Monday, March 9, 2009

Church Experiment #10: Jehovah's Witnesses

I have three memories of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

One, I remember attending junior high school in Shreveport, Louisiana, and meeting a student named Ricky Jenkins. Ricky didn’t celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or his birthday. He told us it was because of his religion, which I later found out to be Jehovah’s Witness. As a sixth grader, it sounded like the worst religion ever.

Two, I was living in an apartment in Montgomery when I heard a knock on my door. For some reason, I had my shirt off. Don’t ask me to explain why, but I answered the door with my shirt off. (Imagine Lou Ferrigno on steroids. That was me in my early twenties.) Two women stood in front of me. One was around my age and the other was probably in her thirties. They were both very attractive. They gave me Jehovah’s Witness literature, and I apologized for having my shirt off. The older one said it wasn’t a big deal, but I felt awkward. I am 99 percent sure my sexiness caused them to leave the church. Damn this physique chiseled from granite. [Rolling my eyes.]

Three, I mentioned my church experiment in class in late February, and a student approached me after class to invite me to her Jehovah’s Witness church. Since I continually tried to follow God’s lead, it seemed like a good next stop.

Now, number four …

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

32 comments:

Jamie said...

This part of your blog makes me look forward to Mondays.. not an easy task.

I only know one person that is or was a Jehovah's Witness and he has told me that once you decide to leave you will never be allowed to come back. He is also shunned by his family who are still a part of the church. Sort of sounds like the Amish. Is that on your list?!

Christopher Day said...

Who was the comedian that did the Jehovah Witness joke?

"A couple Jehovah Witnesses came to my door the other day. I was feeling spunky so I invited them in and we all sat down at the table. I asked them what they wanted to talk about. They said, "We don't know. We've never gotten this far before."

Mark Hunter said...

Steve, this was a really great blog post. It was interesting reading your view of a Jehovah's Witness meeting, especially as you've no axe to grind with them.

However, I feel it's important to point out a couple of absolute truths about JWs.

Firstly, only roughly 10,000 JWs worldwide actually have any right to call themselves Christians. This may sound harsh, but it's actually their own belief. They split Christians into 2 groups, "the little flock" of "144,000" and the "great crowd" of "other sheep." Their explanation for doing so is quite involved, but the short version is that only the "little flock" of "144,000" believe that they are in the New Covenant, and as a result only they take communion and only they believe they're going to heaven.

Only this "little flock", of whom there is a "remnant" of around 10,000 still alive on earth today, have Jesus as their mediator. JWs are taught that the Bible was written for the 144,000 alone.

While there are almost 7 million JWs worldwide, and while the vast majority claim that they love Christ, they actively refuse to take communion and are happy to be taught - and believe - that they are not anointed by the Holy Spirit or have Christ as their mediator for forgiveness of sins. It isn't really properly explained in their publications how the other 6,998,000 JWs have their sins forgiven if they're not in the New Covenant with Christ as mediator.

Another point worth bearing in mind regarding JWs is that they don't teach or believe that faith in Jesus is enough for salvation by the grace of God. Their official doctrine is that you need to be part of their organisation to be saved. Questioning the doctrines of the organisation - as disseminated via the Watch Tower publications - is expressly forbidden.

If a JW at any point strongly disagrees with the doctrine of the Governing Body of the organisation, he may be subject to disfellowshipping.

JWs practice strict, enforced shunning of all disfellowshipped members, even those who conscientiously leave due to wishing to be part of the New Covenant. Shunning is practiced within families; mothers shun their daughters, fathers shun their sons.

So while JWs may seem a benevolent, sincere Christian groups, sadly just under the surface lies some teachings and practices that are spiritually and emotionally damaging.

Steve Fuller said...

Mark,

I appreciate the background info. As I said, my experience has been limited, so that was helpful.

Mark Rounds said...

Lol, you've opened a can of worms here! JW's and Ex jw's are some of the best haters on the planet. Because of some of the policies of the witnesses (enforced shunning protection of pedophiles in the ranks) Ex members actively HATE the witness organization and Current witnesses seeking to protect the 'borg' hate those of us who have left. You just wait your going to have a comments page a mile long in a few minutes!

It was a good post though. Took me back to when I was a witness growing up.

J said...

