Controversial topic on deck! I’ve passingly noted that I grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness household so every month I get a few emails asking me to speak on my experience. I’ve been hesitant to do a video on it because I respect my family and any time you mention JWs folks tend to come out with all the lies to fit into their agenda. Even as a person who has no desire to ever be a Witness, I don’t have any desire to bash the religion with untruths. However I received an email from a young lady last week and I felt that the questions were really well addressed and worth responding to.
Brief basics on the Jehovah’s Witness religion. It is not a cult, albeit it does have a rather conservative tinge that can vary depending on regional experience. Folks are allowed to associate with others outside of the religion and while I don’t agree with the practice of dis-fellowshipping/shunning, this is a practice used across various religions, so if that makes JWs a cult, welp…Catholicism, Mormons, Pentecostal and COGICs would all be a cult as well. Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect of Christianity, but what makes them different is their interpretation of John 1:1 as a nontrinitarian religion and therefore their rebuffing of the Trinity doctrine. Basically they do not believe that God (the Father), Jesus (the Son) and the Holy Spirit are one entity. That’s one of the biggest differences, along with the belief in the 144,000 which I can’t speak to cause the book of Revelations is not something I’m ever trying to revisit or be here for. And that’s more religion than I care to discuss.
Oh an holidays, might as well explain that. They do not celebrate any holidays. Birthdays, which oddly enough was never completely explained to me until I attended a Baptist church, because there are only three mentions of birthdays in the Bible and every time some person of God is getting their head chopped off. And Jesus ain’t do it, but he did turn water into wine so bless up and turn up. Christmas and Easter because they all have pagan origins and only came into the Christian context post the rise of the Byzantine empire, all things I learned from reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. Halloween, ehhh, plenty of other folks don’t celebrate it either all for the same reason.
And that ends my brief history lesson on the theology of a religion I don’t practice. Well, I don’t celebrate holidays cause like capitalism and brokeness and capitalism, but yeah. On to the questions:
1. How did you feel? Did you feel as though that it was the truth or that it was something you only did because of your parents?
So JW’s call their religion “the truth.” Amongst themselves I get it because it is their personal truth but in the context of the world and the diverse religions and if you want to get real technical folks who have never had exposure to monotheistic religions it does strike me as a bit combative and rude to refer to your religion as the truth above all others for everyone else. So I never referred to it as that and no I do not feel as though it is my truth.
I am able to have respect for the religion because my parents never shoved it down my throat. I was always told to research and come to my own understanding of the religion. In theory Witnesses’ do not baptize their children as babies, instead your are suppose to come to your own decision to get baptized when you are of age. Humans being humans and folks following trends, I do remember all the teenagers in my Hall getting baptized around the same time cause it was the thing to do. I didn’t get along with too many of them, largely because they were up to no good, so I missed that boat.
2. Did you make any friends in the congregation and did you loose any of them?
Lose friends? No, I had a really rough time with the kids in my congregation. I’ve never been able to deal in any terms other than honesty and growing up in a small suburbs where folks largely lack an identifiable culture which is an epic struggle for Black Americans, who in my Hall reverted to attempting to be as unnecessarily hood as possible. Like we live in Delaware, I don’t care if you rep Chester, PA, I am not competing against you in the struggle awards, I happen to like having two parents, a front AND backyard while flexing my lexicon in full sentences. I could not be bothered. So I had very few friends within the hall and I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people. When I left for college I didn’t come back home until Winter Break. I found every reason and adoptive family to ensure that going back to Delaware for longer than 36 hours was not necessary.
3. Did you feel as though others were being too invasive into your life?
I feel like this is one of those things where your experience is going to be different person to person. Region and culture can change a lot. I remember when a Trinidadian family came into our hall and they were just chill people. They were one of the few families I really liked and I would find every reason to go to their house to hang out and EAT all of the food. It also helped that they had a daughter who was just as socially awkward as me so we kicked it hard and I removed myself as much as possible from the super judgmental folks. They exist in every religion and organization. The holier than thou mentality is not only begotten to JWs. You will find the self-appointed Deaconess in every church. I think also people tend to take forgranted the walks of life that people are coming from before they convert and how much that impacts their mentality. It be the folks with the most dirt in their closet over compensating as if it will deflect from their past days. And then there are just the folks that like to power trip, which within the Kingdom Hall isn’t that easy to do. Really the only way to do that is to insert yourself into other peoples business, so I get where the question is coming from and I’ve seen it happen. But I’m rude and have no problem telling people “no” and letting them know when they’re placing themselves to close to my bubble.
4. How do you feel about JW now?
I respect it as the religion of most of my family. I don’t have much to say about the religion as a whole. It’s not something for me but I also don’t need to go around wearing that on my sleeve and convincing everyone why I chose not to get baptized. Spirituality is a personal experience that you have to construct for yourself, so since I ask that people respect that for me, I have to respect that in others no matter what the package it comes in. Most of my issues with JW’s, aside from the theology that I disagree on, comes down to individuals and my mother is forever telling me to not judge the religion based on the man…I do think she has a point.
I didn’t mention this in the video, but overall when people ask me about growing up in a JW household, I feel as though it’s coming from folks trying to grapple with their own spirituality and walking away from the religion of their parents. Even if its something they they don’t agree with it is still very familiar. Misery can be familiar and thats why some people have a hard time walking away from it, because they pair the familiar with comfort. So the same goes with a religion that was a constant in your childhood and as an adult you’re dealing with walking away from the familiar. Is it something you believe or something you do out of habit? What do you now feel that space of your life with? How to work this into your relationship with your parents? I think these are things we all deal with. I had a bit of trepidation about how my Father would react to me not getting baptized but it didn’t go nearly as bad as I thought it would. I have the good fortune of having parents who I respect and they respect me in return. It will be interesting to see what becomes of my siblings and I as we start families and some of us are Witnesses while others aren’t. I don’t know how that will fare for our offspring and their relationships. But we shall see.
How have you dealt with growing up in one religion but deciding to move on to another? Did you go through a period of spiritual exploration when you left your parents house? Join the discussion, just remember to keep it respectful.
The author Jouelzy
Jouelzy is a #SmartBrownGirl, Author, Vlogger & Writer, addressing lifestyle issues that impact women of color from beauty, culture to technology. With 162k+ subscribers she’s reshaping the image of women of color, who honor their right to revel in their diversity.