The Jehovah’s Witness religion has long been known for its vocal disapproval of the LGBT community. On a doctrinal level it teaches that any practicing homosexuals are sinful and deserve to die, and that very soon God will kill any such person at the upcoming battle of Armageddon.
On an everyday level, whilst it does not press for government action or laws against the LGBT community due to a strict doctrine of total political disconnection, it does directly persecute it’s own members who are LGBT by requiring them to remain celibate for life. Should any of them refuse to do so, the religion demands that they be completely shunned by all their JW family and friends, with the additional threat of shunning for any family or friends who refuse to comply.
So a JW born into the religion and baptised as a young child, which is increasingly the case, and who grows up to discover they are gay, will be faced with a choice: deny their sexuality forever or lose everyone they have ever known.
In recent years Watchtower, the organisation that controls the Witness religion, has released a large number of videos that make strong anti-LGBT statements, and this year is no exception. However, it seems that the rhetoric is on this topic escalating to a worrying degree, as Witnesses are now being instructed to become directly confrontational when encountering gays, lesbians, or others who do not fit Watchtower’s narrow view of approved sexual identities.
One such example of the escalation in rhetoric is the new Watchtower produced video drama, “Remember the Wife of Lot.”
Remember the Wife of Lot.
The official webpage of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, JW.org, has just released a series of videos that will play at the religions upcoming series of 2017 worldwide conventions. One of the videos is a three part drama entitled “Remember the Wife of Lot.” It can be viewed here.
Intended to be a modern day parallel to the Biblical tale of Lot in the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah, Watchtower states on JW.org;
The warning Jesus gave nearly 2,000 years ago is more important than ever. See how Brian and Gloria learn to protect their family from the dangers Jesus warned about.
One of those dangers is, of course, the insidious and sinful LGBT community.
There are two scenes in which Watchtower’s message on homosexuality is showcased, but one of them really stood out to me as requiring more refutation than usual. Not just because of the nature of the teachings themselves; by this point I’m very familiar with the anti-LGBT message Watchtower promotes and sadly it no longer shocks me quite the way it would someone encountering JW.org for the first time. Rather it was the sheer bad manners the Witness characters displayed in the sequence that dropped my jaw.
Let’s set the scene.
Brian and Gloria are two Witness parents, whose daughter has invited some of her workmates back for a meal. One of these workmates is a girl called Tess. During the mealtime conversation, it emerges that Tess is considered to be one of the top interns at the company. The JW wife, Gloria, tells Tess that her parents must be very proud, and Tess replies:
“My Moms are both really proud of me. I was raised by two wonderful women.”
And thus begins one of the most excruciating, clumsy and crass examples of homophobic propaganda in recent Witness history.
The dinner party from Hell
What happens when Tess drops this “bombshell?”
Remember, the Witness characters have been taught that homosexuality is a grave sin worthy of death at Jehovah’s God’s hands when he brings a worldwide Armageddon, which Witnesses believe to be coming soon. Any baptised Witness who is unrepentantly romancing the same-sex is required to be completely shunned by all their JW family and friends.
Make no mistake, in the eyes of the Witness characters in this scene, Tess’ parents are doing something revolting and deserve to die unless they split up, become Witnesses and either marry men or remain celibate.
However, given the fact that Tess is not a Witness and is simply responding to a passing question, it seems like the polite thing to do would be to simply move on and continue the conversation about the internship. Yet instead the Witness characters act like she’s just slapped them all in the face and spat on the table. Their jaws drop, they stammer, and the father Brian gives Tess a stern stare of anger and disgust.
Next, in a display of what I can only describe as social incompetence of the worst order, the Witness character Gloria learns forward with a concerned expression and replies in a horrified tone that she’s just found her that her assistant at work is gay.
Gloria’s tone of voice and expression make it sound like she’s telling everyone that her assistant is a rapist, or has highly contagious mutant space-rabies, or just started their very own Adolf Hitler fan club.
Now, quite why she would say that to a person whose has just casually mentioned they have same sex parents, and in that tone of voice, I have no idea. She’s either deliberately being atrociously rude, or has absolutely no grasp of appropriate social interaction, or perhaps suffers from some unholy and catastrophic mix of the two.
