There’s been a lot of buzz lately surrounding the new video release from JW.org featuring the characters “Caleb and Sophia.” The video series is called “Be Jehovah’s Friend” and aims to indoctrinate children into the Witness religion. Watchtower has obviously watched the children’s entertainment market for quite some time before launching their own copycat version, as the animation style of the shorts is extremely reminiscent of modern-day children’s blockbusters.
This new episode was themed around the condemnation of homosexuality and it was met with some harsh criticism by a number of people. Rightly so in my view, as it teaches children to use guilt to control their peer’s thoughts and feelings about homosexuality. They are instructed to hang the hope of entry into a paradise earth over the heads of classmates with same-sex parents.
The dead horse
This whole fiasco brings an age old debate into the forefront of our minds: is homosexuality a choice? I, for one, have already seen enough evidence that strongly suggests homosexuality is not a choice. I don’t see the debate as really open anymore, but nonetheless it’s still a routinely discussed topic. I believe this is largely due to outfits such as the Watchtower who keep bringing up an already settled issue.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that it is a choice. Even if that were true how does that make it OK to demand that people with homosexual behaviors change? If two people of the same sex love each other just as much as two people of the opposite sex, what’s the measurable harm caused by that relationship? More to the point, does trying to suppress one’s sexuality cause harm? Lets examine below.
To illustrate: what if you were promised a reward by stopping the use of your favorite colors in favor of others chosen by someone else? What if you were threatened with punishment if you didn’t? If that ever happened you could stop using them, but you’d have an extremely difficult time ceasing your preference for them.
Anyone who asked this of you would no doubt be interested in controlling you on a fundamental level. They would have no interest in you having control over your own future, but would rather control your future themselves.
It’s the same when a group tells you that you are required to change your sexuality if you wish to join. It means they want you to join the same hyper-controlling structure they are currently in. And it’s never just your sexuality a cult wants you to change, it will be more or less every aspect of your life.
What’s in the bag?
The knockoff animation uses a metaphor to explain how homosexuals can change. It speaks of a man who’s trying to catch a plane and is stopped at a security checkpoint. He is asked to leave behind his bag because it contains items that are prohibited. Homosexuality is therefore likened to something you can simply put in a bag and leave behind.
This metaphor can be used to explain all types of requirements that being a Jehovah’s Witness entails. Again, it’s not just your sexuality that you must “leave behind” when you become a Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is, in essence, your past self that resides within the bag. The Witnesses speak about putting on a “new personality.” You are supposed to change into a completely different person. Meaning you must change your hopes, dreams, life aspirations, your view of the world and existence in general.
You must also “leave behind” your moral framework, as accepting the JW faith means justifying the atrocities mentioned in the Bible. As a child I had an extremely hard time accepting the stories of mass slaughter and mayhem orchestrated by a supposed “all-loving” creator. In order to be accepted in my community I had to align my world view to one where the wholesale slaughter of women and children was sometimes the right thing to do. That innate gut instinct telling me it was wrong was expected to be dismissed.
Among the vast array of things you must leave behind to become a Jehovah’s Witness are your cultural roots. You are expected to join their culture and for the most part forsake your own. A good example of this is the Witnesses curious aversion to long hair on men. There are many cultures that venerate this hairstyle on men and boys. Some families cherish this tradition, but to be a JW they are forced to rethink the wisdom of such a decision. For example, they hear things like this at their meetings:
“One sister working in a store was somewhat frightened by the physical appearance of a regular customer. Nevertheless, when the appropriate occasion arose, she tried to witness to him about God’s promised Paradise. He brusquely replied that he did not believe in fairy tales and that he was a hippie and drug addict. But she did not give up. One day he asked her what she thought about his long hair, so she tactfully explained what the Bible says on the matter. (1 Cor. 11:14) To her pleasant surprise, the next day he was clean-shaven and had short hair! He asked for a Bible study, which a brother was happy to conduct, and progressed to dedication and baptism. Like this man, many who are serving Jehovah today are grateful for the impartial, persistent efforts of those who brought them the Kingdom message.” – Our Kingdom Ministry, July 4th 2004
In this example they claim to show how cutting off your long hair, as a male, is an instruction from the Bible and something that occurs before baptism. According to the March 2016 Watchtower Study Edition baptism as a Jehovah’s Witness is not only “the greatest privilege any human could have”, but also “a vital step toward gaining salvation.” Meaning that if you don’t change your lifestyle habits, even down to the way you wear your hair, you will not survive the coming Armageddon.
Everything you ever were is in that bag, and they tell you to leave it behind. That is the hallmark of a mind control cult.
In the Watchtower animation the mother tells her child that homosexuals can “change.” Returning to the color analogy, if someone really did stop using their favorite color, under threat of punishment or promise of reward, that doesn’t mean they’ve changed. It only means they’ve conformed to a set of behaviors because of a certain desired outcome. Such “change” only proves that people can be manipulated with threats and promises. That is no amazing truth that deserves to be the lesson of a children’s video.
Destructive cults seek to control the behaviors, information, thoughts and emotions of their members. (See the BITE Model as created by cult expert Steve Hassan.) Requiring a homosexual to change meets each and every one of those criteria. They require conformity to their views on “by-design” sexual behavior. They require rejecting all the exhaustive scientific studies that conclusively prove that one’s sexuality is natural. They also dictate which thoughts are acceptable, and demean any individuals who exhibit the “wrong” ones.
The BITE model is often employed by people who claim to be simply protecting those they love. But in reality if anyone uses this type of undue influence you can be sure their true priority is the total control of other people; usually to create workers for their cause.
It’s true that outside of the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are often bombarded by the message of “be yourself.” Individuality is a recurring theme in all forms of media, whether it’s a play, TV show, a movie or a book. It’s become a cliché at this point, but I still think it’s a worthy sentiment. Considering there are groups out there who seek to dominate your mind, body and spirit by way of child indoctrination, it’s no wonder many have felt it necessary to send such a positive counter-message, especially to vulnerable and impressional children.
No matter what the Watchtower says, there is more than one destination. I would strongly suggest finding a new flight that lets you take your bag with you.