A recent regional convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses included interviewing a couple, the Suttons, who talked about raising three children in the strict atmosphere of what is typical with Jehovah’s Witnesses. This included attendance at their weekly meetings, Saturday morning preaching door-to-door, and another night for “family worship.”
The Suttons told of how one child grew up and took a job that meant associating with coworkers, which in turn led to her disfellowshipping, or excommunication from the religion. The Suttons then completely cut off all association with their child, as they said in the interview. This was no mistake; the Suttons had held this threat over the head of their child her entire life, as the mother related the words she had said to her children while raising them:
“I love you, I would die for you, but if you ever leave Jehovah, I wouldn’t be there.”
No, really. A mother said that to her children while raising them. She outright threatened them with emotional isolation and abandonment, to keep them in her religion.
That’s Not Love; That’s Abuse
There are so many things wrong here, but first and foremost is the outright lie this mother told in saying that she loves her children. You don’t love someone, especially not your own child, if you require them to believe and practice a particular religion, and you don’t love a child that you threaten with emotional abandonment as they’re growing up.
Not only is that not love, it’s outright abusive. How far would this woman take this type of threat? “If you become a lawyer, I won’t be there. If you marry a [black, Asian, poor] person, I won’t be there. If you ever become a vegetarian, I won’t be there.”
I might also ask, how far back did this threat go? When tucking her three-year-old into bed at night, did she read her a bedtime story, kiss her on the forehead, and then end the night with a lovey-dovey, “If you ever stop going to the Kingdom Hall, mommy will go away and never come back”?
Note too the outright lie in saying that she would die for her child. What she meant was that she would die if it were noble and applauded; saving her child from a burning building or donating an organ in a risky surgery.
However, if mom’s religion says that she will lose god’s favor and be killed by him because of speaking to a family member who is disfellowshipped, then she would draw the line there. She wouldn’t be willing to die that type of death for the simple act of associating with her child.
If you’re still not convinced that the mother isn’t showing any love to her child by threatening her if she left her religion, consider if she took the opposite route and actually beat her child if she left. Would you think it’s loving to slap, hit, spank, or whip a child into staying in your religion? I would hope not, but you can see the similarity. Punishment and threats of punishment for leaving your religion are obscene and not loving, no matter the actual expression of that punishment.
Leaving Jehovah, or Your Religion?
What I’ve also always found to be interesting is that Jehovah’s Witnesses always equate their religion with Jehovah himself; if you leave off being a JW, then you’ve left off god. This is a dicey argument, as the leaders of the religion have shown time and again that they obviously have no divine backing or holy spirit guiding them; they have repeatedly failed in their predictions as to the end of the world and have had to change their thinking on different teachings time and again. (Please visit JWfacts.com for more information on that.)
As I bring out in this post, they also outright reject the ransom of Jesus and his words when he said he had “fulfilled” the law given to Moses by still keeping the direction in that law requiring a woman to scream when being raped. How can they claim to be directed by Jehovah’s holy spirit when they miss something so obvious?
The religion is also riddled with domestic violence as I saw personally when I was growing up (this post), and is rife with claims of unchecked pedophilia. You cannot convince me personally that Jehovah’s Witnesses have some type of divine backing or guidance with these types of problems.
My point is, a person should have the right to make up their own minds about religion in the first place without threat of shunning from their family, but who is to say that a person leaving the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses has “left Jehovah”? Maybe they see all these failings of the religion and realize that it has no direction from the god of the bible, and are searching for the religion that does.
The lies from a parent are bad enough, but the lies from this religion itself are also inexcusable. On their website, Jehovah’s Witnesses outright claim they “work to build up families, both our own and those of our neighbors.” This obviously isn’t true; they work to force family members to stay in their religion and build up their own numbers, not families.
As you can see from the text box here, Jehovah’s Witnesses also say that no one should need to choose between their family and their beliefs, but obviously they mean no one who is considering becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you’re thinking of leaving the JW religion, then you can be prepared to lose your family, your friends, and everyone around you.
Returning to What, and to Whom?
Another hypocrisy in this experience is how the mother threatened her child that if she ever “left Jehovah” then she wouldn’t be there, but mom also goes on to say that it was the “missed association with the family” that brought the child back to their religion.
In other words, this child didn’t return to the religion for the sake of the religion itself, for their god, or because of thinking that the religion was “the truth.” She came back just so that she could be with the family again.
That child’s heart may still very well be outside the religion and nowhere near belonging to their god and their beliefs, but she’s just going through the motions in order to be able to talk to family again. The mother even openly admits that the daughter came back to associate with the family, and yet says nothing about how the daughter feels about the religion and its teachings, nor does she say anything about the daughter’s relationship with Jehovah.
How can this be pleasing to their god, from any point of view? God wouldn’t accept the worship of someone who doesn’t really believe in him and is just faking it for the sake of being able to talk to family, I would assume.
I would also assume that god can’t be happy with a family that is still associating with someone who is just putting on an act, if that god wants you to shun people who don’t love him. “Hey, that person doesn’t love me! Why are you associating with her?” “Because god, she’s making it look like she loves you.” “Oh well, okay then. As long as she’s putting on a good show.”
In truth, wouldn’t it make more sense to not shun someone who leaves so that if they do come back, you know it’s because they sincerely believe in the religion and its teachings? Wouldn’t it make more sense to show your child an abundance of love no matter their choices, so that they can be impressed with how your god and religion actually do create strong family bonds, rather than proving that your god is harsh, draconian, and outright abusive to families, and your religion is just hypocritical and full of lies?
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