- Religion and Philosophy
Exiting the Cult: How I Narrowly Escaped My Life As A Jehovah Witness
When the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses is mentioned, people’s first thought are of the annoying ‘door-knocking’ people. There are vast amount of jokes and stabs at the religion found all over the internet. Often though, there is not any more knowledge or thoughts about them. However, there is so much more about this religion than meets the eye. I know as for 8 years I was forced to be one of them. It is simply not known that that whole religion is basically just another under-cover cult. This is my account of life as one of them, by the end you will realise that Jehovah’s witnesses are actually much more dangerous than you think.
How It All Started:
Growing up, my brother and I were raised mostly by my mother Linda. She was someone who had been a devout Cristian for most of her life and had moved around from church to church until she discovered a particular church that was one of the many ‘Happy-Clappy’ branches. My brother and I were raised as Cristian’s affiliated with this church. Sunday school, daily bible QT (Quiet Time) was allocated for bible study of a few verses set out in books, and prayer before bed was non-negotiable. By age 7, having all this being a daily and weekly routine; I had clung onto the ‘faith’. I would eagerly remind Linda about QT time and ask to be the first when it came to bedtime prayer.
For years this continued, with me becoming more and more enthusiastic about the religion, this of course was simply brilliant for Linda and she would often comment to people about it. My brother, being 6 years older than me, grew less and less enthusiastic about his faith. The stage was set for an event that would forever change my life.
The Introduction To Jehovah’s Witnesses:
At age 11, we moved to a town where there wasn’t a church affiliated to our church. Linda searched around for a church and discovered the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She shortly announced to me that she would start bible study with them, I was still eager for my Cristian faith and asked if I too could join. After an initial period of her doubt, she agreed and over the next year she and I progressed to the point of baptism; fully fledging to the religion.
How My Life Changed For The Worst:
When I reached age 13, my eagerness toward the religion started slipping. I no longer fully believed in it and the many routines required became dull. Whenever Linda sensed it she would become more persistent about me putting more effort in and not accept any slack. If I did not immediately comply she would become irritated, overbearing and intrusive into my daily actions. It would become unbearable and I would then give in and begin doing things as they were supposed to. When I did, her attitude changed for the better and life would continue with incident. I soon found out however, that the life of a Jehovah’s Witness was more controlled and shut-in than I thought initially. Linda monitored my movements and she slowly began controlling my life. My friends would have to be ones whom she approved of and she would occasionally demand to see my phone and conversations when I started ‘slipping’. Her habits and actions she considered validated, in fact often parents were encouraged by the religion to keep an eye on their children, to know what happens in their life, to be fully involved in it. This was all explained and justifies by misinterpretations of scriptures admonishing parents to help their children to not become ‘tempted’ by ‘this ungodly world ruled by Satan’; to continue to instil ‘godly wisdom’ and to ensure that they were not influenced by ‘bad association’ i.e. worldly/unbelieving friends. I began learning how to pretend to seem ‘strong in the faith’ but of course I would slip up and have harsh reprimanding’s by both her and the ‘elders’ in the ‘congregation’, also my privacy became null and void in these times. I soon realised how my life would never be the same again.
Revealing Them As A Cult:
The most difficult time in my life was when I reached 18. By that time, I had inwardly stopped believing everything about the Jehovah witness religion for 2 years. There was unfortunately one catch: I would never be able to leave it; they made sure of it. I had been living a double life for the past 4 years. Outwardly, in the presence of Linda and the 70+ people in the local congregation, I had perfected my act of feigning belief. The degree to which it penetrated into my daily life was beyond compare. Daily bible reading; once a week family worship sessions with Linda; bi-weekly church meetings, both which had programs of lessons, for which you had to read and prepare for; field service up to 3 times a week, learning what to say to people at their homes in order to offer literature; the occasionally invitations to meals with fellow believers and conversation always revolving around bible topics.
The people who ran the cult knew what they were doing. The constant propaganda material given; the sermons at meetings and conventions help 3 times a year for up to 3 days, lasting 5 hours, were repetitious and focused on their twisted understanding of bible scriptures where the best means of brainwashing they created; by controlling people’s lives by creating structured routines that took up the majority of daily and weekend time making sure that people had no chance to be diverted and kept their main focus on working for their religion. As mentioned, they also had constant ‘reminders’ for parents to have a large influence in their children to the point of controlling their lives. Teenagers were often expected to hand over their phones to their parents to scan at request; their association with the outside were, at best, cut to the minimum, many children were pulled out of school when they finished grade 9 and were given the task of either learning basic courses or going into the full time ministry from 70 – 130 hours of ministry work a month. However on the most part children were home-schooled and were never given the chance to associate with anyone but those who were in the religion.
