Divide and conquer: Why Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be called a “family friendly” faith
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Jehovah's Witness beliefs are not as conducive to keeping families together as you might think

Jehovah’s Witness beliefs are not as conducive to keeping families together as you might think

They are a familiar sight walking through residential areas, all dressed up with their Bibles and literature. Eagerly, they go from house to house ready and willing to warn of a looming doomsday they believe the Bible foretells.

They are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their ministry has been the subject of controversy from its inception. Their “in your face” approach to religion has historically been met with mixed feelings.

Modern democratic society does generally allow people to visit homes with a religious message, but what if their motives are more far-reaching? Suppose their endgame is to acquire a new volunteer for their religious corporation, and they’re willing to stretch the truth to make this happen? Is it right of them to bring deception to people’s doorsteps in an attempt to increase their chances of gaining a human resource?

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t immediately tell those to whom they preach the whole story of what it means to be in their religion. One example of this is that they don’t explain that membership in “good standing” requires a special type of maintenance.

Retaining a “good standing” as a Witness requires maintaining a social distance from unbelievers. Before you can even join you’ll be expected to change your standards as regards relationships, and keep it that way.

What Witness preachers neglect to mention early on is that joining them could very well mean breaking ties with friends and family. That crucial information doesn’t come in until much later.

In the beginning, they’ll say a simple home Bible study under their tutelage, using only their literature, will answer all of life’s big questions. It’s going to be quite some time before they start to list the “bad associates” you must avoid if you wish to make progress.

Divide and conquer

In March of this year JW Broadcasting (the new Jehovah’s Witnesses televangelist channel) showed a short film featuring a fictitious boy named Marcus whose mother had recently been baptized (skip to 00:27:29)…

Marcus is not a Jehovah’s Witness, but his recently-converted mother begins studying with him, taking him to meetings and on the door-to-door ministry. Just before the film is played it is introduced by Governing Body helper John Ekrann, who says:

“…there is a great need for more zealous workers in the organization today. If you’re young are you trying to determine what to do with your life? Maybe pioneer? Work at Bethel? Or maybe pursue a career? It’s a big decision to make and requires many sincere prayers to Jehovah for wisdom. But if you are in a religiously divided household it could be that you are facing some unique challenges when deciding your future. This young man is going through just that…”

Notice how Ekrann is keen to emphasize to unconverted children, his target audience, the organization’s “great need” for workers. This statement reveals the real purpose of the Witness preaching work: to recruit workers for the organization.

The film is about a boy whose mother was reached by their ministry. It speaks directly to the children of parents who have passed through the entry process, and attempts to hook them in too.

The video depicts Marcus going through a type of tug-of-war between his mother, who wants to indoctrinate him, and his father, who wants him to have a career. The interactions between the father and son are predictable. The unrealistic script shows neither understanding nor empathy for the painful position one is thrust into when their loved one is captured by undue influence.

For instance, such a person will start noticing changes in their loved one’s behavior. Information or ideas that they previously wouldn’t have been opposed to are suddenly dismissed, marginalized and even avoided altogether. Irrational fears develop due to phobia indoctrination, and their very thinking noticeably alters as they put on the “new personality.”

It can be a terrifying experience for someone whose loved one is subjected to subtle mental coercion. Steve Wells, creator of the useful tool the Skeptics Annotated Bible recently did a superb interview on JW Podcast. In it he recounted his experience with his son when he noticed that he was being drawn into a cult (interview begins at 00:06:08)…

In the JW Broadcasting propaganda film the father’s anxiety is eventually pacified when his son explains how the religion helped keep him out of trouble with drugs and girls. Again, the script is written by JWs who seem completely out of touch with unbelievers like Steve Wells, who have been forced into situations similar to that of the father in the video.

Though unsurprisingly not depicted in the film, Watchtower does know of the troubles that result from their conversion of someone who has a family. For example, apart from giving harmful and wholly inappropriate advice on how to counter domestic violence, the infamous “Selma and Steve” February 15th 2012 study edition of The Watchtower admitted that “unbelieving spouses may feel abandoned or threatened when their mate leaves to participate in Christian activities.”

