My JW experience

As far back as grade school I realized that I was never meant to be a Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, my first published piece of writing was inspired by my JW experience. When I was in third grade my parents found a mysterious note that appeared out of no where wedged between the front security door of our house. It prompted my parents to “publish” it directly to the police in fear of something happening while we where away, attending the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I told them I wrote it because I didn’t want to go. Attending the Kingdom Hall of JW’s had been forced upon me and my seven siblings 3 days a week, from as early as I can remember until halfway into my 7th grade year; but by then the damage had been done.

From what I know my mother studied with the JW’s off and on in the 1970’s and sometime during the 1980’s she became baptized. Growing up my father was never baptized. He worked for Philip Morris, a tobacco plant that afforded him to care for himself, my mom and eight children. But according to the JW’s working for a tobacco plant was worldly so my father was never officially welcomed into the JW congregation; despite our regular attendance every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Our family of ten would take up the first two rows. “They’re so well mannered and polite,” they would say to my parents. Myself nearby smiling yet hiding how I really felt, grrrrr!

I’ve fought internally well into my adult years my JW experience because I feel it robbed and polluted my God given creativity. I’m certain that had I been given the opportunity way back then to capitalize on what came naturally I would be…Ughhh…jeesh. The thought alone causes me to cringe at the years that have gone by; but I’m here now and even though the JW experience has shortened my attention span because attending the meetings often caused me to lose focus and drift away, anywhere but there.

Today I find it especially hard for me to read anything that doesn’t fully peak my interest. I’m a writer who don’t like to read anything too lengthy, that’s why the majority of my blog post are short. I write according to my own attention span; that and the fear of losing what creativity I have left.  Sounds strange, I know a writer who doesn’t like to read. This is the result of being forced to read the JW literature:

  • The Watchtower
  • Awake magazines
  • The Bible
  • The book of Paradise
  • The Truth book
  • The book titled Listen to the Great Teacher and more
    • memorizing songs
    • attending 2 and 4 day assembly sessions
    • passing the bread and wine every year during Passover

My birthday was never celebrated. I never pledged the allegiance to the flag. I wasn’t allowed to support our United States Armed Forces. I sat alone in empty class rooms during class celebrations of Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and as far as participating as Santa’s helper in Santa’s workshop before Christmas vacation, that too was out of the question.

My parents never spoke of politics and voting, definitely not. I remember teachers used to offer extra credit if we watched the debate and turned in a page summary. I would sneak and listen when I could; but over the years I missed out on a lot of extra credit.

The JW’s have claimed for decades that were living in the last days, critical times hard to deal with (their words not mine). One time I was eavesdropping in the mid 80’s back when I was around 10 or so and I heard a newly wed, one of the young Witnesses within the the congregation tell my mother that the Elders (leaders) of the congregation suggested that she not have children because we are living in the last days and it wouldn’t be good to have a child when the world is coming to an end. Thirty something years later I believe this woman is still without children.

When I was in my mid 30’s I did a little research about the JW’s and found where they have had multiple years where they have predicted that the End of the World. Their last prediction was the year 1975. Leading up to the year that would be the End they had been instructed to rid themselves of all their worldly possessions; houses, cars everything. Ironically I was born December 27, 1974 perhaps that’s why my parents and I clashed so much growing up, they where never really prepared for me; for them the end was coming in 1975.

Fast forward to September of 2001. A day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks I welcomed the Devil into my house. I offered it a comfortable chair to sit in and a cool glass of water. It was a JW woman.  I knew her and she knew my family. She had stopped by to leave me some bible literature.

I would think that after such a traumatic event for us as a nation that this woman would’ve offered prayer, but no. This woman sat face to face with me in my home; with a large smile and with the softest voice said, “The end is here, it’s all over the news and in the papers.” With pure glee she went on to say, “It’s only a matter of time now that Jehovah will make this all a Paradise this is it, the end is here!”

Not long after that I held the door open for the Devil to leave and had I not given her one of my best glasses I would’ve thrown it in the trash instead of scrubbing it the way that I did.

I said we stopped attending the Kingdom Hall of JW’s the middle of my 7th grade year. By 8th grade my P.E. teachers had noticed my athleticism. That year I played basketball, ran cross country, and for the first time ever I ran track for a summer league. My time running the 800 earned me a spot to run in the Junior Olympics that same year, 1989 San Antonio, Texas.  I didn’t place in the top 3 but it was a huge accomplishment because I was still new to this type of Freedom. The Freedom to participate. Two years later I became a teen mom.

It’s not that I dislike JW’s, I dislike their practices and beliefs. Sometimes I sit and imagine the hundreds of thousands of adult children like me who too had been forced into the JW way of thinking. Those that grew up and had to eventually face the Real World, a world that we’d always known to be Worldly. A world that the Congregation had not prepared us for. I wonder how many ex JW’s are out here taking it day by day trying to understand it all. Trying to socialize with regular everyday people; only to find out that there are good people not affiliated with the JW’s. We see that many are not worldly at all; but to them something is off, something isn’t right, something is weird about Us.

I can go further when I think about how many ex JW’s are in prison because they couldn’t find their way. I toy with the thought of the election being swayed if all the JW’s were instructed by the Elders of the congregation to vote for a particular party. Indeed, they would adhere to whatever the Elders set forth.

As an adult I’ve attended the Kingdom Hall to please my mother on the very few occasions she has invited me to, and each time it brought back bad memories. I look around and see the small children who are so innocent and don’t have a clue; and for the quiet, shy little girl sitting waiting for it to all be over I see a younger version of me.

Out of all my siblings I’m the only one to show resistance to the JW’s, the only one who doubt them. The only one who has questions that need to be answered.  Having raised my two children I knew early on that I would not force religion upon them as it was forced upon me; but I did teach them to pray to Jehovah God who I’ve accepted as the Most High, who has remained unseen throughout my life; but whose presence has guided and continues to guide me each and everyday.

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Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Parkland Branch) Louisville, KY

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