Quite rightly, Tess demands to know what’s wrong with a same sex couple, since its clear her parents are being directly insulted. Incredibly, the video actually presents Tess as being the inconsiderate, rude one for daring to speak of and defend her parents in front of the JW family. Apparently, when asked about her parents, she should have either denied the existence of her loving mothers, or edited their genders so as to coddle the fragile sensitivities of the Witnesses.
The scene continues, with another guest joining the pushback against the JW’s and arguing in support of same sex relationships. Since this is a Watchtower video, the pushback doesn’t go into very much detail, as Watchtower has never been one to give a fair hearing the opposite side of the argument. However, even by the standards of the scene itself, it’s actually the immoral and wicked people of “Satan’s world” who end up coming across as the reasonable ones, and the righteous JW “heroes” who end up looking like they possess all the tact and social grace of a pack of flatulent, drunken hyenas.
For example: at one point Gloria appears to concede that maybe gays and lesbians are born that way, but Brian quickly intervenes and squashes this idea. He gives a lecture about everyone having free will, and outlines his sales pitch for Watchtower’s interpretation of the Bible, which condemns the woman’s parents loving relationship as harmful. Incredibly, he also states that Witnesses “don’t push their religion down anyone’s throat,” despite the fact that he and Gloria have just turned a passing mention of same sex parentage into a lengthly and toe-curling excuse to harangue and chastise the child of those parents!
What if the tables were turned?
Let’s switch this around.
Let’s say that Tess had Jehovah’s Witness parents, and that Brian and Gloria are non-Witnesses.
During the meal, it casually comes up in passing that Tess’s parents are Witnesses. Brian and Gloria react in shock, pulling faces of disgust, and then Gloria replies in horrified tones that she recently found out that her assistant is a Witness. When the other guests point out how rude Brian and Gloria are being, the couple do not apologise but rather they double down, lambasting Tess about how sinful her Witness parents are, and deliver a patronising sermon to try to push their own beliefs.
Can you imagine how rude that would be?
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness reading this, I’m sure you understand how hurt and upset that child of Witness parents would feel. Surely now you can understand how hurt and upset the child of a same sex couple would feel if treated in like manner? Even if you fully subscribe to Watchtower’s teachings on homosexuality, you must surely admit that the way the Witness characters acted in this scene is incredibly obnoxious and rude.
Yet this is clearly the way that the Governing Body wants you to treat anyone who casually mentions their sexuality or that of their loving parents.
How do you feel about that?
Why does JW.org create these videos?
If you are not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you may simply pass this video off as a weird bit of badly acted, poorly written, socially backward storytelling, but I’d urge you to understand the following point:
These videos are not simply intended to be entertainment for Jehovah’s Witnesses. These videos are directly intended to be training for all Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
This video is directly intended to demonstrate to Witnesses how to handle a situation where a person casually mentions that they have two fathers, or two mothers. Witnesses worldwide are now expected to hassle, harass, and lecture them. Letting the comment simply go unmentioned is not on the list of options presented here, and every Witness watching the video will understand this.
If you think we’re exaggerating, in 2016 JW.org brought out a CGI children’s cartoon/instructional video explicitly encouraging young Witness children to lecture the young children of same-sex couples about the sinful nature of their parent’s relationship and the need to become Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to avoid death and gain paradise.
The video quite rightly drew worldwide condemnation, not only due to the homophobic nature of the message, but also due to the incredibly crass way it encouraged Witness children to harass their classmates and other non-witnesses in such a rude, unpleasant manner. Sadly it appears that nothing has changed at JW.org, if this latest video is anything to go by.
Now, it has to be said than many actual Witnesses will probably be far too polite to actually take the advice given here (and others might be reluctant to follow this advice from a sheer sense of social self preservation if nothing else) but nonetheless it illustrates how the leadership of Watchtower views the LGBT community and how it expects its followers to behave towards them.
Quite frankly, setting all issues of theology and the human rights of the LGBT community to one side, it appears that the leadership and scriptwriting teams at JW.org are in desperate need of a strong lesson in manners.
For a more detailed examination of the homophobia on display in “Remember the Wife of Lot,” check out the following videos and articles from JW Survey founder Lloyd Evans.
You can also watch a more detailed breakdown of the wider aspects of cult manipulation and abusive doctrine in Remember the Wife of Lot as part of this video from Lloyd Evans. The link will take you to the part of the video where the drama is discussed.
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