In the past few years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have stepped up the attention they’re giving to children in particular. Witnesses have occasionally produced literature aimed at teens and young adults, but recently they’ve even started producing videos that are for a much younger crowd.
While these videos are supposedly meant to teach children to be closer to Jehovah as a god, I firmly believe that they are teaching children that Jehovah is an overbearing, tightfisted, micromanaging god who is always disappointed in you. How so?
A series of these videos follow young Caleb, who appears to be about five or six years old, along with his older sister Sophia and his mother and father. The lessons being taught to Caleb are anything but uplifting. Consider:
“Be Neat and Clean”
In this first video, Caleb is taught to be neat and clean. He asks his father for help in finding his favorite toy, and his father notes that it’s no wonder Caleb can’t find the toy since his room is so unkempt. The father points out that Jehovah “has a place for all his things.” He talks about the planets that stay in their orbit, and about how people all have their internal parts in the same place. He then actually says, “When you keep your room clean, you are making Jehovah happy.”
I’m all for keeping your room neat and clean and would expect my children to do this, but why bring Jehovah into this? Is Jehovah so nitpicking that he’s concerned about whether or not you make your bed every day? This is a lesson to teach your children, that Jehovah is keeping track of your life so completely that he notes if you put your books and toys away? Do you want children to love Jehovah and feel he is approachable, or be afraid of him constantly watching you, looking for things to criticize, even in your own private space?
“Obey Your Parents”
In this video, Caleb is outside playing, and his mother calls him in for dinner, reminding him to take off his shoes since she just cleaned the floor. In all his youthful energy, Caleb comes bounding into the house and of course forgets about his shoes, leaving footprints on mom’s clean floor. At this point his father helps him clean up, but then delivers a lecture; “You know, if you had listened to mommy you wouldn’t have had to do all that work. My son, when we tell you to do something, it’s because we love you. We want the best for you.” He then actually pulls out a bible and reads him a scripture about obeying your parents.
What is most distressing about this video is that Caleb didn’t really disobey his mother; he simply forgot about taking off his shoes, which is common with young children. Their energy and short attention spans do not always equal disobedience, and a simple oversight shouldn’t warrant a browbeating, draconian lecture. This, too, teaches children that Jehovah is disappointed with them even when they are simply human.
If this is true of young Caleb, I must ask, when Caleb’s mom gets older and more forgetful, is Jehovah going to be angry with her when she can’t find her car keys or neglects to return a phone call? If Caleb’s dad forgets to pick up dinner on the way home like he was supposed to, should he be read a scripture about being responsible and providing for the family?
What does it teach children about Jehovah when they are greeted with a lecture and a scripture after something as simple as forgetting to take off your shoes? That he’s a loving god, or an overbearing, sneering, disappointed god who does nothing but browbeat his servants, no matter how minor their infraction?
This video has actually gotten attention online because of how manipulative and overbearing it is. In this story, Caleb has been given a toy from a friend at school, a “warrior wizard” named Sparlock. Mom is visibly upset, as Jehovah’s Witnesses view magic as being bad, as she reminds Caleb. Mom talks about how Jehovah will be “sad” if he “disobeys” by playing with the toy, and manages to convince Caleb to throw it away. She then tells him that she is happy with him, and that Jehovah is happy with him too.
There are really two things wrong with these videos overall:
1. They teach that Jehovah is a god who micromanages and potentially judges you, based on whether or not you made your bed this morning and other simple oversights. Jehovah is so vindictive when it comes to children that he even keeps track of their toys, and views some toys as “wrong.” Playing with them is “disobedience” and makes him “sad.”
This type of teaching is probably only going to accomplish one thing with children, and that’s ruin their self-esteem and self-confidence. Chances are they’ll go through life wondering what they’re doing wrong now, and being plagued with shame and guilt over every little thing, including innocent mistakes. They’ll probably grow up learning to be hypercritical of themselves, looking at every aspect of their life with a judgmental eye, thinking of things that Jehovah must dislike about them today. Is that a little bit of dust on the entertainment center? Jehovah is sad with me. Did I forget to record that check? Jehovah is sad. Did I preach enough, am I reading the bible enough, do I talk too much or not enough, are my clothes too fancy or too shabby? Jehovah is probably sad.
Is this type of message supposed to make children feel closer to Jehovah? How do you feel drawn to someone that views you so harshly, especially when you’re just an innocent, imperfect child?
The message is also clear that Jehovah makes no allowances for any oversight on your part. If an innocent, energetic child gets browbeaten for forgetting to take off his shoes, what about an adult who is stressed and overworked and trying to keep up with the pressures of today’s life? Apparently in Jehovah’s eyes, that’s no excuse for forgetting to record that check or dust your furniture.
2. None of these videos talk about why a child should worship Jehovah. Not one video says that you should be Jehovah’s friend because of how great he is as a person or what you get out of it, but the only thing they talk about is how you need to stop screwing up and making Jehovah sad. It’s just taken for granted that you want to be Jehovah’s friend, but I see no reason to want that friendship in the first place.
Is it any wonder that children raised as JWs often wind up leaving simply because they don’t love Jehovah? How can they love him or even like him, with messages like these?
If any of the links above are broken, you can find these videos by going to the official website for Jehovah’s Witnesses, www.jw.org, and at the bottom of the page, click “Videos.”
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