When someone you love is subjected to mental coercion before your very eyes, there is understandable anxiety. Very little of this, however, is portrayed by the father character in the film. Realistically, a father would be extremely uncomfortable with the idea that his wife and son were joining a religion he didn’t believe in – especially one that practices shunning and coerces members to forgo higher education and a career in favor of becoming volunteer canvassers.

Young people are a resource for Watchtower

Young people are a resource for Watchtower

The father in the story is a threat to Watchtower’s goal of acquiring his son’s life as a resource for its purposes.

The film shows a “bethelite” visiting the congregation from headquarters. The bethelite spends time with Marcus and fills the older brother/father-type role. His influence ends up being a strong factor in Marcus’ decision to abandon his father’s aspirations in favor of pursuing his life as a Witness.

This is very bad news that Marcus must break to his father. Again, the father character shows only signs of mild anxiety, even though a stranger from New York is tugging his son away from a real life towards a multi-million dollar doomsday cult.

Propaganda is never realistic.

While the short film is a heavily sanitized version of real events that often take place, it still clearly shows the Watchtower’s “divide and conquer” strategy in accumulating life-long volunteers.

Isolation from support

As you can clearly see from Watchtower’s own writings and productions, their goal is to enter family environments and convert the family entirely or draw certain individuals away for themselves. That’s why they shamelessly refer to the “sword” mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 10:34 in excusing the way relationships are dashed to pieces. This devastation is partly accomplished by isolating converts from unbelieving friends and family, or any who are opposed to their loved one being subjected to undue influence.

Most who grow up outside of the Watchtower environment will have naturally built up a support network of friends and family. Anyone who can genuinely support the recent convert will be targeted as a threat to the indoctrination process. Without isolation from that key support network there is a much less likelihood of indoctrination taking root.

Not so harmless

So, when you see Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether in some public place or at your doorstep, don’t be fooled by their innocent appearance. Keep in mind that, while individual Witnesses are usually very kind and generous people, they represent a callous religious institution bent on destroying your relationships with anyone who doesn’t embrace their doomsday predictions.

The Witnesses you interact with might actually be the friendliest people you have ever met. But please remember that the Watchtower corporation most certainly is not your friend. It wants you as a resource.

If you or someone you love has been subjected to undue influence there are many resources available for you to peacefully handle the situation. Steven Hassan, a leading cult expert, has written several books on the subject of undue influence, the most recent of which is the 25th Anniversary edition of his most popular book Combating Cult Mind Control.

Please don’t just watch helplessly as a cult works its subtleties on someone you love. Educate yourself on how to intervene without resorting to aggression. If you do so, you will have a good chance of turning the tide in helping someone wake up from corrosive indoctrination, and get on with enjoying life with you in it.

 

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127 Responses to Divide and conquer: Why Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be called a “family friendly” faith

  1. Cynthia says:

    It’s too late. My sister is preparing to be baptized. I continue to ask her will you still interact with are family . She always says of course. Yet I don’t believe that at all. Until she says I don’t want or can’t see you anymore. I will continue to visit call and stay in touch. We’ve always been close. My heart aches. I pray for her to see the cultish life of a JW.

    • laura says:

      Cynthia- I am in the same boat as I believe my sister is getting close to getting baptized JW and our relationship doesn’t resemble the life long one we had previously had. She hardly calls or wants to do anything. She pretends she is not joining(as she knows I would challenge her thinking) but yet all is pointing in that direction.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Are JWs filling Jehova or their Elders. The Elders seem to run the show. They do the reprimanding,the ousting they say what when and how. So who are they really following? Just a question.

    • Ricardo says:

      @Cynthia,
      We are following both Jehovah and the elders. The Bible helps us to be good Christians serving Jehovah. The elders help us to be good Witnesses. At times there are conflicts between the two, and usually the witness will decide to go the elders way, because they are the scariest. But some of us don’t care about elders and try to please Jehovah instead.

      If you are confused by that answer, imagine how confused the typical witness is who is trying to please both. But it is virtually impossible to be a good Christian as well as a good witness.