Great post! You managed to capture their beliefs and kookiness quite well for someone never being there before. They are good people; they are also a cult as you can tell with the whole ‘brain washing’ thing going on. Are you going to visit the Mormon Church? I have heard they are similar and would love to hear your take on them. I have never been to a service there (Church of Later Day Saints) myself.

Reverb said...

This feels like an inoculation of God. It's just taking enough so that you don't have to experience the real thing. And I'm not talking about you.

It's a bit scary though...just as you said, get them going in the wrong direction and thinking it's the right direction. Yikes.

Well God...we just ask that your truth would prevail.

Liz said...

Is this the only place where everyone was in a suit/tie and/or dress? It seems today even traditional churches like the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches you visited are very casual.

15-20 years ago when I'd go to the Presbyterian church with my grandparents, I always wore a dress and everyone else was dressed up as well.

Steve Fuller said...

Most people wore a suit and tie at the Baptist Church I attended. I think this has been the only place where every single male was wearing a tie.

Anonymous said...

Exjws don't hate jws...they hate the organization that has torn their families apart which often happens when people simply disagree with he WB&TS or when they come forward about the child molestation and domestic violence problems within the congregation.

Jws are trained to hate anyone who simply speaks out about serious problems within this cult.

chiliast said...

Excellent article. However, I would take issue with how "Christian" the JW's are. In reality, their reason d'etre is not the endorsement of, but the denial of nearly every major doctrine of historic Christianity (deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, the trinity, immediate afterlife, hell, the need to be born again, etc.). They've basically set themselves up as "God's organization" and are severe critics of historic Christianity, both ecclesiastically and doctrinally. They don't "love Jesus" in the manner historic Christians do. To them, Jesus is just an angel who did the Father's bidding; not God Incarnate reconciling humanity to Himself. --former JW, now evangelical Christian

Steve Fuller said...

chiliast,

I tend to agree...that's why I made the little joke about human and chimp DNA. It looks so similar, but that 3 percent difference is a big deal.

I was just surprised how similar everything felt to a Christian church service, including many things said in the message.

I thought it would be much more different for some reason.

Mark Hunter said...

Steve and others;

Yes, the JW services closely match in tone and feel a Christian service, however it wouldn't be unkind to recognise there's a lack of worship in the proceedings.

Also, ex-JWs do not hate JWs. That has to be firmly cleared up! Most ex-JWs have loved ones who are still JWs. Making the decision to leave the JWs is a very painful one because of the fact that we love those we're leaving behind.

So let's not tar ex-JWs with the 'hate' brush, please.

Also, I wrongly posted my web address. My blog, where I look at JW teachings with a Christian eye - having spent 36 years as a JW - is http://jehovahswitness.tumblr.com

M

A Modern Ancient said...

I totally agree with Jamie about looking forward to Mondays because of this part of your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fair review of Jehovah's Witnesses. There are many good-hearted people among its ranks. I am married to a loving JW in fact. When I left JW's three years ago because of their view and treatment of women and children, I lost my entire family outside of my husband. I lost every friend I had ever made. Loyalty to the organization requires a complete cutting off of anyone leaving.

I write this as a caveat to anyone getting involved in the organization. Once you are ensnared, there is no going back without suffering extreme repercussions. I have known many who have killed themselves because of the suffering brought on by such cruelty and inhumane treatment.

Jamie said...

J,

I wouldn't put LDS and Jehovah's Witnesses in the same category. While the doctrine of LDS can be questionable, they are extremely family-oriented, promote great values, and do a lot for their communities. I think classifying them as a cult is a little extreme.

meMonica said...

I do understand the resentment the JWs have against other Christian denominations. My 15 year old daughter was being visited by JWs for about three weeks and my minister (Methodist) told me to stop the visits because the JWs are a cult.

I don't really know a lot about JWs. My sister-in-law has been studying with them for about two years now but we don't really talk about it together.

DanThoms said...

I had a JW who came to my door back when I was a teenager. He was an older Gentleman and I must say, quite likable. However, after visiting me 3 weeks in a row he said that he had to give up because neither one of us was going to convince the other one of anything. It was fun though.

Spiritualbrother said...

Nice post. The reading the answers from a book or magazine seems quite mechanical or robotic.

Kurt Prochnow said...

There is the usual assortment of people among JWs that you would find in any church, including some very dear ones. It is their teachings that are unusual, and some are quite odd. What sets them apart from most Christians is that they get those teachings in their literature channeled by spirits and angels to their leaders, who then publish it as being revealed truth. They despise Christians who do not receive this channeled material and therefore do not have truth. I have put up a site that details some of their more unusual doctrines. http://watchtowerkarma.webs.com/

don said...

