Recently some guidelines for how Jehovah’s Witnesses at branch offices (like mini headquarters) handle written correspondence were shared online. These guidelines didn’t offer much new or earth-shattering information when it comes to the policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but one paragraph in their directives was so disgusting and disturbing to me that I had to stop and literally walk away. This paragraph is under the section “Family Affairs” and it is as follows:
Let me say first of all that I have full sympathy for anyone whose spouse is unfaithful. I’ve always been of the mindset that you finish your business with one person before you take up with another; even if they’re abusive or “not there for you” and you’re basically just roommates, you cut them loose before you take up with someone else. I can also imagine how difficult it would be for a child who is the product of an affair to be in the home, as a constant reminder of that unfaithfulness.
That having been said and acknowledged, let me also say how disgustingly obscene it is to think that a man, any man, has the full right to separate a child from his or her mother simply because he is married to that woman and the child is not his. Unless a child is in absolute physical or psychological danger, no one, and that means no one, has the right to simply send him or her away from their parent, mother or father.
Consider, also, the idea of forgiving your spouse for an affair; if a husband forgives his wife and takes her back, wouldn’t that mean also accepting that child? I could understand putting limitations on the unfaithful spouse seeing the person with whom they had the affair, but how do you “forgive” your spouse but not accept their child?
This obscenity of a directive is obviously written for a man and his benefit alone. Note how it says that the husband may show “consideration” by taking “into account” his wife’s wishes, but he still has the final say. She can beg and plead to keep that child in the home, but it’s his final decision. Tell me that his feelings won’t override any preferences she has, especially if the child is the product of an affair?
Being Punished for Being Raped
What I also find disgusting is that this directive is given in cases of rape. Here a woman is brutalized and traumatized and is now pregnant, through no fault of her own, and must then face the possibility of her baby being taken from her simply because her husband doesn’t want it in the house. I completely understand that in some cases, the woman herself may not want to keep the child as a reminder of this attack and may prefer adoption, but what if that’s not her preference? Despite being so violated, she may feel a tremendous attachment to that child growing inside of her and may even feel more protective of that child, considering the circumstances surrounding his or her conception. Yet, if the husband decides to send the child away, she must then face long hours of labor and the entire experience of childbirth, only to have social services or some adoption agency pull the child away minutes after it enters the world.
This is also true for a child conceived by an affair. A woman may become incredibly attached to the little baby growing in her belly, may see her own features in that child’s face when he or she is born, and may feel strong protective instincts toward the child. Yet, that baby can be heartlessly ripped from her right there in the birthing room simply because her husband says so.
And the Child is Mentioned, Where … ?
What is also disturbing is the lack of guidance in taking into account the welfare of the child. It’s one thing if a child is adopted into a loving home, but what if there is no interest in an adoption, or the couple do not know how to manage that? Would the child just be put in an orphanage? If he or she is raised by relatives, would the child even be able to know its own mother? In the case of an affair, if the child is sent to live with his or her biological father, would the child be able to know the mother and have a relationship with her? Even adopted children often have a desire to know their birth parents; would the husband allow this?
Another factor to consider is that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow abortion even in cases of rape, adultery, or fornication. This same set of guidelines even gives strong warning against sterilization, stating, “Christians should seriously consider the indications from the Bible that Jehovah highly esteems the procreative ability given to humans. If it became publicly known that a brother or a sister has treated lightly God’s evaluation of the procreative organs, using sterilization merely for its convenience as a form of birth control, such a one would not qualify for special privileges in the congregation.” So, they think very strongly of a person’s ability to procreate and bring a child into the world, but then allow a man to simply send that child away from his or her own mother without any mention, not one word, of how that decision might affect the child after he or she is born? What difference does it make if you say you “highly esteem” the ability to create a child if you then just toss that child into the street after it’s created?
Headship Versus Parent-Child Bond
Some might argue that because the husband is the “head” of the wife, he has this authority. I would counter that by saying that first of all, aren’t husbands and wives supposed to be “one flesh” as the bible says? So if it’s her child, then it’s his child too. Yet, this directive isn’t given with the “one flesh” bond in mind; it isn’t even mentioned. This is all about the husband’s authority.
I would also argue that no “arrangement” should supersede that of a child and his or her parent; a person should be encouraged if not outright told to put themselves aside for the sake of the child, if no one else. The bond between a mother and a child is also not something that should be broken so lightly, and not simply because the husband is hurt or because he has this obscene, absolute authority over his wife. The minute you say that you have the authority to send a child away from his or her parent, to rip a newborn baby from the arms of its mother, unless there is absolute endangerment or something monumentally more important than the husband’s “headship,” you’ve lost all your arguments with me.
If the state did this, if the government took children away from mothers because they were products of affairs or rape, if a neighbor came into your home and decided that they think your children should go away because they don’t approve of how they were conceived, there would be an outcry and rightly so. Yet, a husband is somehow allowed to do that, to his own wife and to an innocent baby, simply because Jehovah’s Witnesses think that his headship trumps everything.
If you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses … why? Why do you think this is a good religion, for anyone? Why would you do this to a child? Don’t tell me that you don’t agree because you’re not allowed. These same directives state that if you don’t agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can be disfellowshipped:
So you have no choice but to agree that a husband has the right to send an innocent baby away, to take a baby from the arms of his or her mother simply because he is not the father. This religion knows nothing of love. Nothing. I need to walk away again.
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