At one recent convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ten-year-old girl named Melody was trotted out onto the stage, to talk about her experience of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The speaker noted that Melody had just been baptized last year; for those not familiar with the religion, being baptized officially makes you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, beholden to all their rules and potential punishments.
Melody is asked what Jehovah gives her strength for, and her answer is nothing less than absolutely heartbreaking. She states that one of her sisters, who is disfellowshipped [excommunicated], got in touch with Melody at the time of Melody’s baptism, and wanted to stay in contact with her.
For those who are unaware, or who may not realize why this conversation would take place at all, Jehovah’s Witnesses practice a severe and harsh form of shunning against those who have left, or who have been ousted from, the religion, as Melody’s words demonstrate:
First off, understand that no one, absolutely no one, should have an issue with this child herself. Melody is obviously a very intelligent young lady; however, it’s also obvious that her participation has been the result of manipulation and control. Her words are chosen carefully, and she openly admits that, if she did keep in contact with her sister, it would be difficult to stop communicating with her, so no doubt her heart isn’t in it, as they say.
As an atheist, I don’t adhere to the bible’s words for guidance, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do, yet they pick and choose which of those directives to follow. This instruction, and seeing even young children being applauded and commended for turning their backs on their own siblings, seems to fit the description of the “last days,” in the scripture at 2 Timothy 3:3, where it mentions those who would have “no natural affection.”
Wasting a Child’s Life
What I also found very sad is that Melody is a mature young woman, more than capable of being on stage, speaking in front of a crowd. Her composure and poise might serve her well in any other settings, where she could use her obvious intelligence, speaking abilities, and maturity to excel in academics, volunteer activities, or even politics.
Yet, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she will be given a consistent barrage of counsel to forsake career aspirations in order to dedicate more hours in service to the religion. She will be constantly told that the end of the world is imminent, and any pursuit of higher education will be a waste of time, and potentially even a danger to her spirituality.
“What, though, of higher education, received in a college or a university? This is widely viewed as vital to success. Yet, many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah’s service.”
-The Watchtower, April 15, 2008; “Repudiate Valueless Things”
What is also distressing, and something to which I can personally attest to as a female who grew up in this religion, is that Melody is wearing the women’s uniform of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She is dressed in a distinctly dowdy, ill-fitting, drab, skirt-and-sweater combo that is common with women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and which is entirely devoid of personality, self-expression, individuality, and style.
No, there is nothing actually wrong with what Melody is wearing. Her dress is neat and clean and modest, and she’s an adorable young lady no matter what. My objection is that I can’t imagine the outfit is what Melody would want to wear, if given her own choice. As a ten-year-old girl, she is probably old enough to express herself and her tastes in her wardrobe, and may not want to look so matronly and dull.
This young lady’s outfit is modest and neat and clean, just like Melody’s; it’s also fun and stylish and expressive, which is why it would no doubt be given a “thumbs-down” from Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially for a child who would be on their stage. Anything that calls any attention to you as a person, even just a tiny bit, is typically squelched and dismissed.
This type of control over self-expression is not just strict; it’s an earmark of a cult. Steven Hassan’s BITE model, which discusses a group’s level of control over a member’s Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions, brings out that cults, “control types of clothing and hairstyles,” and “discourage individualism, encourage group-think.” (Read more about how Jehovah’s Witnesses fit the model of cults at this link.) I would say that Melody’s outfit lacks any individualism whatsoever, yet fits the cookie-cutter lifestyle that is often adhered to by cult members.
A Plea for Her Sister
Of course, the worst sign of a cult in this entire experience is Melody being controlled and manipulated to the point where she is not allowed communication with her own sister, and is applauded for this by other adults. What’s worse, Melody seems proud and pleased with herself for making this horrific gesture.
I fail to see how this is much different than Hitler Youth who were made to feel proud when spewing venom toward the Jewish population of their day, or the children in the Westboro Baptist Church who gladly hold signs saying, “God hates f*gs,” and the like. These children are not just taught to be judgmental and downright hateful to others, but they’re also indoctrinated to feel pride in those things.
I know Melody is not looking to kill minorities or even chant about how much god hates them, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do teach that anyone who is not in their religion, including former members, will die a horrible, fiery death at Armageddon, any day now. In truth, Melody is being taught to think that her sister deserves that horrific death, complete with fireballs from the sky, for leaving her religion. She is proud of the “strength” she has in cutting her own sister out of her life.
Expecting imminent, fiery destruction of everyone who is not in your religion, turning your back on your own sibling just for not belonging to your group anymore, being proud of doing that; only a cult would teach a ten-year-old child these things. Poor Melody is certainly wearing the uniform of her cult, and I can only hope her sister will be patient and still be there for her when the girl grows up and decides to leave it.
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