In January of 2019, Jehovah’s Witness elders were issued a new instructional handbook, “Shepherd the Flock of God.” One section discusses when a judicial committee should be formed; for those unfamiliar, a judicial committee of elders evaluates someone’s so-called sinful behavior and determines how it is to be handled.
According to the book, one action that might warrant discipline by a judicial committee includes “Permitting Individuals to Commit Sexual Immorality in the Home.” From chapter 12:
In all fairness, guests in a home need to respect the rules of the homeowner; take your shoes off by the door, clean up after yourself, and so on. A homeowner also has the right to insist that you don’t bring guns or drugs into the home, get drunk when under their roof, etc.
That being said, there also comes a point when a homeowner, and especially a parent hosting their grown children, needs to respect other people in the house as adults. I can’t imagine insisting that a grown child visiting for the weekend attend my Sunday morning “Atheists Unite! Plus 21 Ways to Season Those Babies Before You Eat Them” services, especially not vegans who don’t even eat babies in the first place. Even in a parent’s home, that grown child is now an adult and needs to be treated as one in certain ways.
Intruding on an Adult’s Relationship
I would think this respect would be warranted when it comes to the subject of “sexual immorality,” and especially for an adult child who is in the parent’s home for an extended period, as this section is discussing. It’s inappropriate to insist that your grown child live by your chosen morals in the first place, no matter where they live, but much less so if they need to give up their own home and stay with elderly parents to care for them on a daily basis.
Note, too, that insisting your grown child not engage in sexual activity while in your home for a long time can put a strain on their relationship with a significant other. Before you dismiss this thought, perhaps reasoning that the grown child can just go to the other person’s home when they want to be intimate, what if their significant other lives a long distance away, making it impossible to just hop in the car and have a nice date night?
What if the adult child lived with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Moving out so they can stay with their parents full-time might mean that the other person can’t pay the rent, so the couple needs to stick together.
Someone having to stay with their elderly parents might already experience stress in their relationship, not having the same amount of free time to spend with their boyfriend or girlfriend, having to pay for a parent’s medication or medical care, and so on.
Just caring for aged parents alone can be stressful in of itself, and the boyfriend or girlfriend in this situation might be making many accommodations already; putting a wedge in their sex life, in addition to these other stressors, can be downright rude.
Remember, this section isn’t talking about teenagers or 20-somethings who haven’t yet left their parent’s home or are rebelling against the rules; it is specifically addressing elderly parents who need “assistance.” If the parents are elderly, their adult children would probably be in their 40s or 50s, an age when they can and should be able to make up their own minds about sexual behavior, and when those decisions should be respected apart from the beliefs of the parents.
No Recourse Means You’re Not Exemplary
All that having been said, one real problem with these instructions is that it openly states the elderly persons may have “no recourse” but to allow their grown child to engage in sexual activity in the home. For some reason, this might make that elderly person no longer qualified to serve in an “exemplary” position, even though they’re not the ones committing “sexual immorality” and are not allowing it under their roof because of a negligent attitude.
Consider this brutality for a moment. An elderly person is no doubt already anxious for their age and health, might be suffering pain, limited mobility, a strain on their finances, embarrassment over some physical condition, etc., and probably doesn’t enjoy needing to rely on anyone for assistance. If they have “no recourse” but to have that grown child in the home, their condition or situation is obviously quite serious.
In addition to all those concerns, however, now they’re not considered “exemplary”? How are they setting a poor example by doing the only thing they can do in order to cope physically and perhaps even financially with their advancing age and all its challenges?
What is the elderly person’s other option; kick their child out of the home and then get sick and die, or be put in a horrible nursing home and suffer abuse and neglect every day?
“Love Never Fails” to Abandon and Then Judge You, Even Elderly Ones
There is an ironic hypocrisy in the fact that this new “Shepherd” book was released in January of 2019, and the theme for the 2019 regional conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses was “Love Never Fails.” A symposium on Saturday, “Display Unfailing Love in the Congregation,” included the part, “To the Elderly.”
Well, love has certainly failed in this directive. If elderly ones in the congregation have “no recourse” but to rely on non-Jehovah’s Witness adult children, doesn’t that indicate that the congregation has failed to provide the care they need?
Wouldn’t a better set of instructions to the elders demand that they find out why those elderly ones need to rely on so-called worldly children in the first place and then do what’s necessary to make sure older congregants are provided for properly?
Shouldn’t the congregation members and elders who have failed to care for their own, and especially elderly people who need assistance, be the ones no longer considered “exemplary”?
The harshly judgmental attitude is an obscenity in of itself. Elderly and infirm Jehovah’s Witnesses are now judged for the horrific sin of getting old and needing assistance, and of having no one else to rely on but their grown children who might (gasp) expect a bit of respect and deference as an adult.
In addition to the indignities of old age and of needing everyday assistance for physical ailments, financial limitations, or other such concerns, these elderly ones now also suffer the potential punishment of having certain privileges denied them in their beloved religion.
Love never fails, indeed.
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