  3. Gayle says:

    my 18 yr old daughter has been dating a JW (she is not religious) and now after 1 year she tells me she is converting to a JW. She is not the same girl I raised, and has become quite distant with me. She used to have friends, but since the bf came into the picture, she has none anymore. What can I do?

    • Winston Smith says:

      @Gayle,
      Yoo will want to assess whether your daughter is doing this for her boyfriend or if she is being influenced by the group. Based on what you have shared it sounds like the latter. Steve Hassan runs a website for helping to get loved ones out of cults: https://www.freedomofmind.com/. He has also authored several books on the topic.

      Depending how far your daughter has gotten into the group, you can try to encourage her to talk to former members or to read some of the books by former members. Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom by Ray Frank are excellent. You can also direct her to check out the information on jwfacts.com. As the books by Steve Hassan bring out there are certain approaches to use based on how far into the cult your daughter has gotten.

      You can try bringing up topics such as the refusal of blood transfusions, protection of pedophiles, and shunning of family, but she may shut you down if she is far enough into the cult. You might also try emailing the editors of JW Survey directly for advice.

      The most important thing is not to give up on your daughter no matter what she does or says. She needs you now more than ever.

      WS

  4. Cyndi Plemons says:

    I am not a Jehovah Witness, I am Methodist.
    My niece & her husband are JW. My niece was raised by her maternal grandmother who is JW. My brother & sister-in-law are not. Growing up my niece was a participant in family Christmas parties where she received gifts (without Christmas type paper on them). Bit now she is older, has a child & has told me that she is going to take her religion more seriously.
    I have a question about the JW religious practices & beliefs. Should she still attend a family Christmas party where there is a tree & gifts are exchanged? Especially seeing as how JW beliefs are that this is a pagan ritual. I get my information from https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/

    • Winston Smith says:

      @Cyndi,
      This would be a gray area for most JWs. The overwhelming majority of JWs I know would not attend such a gathering. In some of the more strict congregations attending such a gathering would definitely be frowned upon. If your niece’s husband served in any capacity in the congregation, his qualifications to do so could be called into question. If your niece had any aspirations to serve as a pioneer minister (about the only thing women are allowed to do in the church, other than clean) they could use the attendance against her. The best thing for your niece and family to do would be simply not to tell any of their fellow JWs about the gathering. In some of the more liberal congregations there may not be any big issue over attending.

      WS

  5. Dawn Cheney says:

    Oh my gosh. I just read this article. My oldest daughter and son have shunned me and my youngest son from their lives. For the longest time I did not know why. I started to go to counseling to deal with my emotions of not understanding why and what was happening. My therapist informed today about how that so called religion. She asked me to research the Jehovah religion. I just read your article and that us my son and daughter. My question is have I lost my children for good what can I do

    Sincerely

    A very confused upset mom

    • James Strait says:

      Hello Dawn, I am truly sorry for the situation you have found yourself in. The biggest advice I can give you is not to use any form of aggression when interacting with your indoctrinated family members (like don’t try to tell them they are in a cult or criticize their beliefs outright). Because they are rooted in a cult they essentially have split into two people. One lives on the outside and is what others see, but their true selves still live inside and are essentially trapped. It’s your job to try to nourish that true personality within and help bring it back out again. This is a tall order I know, but there are resources available to help you. Try googling “Steven Hasen” who is the world’s leading expert on deprogramming people who have been captured by undue influence. He also can help you cope with the sad situation that you are in. I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

  6. Kim says:

    I have been studying with jehovhas witness for a long time now and today only just been told I cannot be baptised as I live with my partner we are not married both divorced and he does not wish to get married even after 8 years together. He is not studying with jehovhas witness does not want to but is ok that I am. I have learnt today because I am having a sexual relationship with him unmarried It is wrong, so I am doing wrong according to jehovhas. I feel hurt, sad, to find out after such a long time. Has anyone else experienced this? And what did they do?

    • John Redwood says:

      Kim – This is extremely common. You will not be allowed to get baptized while knowingly “living in sin” with a person you are not married to. That is the bottom line and if the elders know this they will not give you an inch.

