23 October 2016

How to Leave the Jehovah's Witnesses, No. 4: How to Deal with Witness Parents

One of the harder aspects of trying to leave the Witnesses is the fact that this religion dictates how families deal with each other, and the crucial thing is that it has a shunning rule: anyone who decides to leave the religion is ostracized not only by other members, but also by the members of their own family. In my personal experience, I haven't had a working relationship with my parents for years now, primarily for this reason. And if you're an adolescent, living within your parents' household, and your parents are forcing you to perform religious activities, so that you would be a Witness, you have a tough time. This article will try to give pointers on how to improve your situation.

If you have Witness parents, there's a high chance that you as a child would be forced to attend meetings, go out in field service, and slowly work your way toward baptism, so that you would be a full-pledged member of the religion. And that is the delicate part. Because once you get baptized, and later on if you opt to leave, then your whole family would then be instructed to shun you.

The funny thing is that the Witnesses make a big deal about Catholicism's infant baptism practices, saying that Catholicism is a false religion because they practice infant baptism. They make a big deal criticizing this practice, yet come to think of it, the Witnesses are practically the same. They might not baptize infants, yet they baptize children, pre-teens, and adolescents, who really are not mature enough to decide whether they want to devote the rest of their life to this organization, to this cult. And believe me, there is a strong push and pressure to be baptized early.

I got baptized somewhere around when I was 14 or 15, I don't remember exactly anymore. Looking back, I did it, not because I wanted to dedicate my life to a God, but because it was plain obvious that doing so would please my parents, and as a child, you want to please your parents, right?

Anyway, that was the beginning. Years later, I schemed how to get out. But as a dependent, I was relying on my parents for support. And this is an environment where you constantly hear your father saying that as long as you are under his roof, you should obey his rules, including rules about religion. So if he tells you to go to the Kingdom Hall, you better obey. And if you don't want to obey, you can of course leave the house and hit the streets.

So the question is, how do you avoid being homeless?

If you are not yet financially independent, try to do the minimum possible, without actually committing to baptism. I know it is hard to fake things, and it makes you sick inside, but sometimes it needs to happen to have a roof to sleep under. As long as you aren't baptized, the organization won't tell your parents to shun you. Try to use some delay tactics as much as you can. The Witnesses in theory don't want to force people to get baptized, so stall for time. Tell the elders that you're still trying to make a decision, and remind them if needed that this decision is yours alone to make. You set the time, not the elders, nor your parents.

While you're stalling, try and get some skills that would make you employable. You'll need it later. Can you go to college? Try as hard as you can. Get an education. The Witnesses discourage getting a college degree, but truth be told, having one is an advantage, if you want to survive in this world. If your parents are providing support for your education, try not to antagonize them until you finish your education. Grab every opportunity to have a skill set, something that you could later use to gain employment. Because seriously, you don't want to simply be hopping into one blue-collar window-cleaning job after another, which is pretty much the option that is available for Witnesses, given their stand against secular education.

If you went through adolescence and into adulthood without getting baptized, congratulations. If you on the other hand got baptized, then things are trickier.

Perhaps the thing I would emphasize here is to prepare covertly as much as possible, because shunning is immediate. It's like a switch that suddenly activates inside robotic brains. After all, cult members do not think, they let other bodies think for them, in this case, the 7 men that comprise the Governing Body. And once you are disfellowshipped, or disassociated, they would shun you. So build your support group as covertly as possible, and leave as smoothly as you can.

There are information sources and other sources for help for people who suddenly find themselves homeless, click here for more information.

In any case, leaving is tough, but you are not alone. Many others have successfully left, and discovered that there is a life after the Witnesses, and the world is not a scary place. Of course, feel free to contact me for more detailed information, in case you're contemplating on leaving.

2 comments:

  1. I just can't imagine how isolating and scary it must feel for young adults and teens who are leaving the cult. True brainwashing... and then you're left dealing with the real world on your own.

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    Replies
    1. Zhu,

      It is isolating and scary, definitely. That's the sad part, cult members think it's a loving provision to be part of this high-level control organization, which makes it very hard to leave, and yet staying inside is also not a palatable idea.

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