The ‘governing body’ though were the most accomplished with making sure people were never given the chance to leave. If someone were to leave the religion; they were banished. Believing followers were instructed to never make contact these people anymore. When met or seen in town they were not to even make eye contact or speak to them by any means. In a meeting they were announced to being banished and that would be the last mention of them. Family members were not exempted from this action. Parents were expected to instantly disown their children dared they stray. Under no circumstances were they allowed to make contact. Once someone left the religion they became non-existent. It was made as if the person was dead, they became a non-person.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult. There is simply no other way to describe them. The hierarchy; propaganda material; brainwashing; control of peoples very lives; and intense fear of being banished are plain examples of it.
How I Almost Lost My Life To It:
My life was ruled by the cult and Linda. She was completely brain-washed; a true mindless follower. I was forced to live the outward appearance of one of them. I had mastered the façade of belief; I would do all that was required; I would have to comply with her demands. It was torturing; I was depressed and I had no solace. I would have to try my best to hide whatever material, conversations with friends that she would disapprove of. Everything in my life was censored; I was banned from listening to any music that was deemed ‘inappropriate’ or contain any swearing; books that I bought or was given were first read through by her and she would ‘edit’ any sections containing any minor form of swearing, sex scenes or sexual references; and any and all swearing by erasing with removing liquid; black ink crossing out words; larger sections were covered by sticking pages together or sticking pieces of papers over. If she deemed the general plot or attitude being inappropriate she would simply rip and throw away with the garbage. Movies too were monitored, and any with a rating above 16 due to language or sex and nudity were instantly banned. If the movie was rated 13 with language and shortly into it too much swearing was shown, that movie would be changed or stopped instantly. I was not permitted to watch movies in the horror, thriller, ‘demonic’ references, and ‘overly’ violent action genres.
I had lived such a sheltered life that I had no grasp of the outside life; I had no knowledge on popular topics of which people my age and even younger had an abundance of. I was dangerously ignorant of important aspects of life. I was not allowed to have close friends who were not JW’s. I had never been permitted to date or form close relations with males that she was aware of. At age 14, I had been introduced by a school mate to Jethro; a guy with whom there was an instant connection. At the time he was 19 and we became very close friends, sharing life experiences but never going beyond that, we had decided that it was simply not an option, it remained platonic. Unfortunately I let myself slip and Linda found out. I tried explaining but she did not want to know. I was told to cut contact, I was banned from talking to him and my phone was confiscated. So one day I simply stopped replying to him, and in respect to him I dropped off the face of the earth.
By the time I was 19 nothing had changed. I was permitted to have school mates only if she approved of them; I therefore had to do my best of white-washing them for her information and hope that she never learned they were not as I said. I met my best friend Kyra and had to go through the same routine in respect to my mother. I had to not only pretend myself but force others to put up a façade simply so that I could keep in contact. It was not ever fair on them, and would sometimes do so, but not enough for me to keep up the act. Linda discovered this about Kyra and she was banned from visiting and I had to cut contact and delete their numbers. She would become unbearable and make life hard to a point I cannot describe until I complied and ‘proved myself’ again, she then would go back to pleasant. This happened twice and I had to betray Kyra twice. I could not make her understand and she thought I had backstabbed her, which in a way I had. I thought that I would never speak to her, she wrote me off completely, and I could not blame her.
My daily life was mapped out:
Monday- work, then at night personal bible time
Tuesday- work, family worship at night
Wednesday- ministry work in the morning, meeting preparation at night
Thursday- work, midweek meeting at night
Friday- work, night free
Saturday- ministry work in the morning, meeting preparation in the afternoon, night free
Sunday- meeting in the morning, free for the rest of the day.
However my ‘free time’ was never actually free. I was kept at home. My movements were monitored, if I went out on my own, she had to know with whom, where to, how long I would be gone. These outings were rare and mostly included me going to town to do home shopping and rent payment. The only ‘friends’ I had were JW’s. For years I had put a façade in order to survive. I did not truly even know myself, and if I had, would always have to hide it.
How I Managed To Escape:
In early 2015 something happened that would change the rest of my life. Jethro, the friend I knew from when I was 14; messaged me through Facebook. Conversation began, and over the next few weeks I told him how my life was. I was by this time much more skilled at hiding things from Linda, and I managed to see Jethro secretly 3 times in secret. We became closer and decided to become exclusive.
Life was increasingly becoming more unbearable and he and I both saw I could not stay with Linda like that for much longer. We agreed that I would at the next available opportunity to pack my things and move in with him; no matter how short the notice. One Friday I learned that Linda had appointment at the hospital the following Wednesday. She was leaving early to get into the front of the que. There was always a long waiting time there. On Saturday I eagerly texted Jethro with the news, I was hoping that he would agree. After a few moments he replied with these words: “My mum agreed to come get you. Tell me what time to come get you. Just pack what you need and come.”
Wednesday morning came and an hour after Linda left I was packed and opening the gate for Lorraine- Jethro’s mum. I was finally able to set the course for my future myself. It has been a year since; and to this day I have not regretted that decision.