      All I can say is please do you research (which you are obviously doing already) and be sure you fully understand what this religion is all about, because I promise you it is not what you think, and your life will never be the same once baptized. Should you have any question feel free to email the team at contact@jwsurvey.org

      JR

      • Kim says:

        Hello, this information was told to me during my home study on Friday. I was feeling hurt, pain within, I have since been reading online looking for answers, before I started studying with the jehovhas witness I lived in another village and had been going to church for 20 years, I moved and was desperate to join a church but felt unsettled then I had the knock on my door and home study started then the Kingdom Hall on Sunday. I have reached the end of my study about being baptised and an elder does that study with his wife. That’s when he told me I cannot be baptised because of my partner. and this Sunday the elder and his wife are taking me to the Kingdom Hall as I cannot drive, my partner will collect me after. I feel so uncomfortable and as if I am bad by disbelieving things I have been taught and very confused. I cannot tell my partner yet. Who is right who is wrong ? Am I safer leaving jehovhas witness behind me walking away and starting fresh back in a church again like I did for years. If I had not changed my address I would still be with the church. How do I tell the jehovhas witness why i am leaving. There my friends it is so hard to loose the only friends I have here. I feel I was the perfect candidate to pick on so gullible. I am stuck not knowing which way to turn and feel totally alone now it’s like being trapped in a spiders web of jehovhas witness .

        • John Redwood says:

          Dear Kim

          I truly feel for your circumstances. I know many who have been in this situation. for most people who profess Christianity, there is a common thread – you are able to worship God in the way you feel is best, and helps you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Do you feel that Jehovah’s Witnesses do this for you? Are you able to accept that once baptized, there is no turning back. Your friendships are 100% conditional in this organization. If you stop going to meetings, your friendships will cease. You will be called “inactive” by the congregation. A stigma will surround you which labels you as “bad association.” Do you want that? Why is this commitment necessary? What are you really committing to – is it God or is it the laws of the Jehovah’s Witness organization?

          Jehovah’s Witnesses are mostly very nice people. You will feel a sense of community, of camaraderie – and you will have fun with them. But the dark side is too dark to even consider. They will invade every aspect of your life, and you will receive extreme pressure to part ways with anyone not a Witness. This includes your partner, and all of your Non-Jehovah’s Witness friends. The community is insular, isolated, and controlling. You will be judged by what you wear, what you say, how often you comment at meetings, whether you “give talks” on the platform, and by how much time you spend in the ministry. If you turn in “low hours” on a piece of paper every month you will be viewed as weak spiritually.

          They will use every trick to convince you to stay – and they are fully sincere in doing so – but the end result is a life of indoctrination and agony. The only way to find happiness in the JW organization is to completely give over your mind, or as the Witnesses say “make over your mind” – and this is a heavy price to pay to join an organization. Try to examine all cult-like organizations and compare notes – you will see what I mean. Watch the Leah Remini series on Scientology, and see how families are torn apart when they leave, and are called “subversive” or “suppressive” persons. Jehovah’s Witnesses use the exact methods of Scientology and other organization to control their members.

          Speak to your partner, speak to a counselor, read information on organizations which apply undue influence to your life, then compare all of this to what is written on the many web sites to discuss Jehovah’s Witnesses. Get all the facts – and if you are not sure – email us at contact@jwsurvey.org – we are here to help, and wish you all the best.

          Sincerely

          JR

    • Ricardo says:

      @Kim,
      @John (sorry, I have to differ)
      I do know of others in a similar situation to yourself who were able to become publishers. There is some provision for those who are in long term relationships where the partner does not want to get married. I believe this provision was made for places like the Philipinnes where it was impossible to legally divorce. Anyway, the provision is that you must sign a letter saying that you will seek to get married as soon as your partner changes his mind. Your study conductor should be able to do research into past publications to see further what that provision is. I encourage you to do the research because there is a provision there.

      But as John says, be aware of what you are joining. If you were taking a new medication, you would check on side-effects and how it has affected other people. So, too, at sites like this you get to see side effects of our religion, how it has affected some genuine victims and ruined some of our lives.

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