God bless you” when a person sneezed (which was taught as pagan originated) you were made to feel guilty, reprimanded and preached to on your sins against Jehovah.
I remembered how awkward and embarrassed I would be in school. I liked to think that I had friends, but I was never given the opportunity to become friends with anyone who wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness. The only association outside of the JW’s that I was able to participate in was when I escaped from the watchful eyes of my parents or fellow witnesses and enjoyed relatives company that weren’t witnesses. (My relatives on my mother’s side are not witnesses and we were allowed to spend some time with them.)
How I envied that joy and fun that I saw the others were having. Along with the envy came guilt. We were constantly taught that God was watching us and taking note of our actions and thoughts. We were never free to dream. Even now on occasions, some 10 years later after disassociating myself from the JW’s, the guilt will overcome me, never feeling good enough. The repetitious sermons were embedded deep in the sub-conscious.
I was always aware of watchful eyes. Having an older sister, and other witness children attending my school, any action or deed that was not deemed “appropriate behavior” for a witness was reported to the elders of the congregation. My father is an elder. Having been raised as a JW, his belief is firmly rooted. My mother was raised as a Presbyterian, but converted to a JW because she loved my father. Witnesses are only allowed to marry other witnesses. Any deviation from this is punished severely. I often wondered is my mother regretted her decision to convert. Having deceased four years ago, I cannot have an honest discussion with her about it. When she was living I did not have the courage or the strength to openly question the teaching I received.
With the onset of puberty came even more conflicting emotions. My peers were also changing toward me. When I started junior high, I met more children than I had known from grade school. Thus began my double life. To those who did not know me from grade school, or know the family, I strived to lead them to believe that I was no different from them. I would pretend to celebrate the holidays that they had, and pretend to have outside friends and activities.
When I’d get home from school, evenings would be spent with family and other witnesses. Three days a week we would go the kingdom hall for spiritual training. During this study time, children were instructed to sit quietly with their parents. All scriptures quoted would be looked up in the JW’s bible translation. Advance studying was done so that you could answer questions directed to the congregation. Children that became restless or disruptive were taken outside to be disciplined. Instructions were delivered to “train the children to sit quietly, while meetings were going on”.
The basic beliefs of the JW’s are that they are the only true disciples of God. All other religions are wrong. If you are not a JW then you are not a Christian. They believe that God will destroy all those that are not true disciples at Armageddon. It does not matter your age, race, nationality, physical condition, it only matters if you are a JW. Any family members you have that are not a JW will be destroyed. Children will be destroyed if their parents are not faithful. Only those children that are faithful, baptized JW’s will be spared.
During my childhood, they had a time for Armageddon to arrive. The year was to be 1975.
Witnesses were encouraged to sell their belongings, cash in their life insurance policies. They were instructed that they should only have enough to keep them living until 1975. After that the world would live in peace and people would take care of each other. We were not to spend needless time with hobbies, activities, careers because we would have plenty of time for that after Armageddon. They believed they would have an eternity for that. What we were supposed to be spending our time doing was going door to door preaching about Jehovah and his will. It was about trying to convert all those around us to JW’s. We were instructed that this was how we could save those we loved as our neighbors. We were instructed that when the end would come that then we would know Jehovah. That asking for God’s forgiveness at Armageddon would be too late. Even a hurried baptism before 1975 arrived would not appear to be sincere if you have been studying to be a JW.
…..to be continued