Steve,
I was wondering, do you have any of the house churches on your list to visit?
While I am not a "house church guy" (usually end up in debates with them), I do think you will find them interesting as they do not have that normal "churchy" feel.
Just thought it might be another interesting part of your journey.

vicki said...

i just came across this blog today... can't remember how. However I've been reading bits of it off and on for the past few hours. I am coming back for more. Honest questions with honest not so sure answers.

thankyou

Anonymous said...

I just read the comical version of your take on JWs. Being someone who was involved with JWs but grew up as a Catholic, I have a very straight up and honest view of the whole thing.

As a child, I remember 'religiously' reading stuff from their own bible and thinking that the Catholics were doing the very things the bible said they shouldn't do! But then I'd talk myself out of it because of the fear I was taught to have in regard to going against anything the almighty priest and Catholic religion taught us. I was also taught that Catholics were the only ones going to heaven. I wondered what the hell I would do in heaven. (yes, I was being funny)

At the end of my teens, I became involved with a young man who grew up as one of JWs. As they tried to tell me stuff about their religion, I fiercely protected the Catholic religion and was horrified to find out they didn't celebrate Jesus' birthday! Horror of horrors. Then I recalled that not once did my own Catholic bible mention anything about Jesus celebrating HIS OWN birthday. Hmmm. That's when I had to start asking questions.

I kept asking questions for the next four or five years and came to find that they were the least hypocritical and most misunderstood religion out there. That was my own thoughts...not someone's brainwashing. I was brainwashed as a Catholic to believe all kinds of things that didn't make sense to me.

Several of you have said some derogatory things about JWs that are absolutely false. I am no longer associated with them and have absolutely no bad feelings toward them whatsoever, and in fact, I still believe their teachings to be truthful and the only thing I've seen to make the most sense.

They don't hate Catholics and other religions...they hate the fact that so many are misled by them. They don't believe that the flock (besides the 144,000) are just flitting about with nothing better to do. They have their own plan of living on the earth as it was intended in the first place. That appealed to me since I had no idea what I would be doing up in heaven. I kind of like it here when things are going well :-)

It would take way too long to explain it all because there are so many ways we have been misled.

So why am I no longer associated with them? Because I chose not to live my life with such high standards...it was certainly NOT because they couldn't wait to expel me from the group. In fact, a lot of the garbage that has happened in my life since probably wouldn't have had the chance to even take place had I stayed.

Okay, I'm just thinking out loud now. People really like to take apart things they don't understand or couldn't live up to. One thing I liked about JWs is that they never said anything they couldn't back up both with scripture and with daily current events.

Oh, and by the way, if you ever watch a bunch of little children in school reciting what's in their school books, will you also think that they are being brainwashed? Come on...you guys are making something out of nothing. I guess that makes it more interesting huh? lol (I'm reminded of the tabloids)

Remember, God loves us all but he has his reasons for having certain ways to follow him and he should know. If you believe in God at all, you would agree that he knows what's coming and is trying to give us the free will to accept it his way. If you don't like it that's fine, but then don't be surprised when the shiznit hits the fan and you try to say, "Well, why didn't God send someone out to warn us?" haha...he did! Jesus started going house to house and town to town with his disciples too. Where do you think they got that from?

Come to think of it, I hate the Catholic religion but I don't hate my Catholic family and friends. Put it into perspective and don't be afraid of what you don't understand. That's what I say.

Cult...that one seriously cracked me up. If it were a cult, I'd be the first one on the bandwagon dissing them!

I wish you all well in your search for the truth. And Steve, this is a great blog and has given me insight into other religions I never even heard of. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

BTW Jamie, who posted, "...once you decide to leave you will never be allowed to come back," if I decided to go back, they would welcome me with open arms. So that is completely false.

Christopher Day, I loved the joke you told. Hilarious!!

Mark Hunter, in four or five years, I never had any teachings teachings and practices that were spiritually and emotionally damaging.

Now who's actually being misled?

There are good and bad people in every religion. Don't let a few angry ex's ruin the whole thing. Have you ever had an ex girlfriend/boyfriend say something bad about you? Was it all true or some of it said in anger because of some personal issue.

