I was born into and brought up a JW. Born into a large extended JW family scattered across the UK. Dad was a Congregation Servant, as they were called in the days before Elders and MS’s.
I knew little else in my early years and always felt a bit out of kilter as a child when various celebrations came around, but was generally happy and as a bit of a studious kid wasn’t noisy or disruptive at meetings and assemblies,
We moved around the UK a lot as I grew up because of Dad’s job and attended several different congregations from big city 100+ publishers to small groups of 10-15 in some isolated areas. Even at the age of 7 or 8, I had begun to notice subtle differences in the way congregations were run and the effect this had on people.
We moved to the Seychelles in the 1970’s and my teenage years collided with JW beliefs and practices. It was apparent that the expatriate (British / American) members of the congregation were the de facto ‘leaders’ over the local Seychellois brothers and sisters. This was reinforced when circuit overseers from East and South Africa visited the islands and you ended up with a weird situation where all of the elders and MS’s were actually foreigners and didn’t even speak the local language!
A family from England joined the congregation in 1972 and then the problems started. I had compartmentalised my life pretty well, keeping school friends and JW associates well apart, almost living a double life, of music, parties and normal teenage interactions in school and free time with JW activities on meeting nights and weekends…..but the son of this family was put into my school and from that point life changed. If one of my friends so much as swore or made a comment about an attractive girl, it was reported to the Elders…. And when one friend was spotted smoking World War III broke out. I was literally hounded by the Elders about “but to be popular never do toil……for bad companions good habits will spoil” – my Dad was also and Elder, and was had up for not presiding over his family in a spiritual way too.
By this time I had developed educationally and had pretty good analytical and language skills, and so took it upon myself to actually examine the teachings and doctrines I had been fed all of my young life. This at first pleased Mum and Dad who thought I was embarking on a period of intense study and the horrific ‘pioneer’ word was bandied about. I became a bit of a teenage star in the congregation….little did they realise what I was up to.
We returned to the UK when Dad fell gravely ill. The blood issue of course became a massive concern and we were repeatedly visited by Elders to offer “encouragement” to ensure that Dad did not take blood, as he lay dying in hospital. This struck me as a rather perverse set of priorities. Yes the blood issue is a cornerstone of witness teaching, but it was the ONLY thing these people were interested in. My Mother’s or my own welfare was of no consequence…..and as for Dad, well he’d get to die in Jehovah!
A lot of other things happened during this period which I won’t recount, but they all served to confirm my suspicions that all was not well with the Watchtower…….
The ‘end’ as such, came when I developed an interest in cosmology and mainstream / alternative religions. Coupled with my intense analysis of the bible and of JW teachings, a few years previously, I suddenly found I could discuss matters on a level playing field with JW’s and in ALL cases win arguments against them, as I knew more about the religion than they did. This was not hubris. It’s just that so many JW’s really are in a situation of ‘blind faith’…. They don’t know WHY they believe, or often WHAT they believe…..they just believe…(many Muslims suffer with this too)
I was never DF’d or DA’d…I was avoided like the plague and labelled as dangerous to the spiritual health of members of my Mum and Dad’s congregation! To be fair my parents never shunned me, and I never really developed any hatred for individual JW’s – I just saw it for what it really was, and in many ways I think this was perceived as far more of a threat than those who fell away out of rebellion .
Since that time I have assisted several now ex JW’s in their leaving process – at their request, I don’t crusade against the JW’s or anyone else, but I do feel pity and empathy for those stuck in the religion looking for a way out.
I have been free now for 22 years and although, I have, as perhaps we all do, some residuals from my upbringing as a JW, I am thankful for my life, freedom of choice and prerogative to experience.
Thanks for listening