A year has passed since Sparlock and Caleb made their first appearance on the screens of televisions and computers in Witness homes all over the world.
In the weeks and months following the release of the “Become Jehovah’s Friend” DVD, the Ex-JW community was almost unanimously appalled by what many (myself included) saw as a blatant attempt at child indoctrination.
Some took to YouTube and tried to draw attention to the DVD by circulating excerpts from it. I uploaded my own song in protest. Watchtower responded by having this and a number of other videos removed citing copyright infringement, even though (1) copyright law allows for fair use and commentary, and (2) the DVD was intended for free distribution anyway, so no profits were under threat.
Despite Watchtower’s attempts at silencing myself and other JW YouTubers who were angered by the DVD, various videos continued to be uploaded faster than they could be taken down. This continued into the summer of 2013 when the infamous Lesson 2 of the DVD, where Sparlock is thrown in the dumpster, was uploaded under a new title – the “Obedience to God Cartoon.”
With this simple re-branding, which gave no hint that the cartoon was intended solely for JWs, the video attracted attention from a whole new community of YouTubers – the atheist community.
I don’t know how many views the “Obedience to God Cartoon” accumulated before Watchtower had it taken down, but it was enough to spark outrage among those who already had an axe to grind against religion, and saw the video as a prime example of indoctrination at its very worst.
From July onwards, prominent atheist YouTubers began uploading videos expressing their dismay. I have been able to count at least 25 such videos from various individuals, all of whom are not JWs, the majority of which are scathingly condemnatory of Watchtower’s video.
So far the combined views of these 25 videos are approaching the 300,000 mark after less than 2 months. Bear in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses mustered 270,000 baptisms in 2012. At the present rate, it isn’t ludicrous to suggest that the “Become Jehovah’s Friend” DVD is putting off as many non-JWs as the organization is managing to attract through the global preaching effort.
When I first considered writing this article, my plan was to provide a list of all the videos so that readers could watch these for themselves. However, the problem is that the majority of the videos are filled with expletives, such is the extent of animosity towards the DVD. Considering that JWsurvey is as much for current JWs as for those who have left, I thought it would be better to produce my own video montage allowing JWsurvey readers to see the gist of the reaction in one viewing but without the swearing.
As you can see, even those not personally affected by the Witness faith have taken a strong disliking to the film featuring Sparlock. A number even described the film contents as a form of abuse, and I would obviously tend to agree with this viewpoint.
As I have already expressed on this website, it is one thing to mislead adults with self-serving propaganda, but it is another thing entirely to threaten the intellectual progress of countless children by instilling fears and false perceptions based on mere opinion and conjecture.
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness parent and you happen to be reading this article, please be sure to watch the above video and ask yourself: “If this video is so obviously wrong to total outsiders, many of whom do not even know the video was produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, how can I embrace it as a tool for raising my children? Just because my parents indoctrinated me as a child, can I really justify making the same mistakes with my children? Do I really have my children’s long-term interests at heart by showing them material that robs them of the ability to ask questions and reason for themselves?”
The one comforting thing about the Sparlock video is that, as stated above, it is a terrible advert for the organization for any normal, thinking person. At least for now, it is arguably turning people against the organization at a rate that is the same or greater than the rate of new converts.
Even so, given a choice between Watchtower shooting itself in the foot with a blatantly appalling video and a new generation of Witness children being spared further indoctrination, I know what my choice would have been.