Again, I say, it's all being taken out of proportion. I had a great time with JWs. And btw, they do drink. It's just not a belief that it's okay to do anything that is not done in moderation.

As I said earlier, too many myths to bust.

Anonymous said...

I have been a JW now for 20+ years. We hold the Soveriegnity of Jehovah God Paramount. This in harmony with Jesus himself who in the Lords' prayer emphazied God and His Will first in importance (Matthew 6:9-12) So like Jesus we say not my will be done but Yours(Jehovahs') Like Christ we believe we should live a self-sacrifing way of life. We believe Jesus is the egual of Adam before Adam sinned. He was sent to earth to fulfill all the prophesies wrote about him since the very first prophecy in Gen. 3:15. Thus Jesus is the Amen to every Word of God. So we strive to live as Jesus did on earth. Rev 1: 15 CALLS Jesus the faithfull witness. He witnessed about God Will for us and likewise JWs' witness also. Satan is called the god og this world by Paul at 2Cor.4:4. So yes he has misled millions into believing the lies that He teaches. The Bible calls this collective body of teachings Babylon theGreat(Rev. 18:4) So part of our preaching/teaching activity involves helping ones to become free of false teachings of which Satan is the author. This i s to Jesus calling the religius leaders of his day children of the devil. For this they had him put to death by Pilate. Thus we may be viewed as weird by some. We know we are not perfect. We make mistakes we sin. So we strieve to be as close to Christ as humanly possible. We ask forgiveness where we make those mistakes.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have come across your blog. I found it researching Jehovah's Witness churches, as I am considering attending. I have read the Bible on my own over the last year, beginning to end, as well as the Qu'ran. I commend you on your 52 week journey. As the Muslim faith emphasizes, each shall be held to account for his own soul. I know that you will find God on your journey, for the book of Jeremiah states a promise to all in chapter 29, verse 13..."You shall seek me, and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." For all I don't know, I am certain that those who earnestly seek God will find Him.

Blackbeauty said...

First I'd like to thank God for all the wonderful ways He's guiding us to the TRUTH of His WORD.

I'd like to thank you, Steve, for sharing this experiment with us as it develops. I would like to believe that it is God guiding you on this journey of discovery to the truth which we all shall come to know one day.

A commentator randomly suggested that you have people praying for you and over you, I happen to agree with him. I'd like everyone who logs on to PLEASE keep you and your family in prayer that the will of God be fulfilled in your lives and that God would oversee all areas of your lives and it all shall be done in Jesus' name to the glory of God. I believe in the POWER of PRAYER. As Christians, Jesus Himself has set that example for us.

I landed on your blogg for reasons God only knows. I know it's not a coincidence. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share in your experiment with the multitudes to be enlightened to the glory of God.

I'm presently a member of - The Redeemed Christian Church of God in New Hampshire. I was raised in the Christian Faith. From my preteen years until now I'm still praying and seeking God's truth for His people. I've had my experiences with these churches: Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness and now with RCCG.

I've enjoyed reading all the commentators point of views. Specially the one who referred us to Jeremiah 29:13..."And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart."

Let us seek the face of God as we continue in prayer and God the almighty shall hear our prayers, have mercy on us in Jesus' name.

~~~In spirit we press on~~~

Blackbeauty said...

Hi steve, you might see the same or simalar comments posted by me on your commentary pages. It's done intentionally because I see a relevance. Thanks!

Blackbeauty said...

Please... bear with me. The previous link above was entered wrong. This one here should take u to my blog. Thanks : )

Jesus D Zeus said...

In the USA there are about 2000 Christian denominations. None of these was established by Jesus. He would not split up his own house. This is the work of self righteous individuals, like Paul of Tarsus, who base their divisions on their sudies of Paul and his companion Luke, whom Jesus forbade to preach in Asia, the land of the Seven Churches in the Apocalypse.

http://jesusdzeus.com

Read articles # B 1,2 and 3 as well as # A 10

Anonymous said...

You need to led by the Holy Spirit in your endeavors. You would have clearly discerned by the Spirit of God that JW are a cult. I was a member of them for 10 years and they do not believe Jesus is God, the Son. They believe He was created and we are NOT to worship Him. An experience based on how you 'feel' can be deceptive. You must be led by the Spirit of the living God or it is just a flesh experience and what good is that? Judy Jacobs richardandjudy333@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, I loved the comment about humans and chimps sharing 97% of the Sam r DNA!!