I feel like I have learned a lot during the almost year we have been visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. For one thing they are nice people, two I like all the ones I have met, three there is no way I would want to be a Jehovah’s Witness. They are not that weird, the way they present the faith is actually incredibly simplistic feeling. I can’t stand reading the Watchtower and other ones of their publications because I feel like I am reading a children’s publication for adults.
I would like to present to you a few things I think are really great about the faith and the things that keep me from wanting to be a part of it.
1. They take the sixth commandment seriously. Thou shalt not kill. Pretty basic but they really honor it which is something mainstream Christianity weasels itself out of. They won’t kill even in wars at great peril to themselves. It is a principle I can agree with.
2. When you walk into a Kingdom Hall you feel welcome, they really make an effort and everyone makes you feel like you are a smart and interesting person. I don’t know if it is sincere but I liked it and my church does not exude that level of niceness, not that they are unfriendly, they just don’t make as much of an effort. This, however, is only based on two experiences one at a kingdom hall the other at a conference type of an event I went to one Saturday.
3. They take turns preaching and teaching. I believe there is no pastor and any qualified man gets a turn at the pulpit to deliver the message. I do not know if this is open to women too.
4. There is a discussion of the material that everyone has been studying after the message and anyone; man, woman or child who has read the material and has an answer, example or opinion is called on.
5. Everyone is involved in the ministry regardless of gender or race. They have no history of racial discrimination.
6. Our Jehovah’s witnesses are very knowledgeable about their faith, I assume others are too.
7. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have done a lot for free speech in the US. Their fight for their own religious freedoms gave the rest of us more and better freedoms. Not that it was intentional but they do not grudge others the same freedoms that they have. Thanks to them I was not suspended or disciplined for not pledging allegiance to an indifferent piece of cloth in middle school. I can appreciate that.
Well, on to the bad, or at least the things that do not appeal to me:
1. If I were to sum up the basic message I have heard, so far, the important bit is: Jehovah’s name! I mean, I am starting out with a nitpicky thing I know but it was the first thing that jumped out at me. If the emphasis was: Jehovah! Fine, but his name? I was sure I was merely arguing over semantics but after bringing up the subject I realized there is something incredibly confusing and of putting in this little hair splitty issue here. Not that I care, but they do so that is why I bring it up. I think I mentioned this before but let me do it again. Here I repackage Mrs. JW’s metaphor. If there are a group of men outside and I shout out “husband!” instead of my spouse’s name maybe half of them turn around, assuming they are all married thinking my voice sounds like their wives’ but they quickly turn back around after realizing I am not her. They rest never turned around because my voice was too different. Only my husband will come over and be like “What’s up wifey? May I make you a sandwich?” The Skeptiboy is a sweetheart, isn’t he? After rewriting the metaphor calling him by name no longer seems important because he knows me, just like God, or Jehovah, knows me. Let’s look at it closely and I will now show you why this metaphor is entirely inappropriate and not apt for the situation. The real situation is that my husband, representing God here once again, is alone outside. There is no one else there. No other married men and I can call him whatever the sap I want to because there can be no one else to answer and just like God he will say “Yes?” and ask me what I want. The part that disturbs me is that having to use God’s name assumes that there are other gods that could mistake me calling for them or that God won’t know that I am talking to Him. I am monotheistic, I know the JWs are too but this just makes no sense to me.
2. Everyone is involved in the ministry. I know I listed this as a good thing, it is, but there is really only one ministry that truly counts, the one where you are evangelizing. I do not believe that everyone has that gift. If someone does not the JW’s shove square pegs into round holes. I am not gifted in that area. I am gifted in the start internet fights area. Just kidding about the fights but really, not one of my gifts. Sure you are allowed to use your other God given gifts for His glory as long as you also do this one activity that you may not be gifted at. We cannot all be eyes, some of us are big toes, often over looked and not nearly as important as other parts put still having a function and most importantly being a part of the body. I maybe a big toe; I mean I think serving may be my gift. No glamour in that but I sure feel rewarded helping out and working behind the scenes at my church. Then again, anyone can do that, see what I mean.
3. Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from socializing with non-Witnesses except to convert them. I mean they are allowed to talk to outsiders, no one is an island and they bank and grocery shop and work and have to converse and get acquainted with people but if they start getting to be too friendly the witnessing always has to come in. They only want one thing from you, me, anyone on the outside, but at least they are open about it.
4. They strongly discourage, so strongly that I think I will say that they forbid, reading any criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This, at least in Mr. JW comes out in a way that almost seems like strong paranoia. So strong that after reading some humorous stories by Tom Sheepandgoats I had to spend several minutes explaining that he really is a JW, not a fake one, not an ex-one and not pretending in anyway and says good things and really is a good JW. The Skeptigirl is skeptical and just could not live not listening to all sides in such subjective matters. I read criticisms of my own faith and it does not shake it, it makes me understand it better. Sometimes people hurt by the system of beliefs that brings so much light and goodness to your life are the ones that can teach you the most about it. A faith unquestioned is not a faith worth having. If it is so fragile that you dare not even entertain thoughts that it may not be true it is not very strong at all. You haven’t even faith the size of a mustard seed. I am not saying Mr. JW’s faith is weak, I am merely saying I cannot live like that.
5. Blood transfusions. I mean I am glad bloodless surgeries and other alternative bloodless therapies are being developed, there is a lot of good in that and the push by JWs in that fields is awesome. I just do not believe that there is anything against the teachings of Jesus Christ in that. This is 100% a matter of interpretation and I really do not see it the way they arrive at this conclusion. I want to not have a moral dilemma when I, or someone I love, is in danger and needs blood.
6. The afterlife not so tempting. Pushing aside that my interpretation of the scriptures makes me arrive at a different sort of an afterlife than they do I want to just talk about the thoughts that I have about theirs. What the Witnesses told me was that all of them would, after Jesus’s dominion was returned to Earth, live in a paradise here. It would be just like now except we would be immortal and all disease and sorrow would be gone. Together with our families and friends forever on a perfect harmonious Earth. What is unattractive about that? Well nothing really except the time spans involved. I mean it would be lovely to live a few thousand years in full health, bloom of my youth, which is starting to fade, exploring this Earth having experiences, not having to worry about money, pollution, sickness or anything. Trying out a few extreme sports. Visiting everywhere beautiful and exotic on this perfect Earth. The only problem is that after a few thousand years I would think it would get a little boring. I think a more infinite existence, nothing like this, full of unimaginable sensations and experiences would be more to my taste as far as heaven or afterlife goes. Unless the Witnesses expect to do space travel. I really must ask them. That would be neat. Maybe they could find other species to evangelize and strange new doors to knock on. Then I may recant my verdict of boring.
7. The Witnesses are not exactly egalitarian when it comes to the sexes. I have made my views clear about the subject on this blog before. I mean the church I go to now is not exactly egalitarian either but showing me into the mold of a normal woman is a little ridiculous. So in light of my current church situation, let’s call it a neither good nor bad point but my heart is Evangelical Quaker. I still am a member of a Quaker congregation in the United States and feel like that is my true spiritual home.
So, there are my thoughts and what I feel like I learned about these warm, friendly, normal people. I am sure I can learn a few more things and I will boldly go and learn about other religions too but I feel like I know enough to form an informed opinion instead of one that is based on hearsay. I will report back to you about the possibility of Jehovah’s Witness space travel as soon as I know anything.