I am thinking of this for my latest blog, but its good to share it with you all.
I imagine that those who have never been Jehovah's Witnesses and just hear about them or perhaps "know" a couple must wonder, "Why all the fuss?"
Since we have moved into the internet age, everyone is an expert. Those who have left the Jehovah's Witness (JW) religion often write of their experiences, such as yours truly. Hey, as long as you have a computer and the internet, you can publish whatever you want. (It's like the National Enquirer is competing against it's own readers!) Thus, you can count on former JW's to appear on all kinds of internet forums, whether its on beliefnet.com, or the local newspaper website in your community when they do an article on a JW Convention, the building of a new place of worship, or the unfortunate death of a member do to their controversial understanding of blood transfusions and blood medicine.
It's little wonder then that rumors and story's about Jehovah's Witnesses abound. Occasionally, some are true! Keep in mind though, between all the rhetoric, and all of the nonsense, we are talking about actual people.
To some, JW's are a small, minority, fringe group. They also happen to be very dynamic and affect many lives.
The average amount of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout this decade have been averaging between 5 and 6 million. Yet, by their own figures in their annual Yearbook, they average between 200,000-300,000 baptized new ones each year! What happens when we do the math for just this decade so far?
At an average of 250,000 baptized each year over 8 years, you come out with over 2,000,000 (yes thats million) baptized and counted as new members in this decade alone. Here are the numbers
2000 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 323,439
2001 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 288,907
2002 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 263,431
2003 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 265,469
2004 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 258,845
2005 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 262,416
2006 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 247,631
2007 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses 248,327
GRAND TOTAL 2,158,465
The average amount of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 2007 Yearbook was 6,491,775. In the 2000 Yearbook, the average number of Jehovah's Witnesses was 5,653,987. That means the average total amount of JW's grew by 837,788. More math you say? Ok.
2,158,465 baptized this period - the actual average growth of 837,788 = 1,320,677 actual people who somehow aren't with the group anymore.
Over 1.3 million people who are no longer active JW's in this decade so far!
Some have chosen to sit on the sideline. Others are kicked to the curb. When I was at Gilead, John Barr, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses told my missionary class that Jehovah's Witnesses disfellowship (excommunicate) close to 80,000 of its own members a year. (that number has been steadily rising for 30 years) That puts the number of baptized in more perspective. Roughly,1 out of every 3 new JW will be disfellowshipped. The rest slow down, stop, or just move on.
But these are numbers. Keep in mind that these numbers are people! Many who leave this group are no longer allowed to talk to their friends and even family members anymore because they have been kicked out. Lives and families have literally been ruined by the bucketful. Children are censured from their parents. Parents frequently have to make the horrible decision of loyalty to this group by shunning their own children or loyalty to their own children. No religion that claims to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who we read in the bible talked to all, including tax collectors and fornicators, can defend such a control mechanism.
Because the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses tolerates no additional questions from a baptized member concerning their faith once they actually get baptized, they are stuck, an irrevocable lifelong membership, whether they like it or not. The ability of the leadership to kick out anyone who disagrees or transgresses to their self righteous standards is nothing more then a control mechanism, designed to consolidate authority. Yes, the Governing Body quotes scriptures to support their claims. Charles Manson and Jim Jones also quoted bible scriptures to support their views. Trust me, it isn't that hard of a trick, and by itself, it proves nothing.
To hear the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses talk about this though, all of this is divinely ordained by their god Jehovah. Those 1.3 million who are out? Tough. To bad for such cattle who didn't "appreciate" the so called "spiritual paradise" that the Governing Body frequently claims exists within their group.
Let me tell you the story of such a person who rejected the "spiritual paradise" of Jehovah's Witnesses. Or more accurate to say, it was the spiritual paradise that rejected him.
He was a nice young JW, who got baptized into the group far too young, at the age of 13. Had he known that he was actually gay and would change, perhaps he wouldn't have decided to be baptized. But the peer pressure was there, and he really wanted to please the god he was brought up to worship. This young JW got to his mid teens, and trouble started.
It was around this time that this nice JW teen was assaulted and raped by a predator. However, 3 elders met as a JW tribunal and decided that this nice JW teen put himself into that situation, told him that he wanted it to happen and thus gave him a severe reproof, instead of the help that was needed.
Disillusioned and very confused, but still determined to serve Jehovah, this JW teen slowly but surely got in with the wrong crowd. The rape caused him to question his sexuality. And then the substance abuse started: At first with alcohol, then drugs of all kinds. He reached out to his family, who were torn to the core as to what to do. The elders counseled the parents to be tough. Eventually, he was disfellowshipped, because he was addicted to drugs. (you see, JW's don't believe in rehabilitation or medical help for such matters. If a person gets addicted to drugs or alcohol, JW's are taught that it is a 100% spiritual problem, not an addiction. Tough love and following JW teachings require JW's to disfellowship such a one out of the congregation, cut off from the help that he needs) The elders then counseled the family to totally shun him. Thankfully, they didn't, and did all they could, as good parents should do. His brother though, being a good JW, shunned him totally.
Eventually, life was too much. In his confusion, this JW teen, now in his early 20's, would go to gay bars to look to witness to gay Catholics. His desperation was such that he took his own life at the age of 21.
I knew him well. He was my brother.
I don't write that to shock you, dear reader. It was several years ago. It was one of the great regrets of my life that I couldn't do more for him, although when you are dealing with an addict, anything goes. I did talk to him on occasion just before he died. I knew he loved me, and I loved him. It was a shame that greater help couldn't be offered him. It was a shame that he was just a number to the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses.
My brother was 1 of over 1.3 million so far. There are hundreds of thousands who have had similar experiences, (if not similar ends thank god!)
But these numbers that come in and out of Jehovah's Witnesses each year, from the young teens who are baptized far too young, to the hundreds of thousands of adults who aren't given the whole story about this group before they join, remember, they are real people. And they have EXCELLENT reasons and a sense of responsibility to inform anyone with a small interest in the affairs of the Jehovah's Witnesses, what is really up with this dangerous group.