Children of the Watchtower

by David L. Harvey

 Do Jehovah's Witnesses abuse their children? Does The Watchtower actually promote the mental and emotional abuse of children? Most people would find this contemptible. Let's take a look at how Jehovah's Witnesses typically raise their children. Children are taught from infancy that serving God means to remain active in "Jehovah's Organization. " Loyalty and obedience to the organization and elders are stressed above all. This includes protecting the organization and refraining from making negative remarks about it or the elders. Children are taught to participate in "door-to-door witnessing" distributing Watchtower literature. They are enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School (an endless on-going training program) where they learn public speaking, and how to approach strangers and to overcome objections. As in all "multiplying ministries", distribution of literature is part of the perpetual recruitment of new members who will be taught to do the same.

 The child's time is thoroughly managed. He/she must attend five meetings each week. He/she must read all the Watchtower publications, prepare "talks" for the Theocratic Ministry School, assignments for the Service Meeting. study for the Congregation Book Study and prepare presentations for distributing literature. Literature placement includes door-to-door witnessing as well as to street work (standing on street corners and offering The Watchtower and Awake! magazines to strangers).

 Hours of service, literature placements and return visits are reported on the Field Service Report slip. If the child is old enough to conduct a Bible study with another person it is reported on the Study Report slip. This information is recapped on the Congregation Publisher Record card. (The card is actually the membership record with all pertinent personal information.) The child must report time each month to be considered "regular. " If at any time they become "irregular" it takes three months to get back to "regular" status. If "irregular" they  are subject to encouraging pep talks from elders and parents.

 The chart on this page shows the time spent by an adolescent in a typical month.

 

Activity

Hours/Week

Service Meeting

1

Theocratic Ministry School

1

Congregation Book Study

1

Public Talk

1

Watchtower Study

1

Door-to-door, streetwork

2.5

Total time per week serving Watchtower organization

7.5

 

There are also three assemblies to attend. Two Circuit Assemblies are held in spring and fall; the District Assembly in mid-summer. These total from nine to twelve days of heavy reinforcement and encouragement to "serve Jehovah and His Organization."

 Children are further encouraged to "Auxiliary Pioneer" during school breaks and "Vacation Pioneer" during summer vacation. This amounts to 60 hours per month of door-to-door and street witnessing. Time spent in school, homework, meeting preparation and all other activities is in addition to this. The child is saturated! They are made to feel guilty for having "worldly" interests in lieu of "Kingdom" interests. ("How does Jehovah view your squandering of time in non-Kingdom interests?") They are instilled with an unnatural fear of the world. Everything outside the Watchtower circle is part of Satan's organization. Jehovah's Witnesses alone are "God's people." They alone worship Him as He wants to be worshipped. They alone are doing His will. They alone will be saved at Armageddon. The only place of safety is in His organization. Fear of being destroyed at Armageddon, the shame of failing the organization and the threat of public humiliation by disfellowshiping are pumped into them at a very tender age.

 In public school they are often encouraged not to join clubs or scouting programs, participate in organized sports, school parties, and are forbidden to salute the flag or sing patriotic songs. (They must remain seated when flag is presented and the National Anthem is sung.) They may not celebrate birthdays or holidays. Association with outsiders is discouraged and sometimes forbidden. ("How does Jehovah view Your associations? Remember, bad associations spoil useful habits.")

 Certain types of medical treatment are denied members according to the current organizational view. This holds true even if a life-threatening situation exists. Organ transplants and some vaccines were forbidden until the early '50s. In 1980, they decided to accept organ transplants. Blood transfusions in whole or part are not permitted. (Except by hemophiliacs!) Parents are expected to respect organization directives on this. It is not unusual for parents to block or ignore court orders regarding blood transfusions for their children. This action is done to obey "God's laws" which change from time to time.

 Formerly there was intense discouragement of college. Although the Watchtower Society has softened their attitude toward this, they still stress trade schools over a professional career. An ideal career would of course be "Full Time Pioneer." Military service, political office or serving in a police department (or even voting) is not allowed.

 All these things add up to an extreme form of mind control, which is simply manipulation. Generous doses of guilt, threats, shame and fear are used to program and coerce children into performing free work for the organization. Children desire love and approval from their parents. They often obey just to get the attention and care they need. But love and friendship are conditional on the child remaining in "good standing" in the organization. If a child refuses or fails to perform, love and friendship cease. (This includes parents, siblings and personal friends.) The elders may attempt to "mentally readjust" such a spiritually weak or sick" person in "Jehovah's way." Voluntarily leaving or being disfellowshipped results in shunning. Love, friendship and social contact cease instantly. No one will even speak to that child, treating him as dead. They become the subject of intense hatred. Fear of such inhuman treatment is enough to insure "faithfulness." But sometimes it is not enough.

The volume of letters received from those raised as Witnesses, and the periodic reports of suicide and mental illness within the Watchtower indicates that much of the blame rests on the Watchtower leadership.


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