“Loyalty” is something you’ll often hear when you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with its synonym “faithfulness,” and other similar words. JWs often talk about being loyal to their god, to your marriage and family, and most importantly, to the organization and its leaders . Being faithful is stressed for big things and for small things when you’re a JW, and this includes even your thoughts and emotions.
The concept of loyalty and of being faithful is a very good one, and these qualities are often looked for when people date or even when they want to hire employees. Since the idea of loyalty is a good one, why would JWs have no business telling their followers that they need to be loyal or faithful?
Understanding Loyalty and Faithfulness
First, understand the deeper meaning of the word loyalty or loyal. Looking at online references, I’ve found the phrases “constant support”, “firm in allegiance or support”, and “undivided support.” For faithful, I’ve found the terms “reliable, worthy of trust,” and “one who fulfills obligations or decisions.”
The antonym, or opposite word, for loyal or loyalty is treacherous, which is defined as “deceitful, inclined to betray, unreliable, and dangerous.” Traitorous is another antonym, and a traitor is defined as “someone who betrays any confidence or trust.”
How Severely Jehovah’s Witnesses Demand Loyalty
Most religions want loyalty of one sort or another, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are different when it comes to the loyalty they demand of their members. When a JW leaves the organization, he or she is shunned; this is because of the loyalty JWs are expected to have for the religion, and it is done even if those who leave are close family and “young ones.”
The January 15, 2013, Watchtower said about this shunning:
“Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above everything else – including the family bond. … Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.“
Even inside the congregation, a person might be shunned by other members if they are perceived as not doing enough for the religion, or if they engage in conduct that others simply disagree with. If you look at this illustration from the July 15, 2012, Watchtower, you’ll see how even seemingly innocent behavior calls for shunning from others, out of regard for “loyalty” to the organization.
If all religions and even corporations demand some type of loyalty from those within their ranks, why single out Jehovah’s Witnesses? The hypocrisy of their demands is what is at issue here. Consider:
First consider the case of Candace Conti, which you can read about in depth in this post. Candace filed a lawsuit against the JWs for sexual molestation she suffered at the hands of a man in her congregation, due in part to the fact that elders knew the man had fondled his stepdaughter previously, but did not warn other parents, and even arranged for Candace to be alone with him on occasion.
In their appeal of the judgment, Jehovah’s Witnesses said they were not responsible for what happened to Candace because she was not yet a baptized member of the religion and, therefore, they had “no special relationship” with her.
At the time of her molestation, Candace was only 9, but was doing what JWs demanded of her for her age; she was going out in their preaching work and attending all their services with her parents. The family was also doing everything necessary to be loyal to the organization.
However, when JWs were rightly punished for how they neglected her safety, they showed a lack of loyalty by not giving her “undivided support”; they were “traitors” to her, because they betrayed her trust in the elders by putting her with this dangerous man in the first place, and then by turning their backs on her and denying any “special relationship” with her. Candace was loyal to them and suffered horrific abuse because of it, but rather than be supportive of her through this ordeal, they basically denied knowing her, calling her a mere “child of congregation members.” This is a gross lack of loyalty to someone who was within their fold, baptized yet or not!
Abuse and Rape Victims
It’s not difficult to see the horrible track record Jehovah’s Witnesses have when it comes to women who are victims of domestic violence and rape. As I bring out in other posts, women are blamed for being the victims of domestic assault, are encouraged to stay with abusive husbands, and to be “more loving” to them so that they’ll hopefully change their violent ways. Women are even blamed for raising rapists, because it’s somehow their fault that they don’t teach respect of women to their sons.
I would wonder if those in charge of the religion ever see this as a disloyalty. The term loyal means to support someone, and to not betray them or act treacherously with them, but this is exactly what they do under these circumstances. When a woman reports being beaten by her husband, their approach is to blame her and counsel her on what she needs to do to stop his actions. They do not offer support, and do not take action against the husband or abuser, which is a betrayal to the victim.
This is also true of rape victims. Jehovah’s Witnesses stringently require that she literally, physically scream and resist, and even “fight to the death” enough to satisfy elders of the congregation. If they decide that she did not resist enough, or if they call into question her account of being raped, she can be disfellowshipped and then shunned for “fornication.” In other words, they kick her to the curb after suffering such a horrific, terrifying ordeal, simply because they decided she should have handled it differently or they decided they don’t think it qualifies as rape. How is that not a disloyalty to her?
This was recently brought to my attention through a YouTube video, which pointed out how the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses addresses the subject of blood transfusions. JWs do not allow the transfusion of whole blood products, and on their FAQ page, they attempt to address what they call “misconceptions.” It says:
“Myth: Many Witnesses, including children, die each year as a result of refusing blood transfusions.
Fact: This statement is totally unfounded. Surgeons regularly perform such complex procedures as heart operations, orthopedic surgery, and organ transplants without the use of blood transfusions.”
Note their statement, that many Witnesses die each year because of not accepting blood transfusions is “unfounded.” However, the May 22, 1994, Awake had a cover article dedicated to children who “put god first” by refusing blood transfusions, and who lost their lives because of it. The articles inside the magazine painted this rosy picture of young children who were standing up for their beliefs and principles; the second page of the magazine said:
“In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”
So, they put these children who have died on the cover of their magazines and parade them out for everyone to see, and are proud of their stand that even resulted in their death, but then on their own website they deny those sacrifices that were made. This sounds like a horrible disloyalty to me; if people give up their very lives, especially if they’re “youths,” for a religious teaching, that religion should honor their memory by talking openly about them and their sacrifice, not hide them when it might make the religion look bad.
This type of deceit would be inappropriate enough, but when it involves people and their lives that they’ve lost, this is the very opposite of loyalty. This is not being “firm in allegiance” but is an outright betrayal to these ones.
The dishonesty in these statements above is one issue, but the lack of loyalty that the organization shows to their members is another. Candace Conti, other victims of abuse and rape; these people need and deserve the support that we call loyalty, and yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses give them the exact opposite. A rape victim doesn’t need someone to sit in judgment of her, and to act as if her story is suspicious; where is the loyalty, or “undivided support,” for her in those cases? Where is the loyalty to the women who are being brutally abused by their husbands? JWs are concerned about the husband’s potential spirituality and welfare, but show little, if any, concern about hers. That’s not loyalty.
The same is true of those who have died because of refusing blood transfusions. Their deaths shouldn’t be held up as shining examples within the organization, only to be hidden away from outsiders if it makes the religion look bad; that’s not only disloyal, it’s disrespectful and downright deceitful.
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