I often get notified of media mentions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society via fellow ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacts on the web. The truly driven Danny Haszard sent me this one (thanks, Danny).
San Antonio’s media home on the net has a feature called “Through kids’ eyes” in which children write a little about their hopes and dreams and concerns and daily life. It’s not exactly a news item. But among the (statistically improbable) stories of JW pedophiles, murderers, abusers, scam artists, and other criminals and troubled ones in the news, this little article shines out to me.
My heart goes out to Rogelio, the little boy who doesn’t yet understand… but he already understands so much. It’s all there. Already. I wonder how old he is. Third, fourth grade?
He begins and ends the column with the importance of the Jehovah’s Witness identity for his family.
This ground of his existence means that he can’t celebrate his birthday. It’s the first thing he mentions. Not that he doesn’t celebrate it, but that he can’t.
He doesn’t know why – he can’t explain – he “can’t write it.”
This central fact of organizational loyalty means that although he loves math and likes science, he won’t be going to college.
I want to go to college but my parents won’t let me because they say it’s not important because whoever is with the world is going to be destroyed. They want me with them and to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I am second generation and I will be a Jehovah Witness.
This little boy already knows – deep down – that unless he goes along with the organization’s rules, he won’t be with his family (whether because of the end of the world, or because he would be shunned by them if he left or questioned). He tries – already – to interpret the looming murder by God of everyone else in the world except for JWs as something other than a nightmarish doctrine. His family just wants him to be with them, that’s all. When everyone else is dead.
This central fact of his family’s identity – and of his whole existence – is the shadow on child’s sweet, small daily bits of everyday life. The world might be destroyed sometime soon, but if there was a fire (just a fire) – he would try to save his PlayStation, computer and portable DVD player.
He wants to save his computer because it reminds him of his family.
I don’t dream anything. I used to have nightmares like a giant monster is following us and destroyed the whole city, even me. I don’t have dreams anymore. In 10 years, I’ll be right here in San Antonio, with my family, being a Jehovah’s Witness.
Maybe he forgot that world destruction thing, just for a moment. I hope so. He remembers the bullies at school, though, and I’ll bet he gets some… bullying. (Don’t even start with me on the so-called “war on Christmas” in this country. If you didn’t celebrate it, you’d understand that the celebration of Christmas is in no danger in America. Try being a JW kid. Try sitting out all the holiday stuff.)
I get some pretty harsh comments on the blog sometimes from people – JWs and others – who don’t perceive why I criticize the JW leadership and its policies. They don’t understand why I try to connect the dots of the psychological and social controls that generate sexual and domestic abuse, splitting, depression, fear, heartlessness, self-righteousness and cruelty, and a host of other problems. Are they ok with the exploitation of people – and the destructive effects of this exploitation on real people – even under the mask of religion?
They seem to think I hate JWs. I don’t, and I find myself reiterating that ad nauseum. But I do heartily disapprove of the racket that, among other things, does this to a young child. For those of us who grew up in the organization, it’s pretty easy to read between the lines.
There are lots of things to criticize, but this is the one that still resonates most deeply for me.
What they do to the minds and hearts of children. What they take away.
It’s just a boy who can’t celebrate his birthday, and can’t say why. Just a boy who just wants to ride in a truck and watch cartoons and eat some Frosted Flakes and be with his family. Just some little boy who fears being separated from the family he loves – and already understands the implicit future threat of disfellowshipping and shunning and the monster God of nightmare.
It’s just a little boy. Just one little boy.
Already, he’s afraid to dream about his future or his potential. They’ve already done that.
His family is all he has, and all he is likely ever to have. He does not want to lose them.
He knows that his own path of faith is not his to choose or to explore or to pursue. He knows that it’s all about the rules – not love, not forgiveness, not compassion, not any real service to others.
He knows all of this – he knows it in a confused inarticulate way, but he knows it.
However well-meaning and loving his family might be (and I’m sure they are, that’s not the point here), they will always put aside what they know of love – what they know in their hearts to be true – in favor of the cold-hearted “guidance” of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. That’s how strong the hold is over members.
You want to know why I criticize? That’s why. More than any other reason, that’s why.
The sad dark lump in my stomach rises to my throat.