It is a common misconception that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept medical treatment; in truth, they accept medical treatment and use medicines, but don’t accept whole blood transfusions.
While this isn’t as dangerous as some faith-healing cults and religions who reject all forms of medical treatment, whole blood can be necessary in emergency situations and for conditions like leukemia, or for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Jehovah’s Witnesses often try to downplay the seriousness of their refusal to accept blood, saying that there are many alternative forms of treatment available for patients. This can often be true, but this doesn’t mean that there are no risks involved for those who don’t accept blood transfusions, and that no deaths result because of it.
This is demonstrated in their own words, during a discourse given at the 2016 convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, wherein their governing body member Tony Morris outright brags about a “young fella” who refused a blood transfusion and who died because of it; the audience then actually claps of hearing of the boy’s death!
Interpretation, or Misinterpretation, of the Scriptures
It’s vital to first note that the way Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret the scriptures that seem to prohibit blood is decried by many bible scholars and experts; JWfacts.com notes at this site:
“It is pertinent that Jews are allowed to have blood transfusions. Strict Orthodox Jews soak meat in water, salt it and then drain it in order to draw out all the blood. Yet no Jewish groups forbid blood transfusions. (Likewise, Muslims forbidden to drink blood are allowed transfusions as a life-saving procedure.) This is because Jewish kosher probation’s are waived in regards to life-saving medical use. Sustaining life overrules the Mosaic Law; a principle referred to as pikuach nefesh.”
There is also the hypocrisy of Jehovah’s Witnesses allowing members to take blood fractions, as if these fractions are somehow different than whole blood. Blood fractions are simply what’s needed to make up whole blood; prohibiting one but not the other is like saying you allow a person to eat ham and bread, but not a ham sandwich.
An especially noteworthy part of this experience is where Morris refers to doctors coming in to speak to the boy privately, telling him that he would die without a transfusion, as “persecution.” That’s interesting, because according to dictionary.com, one definition of “persecution” is:
Really, who was trying to “exterminate” the boy in this experience? Who was “subjugating” or controlling the child? The doctors were doing their job, in offering every medical treatment and option necessary and available. They wanted to discern if this was really his own decision or if his parents were pushing and goading him to follow their religion. How is this “persecution,” or picking on the boy? They wanted to save his life!
The parents, on the other hand, were subjugating or controlling him by forcing their beliefs on him; they were not necessarily looking to have him die, but they were willing to fight against a treatment that was needed to save his life. Truthfully, the parents were the ones allowing their child to be “exterminated” by vehemently denying him a lifesaving transfusion.
Note another interesting point; Steve Hassan, a writer on cults and how they operate, has created a BITE model for determining if a religion or group is abusive. The BITE model refers to the control that is exercised over members’ Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions. One of the earmarks of this BITE model is:
“Use of loaded language and clichés which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words.”
I would certainly say that trying to save a child’s life in any circumstances, and especially against the express wishes of his parents, could be considered a “complexity.” Yet, Morris here reduces the compassionate work of doctors, trying desperately to save a dying child, to “persecution.”
Think seriously about that for a moment; the parents were more than willing to let their son die based on a flawed, ever-changing doctrinal interpretation from their religion’s leaders, without ever doing any independent research as to the reliability of that interpretation, and the doctors who were trying to save him are the ones “persecuting” him.
Anyone who disagrees with Jehovah’s Witnesses is not simply suggesting their bible interpretation is wrong, or even trying to do their job in saving a child’s life; they are persecuting them, according to their governing body.
Hassan mentions in this same part of his BITE model that cults often create an “us vs. them” thinking. Calling the work of doctors, who are simply trying to save the life of a child, “persecution” can certainly accomplish just that. How dare doctors question you, how dare they offer to save your child’s life, how dare they show such disdain for your religion by offering an everyday, urgently needed medical option; how in the world do Jehovah’s Witnesses endure such “persecution”?
This type of loaded language can create an air of distrust from Jehovah’s Witnesses; doctors aren’t just doing their job and don’t have your best interests at heart, but are obviously agents of Satan, sent to test your faith by trying to save your child’s life, or so Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught.
Happy to Martyr Their Children
Obviously the most disturbing part of this video is the overall attitude that Morris and Jehovah’s Witnesses have about the fact that this “young fella” died because of this teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Morris refers to him as a “good example of faith,” and the audience applauds when they hear that he died.
Someone who dies protecting another person, I can understand being proud of them. Someone who dies because of refusing to back down to real, actual bullies, such as bullies who actually do “persecute” homosexuals or minorities, for example; I can get behind that.
However, doctors are not bullies, and this young man didn’t die protecting someone else. He died because of the religious beliefs of his parents, who follow a group of very flawed men in Brooklyn, men who have proven time and again that they have no real or authentic direction from god, and who have had to change their understanding of the bible and their teachings time and again. This young man didn’t just give up college or marriage or waste his time preaching that flawed doctrine; he died.
This young man won’t go to school, fall in love, get married, have children, see the world, or ever look up at the stars at night. All of those things were taken away from him because of this incessant need that the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has to control their members, and to insist on their flawed, horrific misinterpretation of blood, from which they will not back down.
There is no happiness when a child dies, there should never be applause when he or she gives up their life, or, more accurately, has that life stolen from them by arrogant, self-righteous, egotistical, self-serving men who have never had to face the same issues that they inflict on others. There is nothing exemplary about parents who would listen to such men, and who would put the empty sayings of strangers in New York above the life of their own child.
There is nothing commendable about an audience in an arena who would applaud this child’s death; shame on them for thinking this is something to acknowledge, much less celebrate.
Former Jehovah’s Witnesses often refer to the religion as a “Jonestown in slow motion,” referring to the People’s Temple cult, led by Jim Jones, many of whom infamously died after drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses are just as guilty of drinking that Kool-Aid. They may not outright poison their members, but when parents fight against and resist lifesaving medical treatment for their children, based on blind obedience to their religion’s leaders, they are just as guilty.
When audience members applaud a child’s death based on that blind obedience, they are also guilty. How many more Witnesses, how many more children, need to die before others see that as well, and before Jehovah’s Witnesses are called to account for the blood they have on their hands?
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