Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to be fearful of everything: from Smurf cartoons, Halloween, Christmas to serious religious beliefs involving the Battle of Armageddon, the end of the world and the fear of “apostates.” Even non-Jehovah’s Witness beliefs such as Hell, Trinity, Cross (words that can even send chills down the back of a Witness) can send a Jehovah’s Witness into “paranoia” fear. As a Jehovah’s Witness, one cannot even possess or hold a piece of critical literature about the Watchtower without fear that one is allowing “Satan’s thinking” into one’s mind. Paranoia runs rampant in this religion. In Chapter six of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, authors David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen explain why:
“In the church or family that is spiritually abusive, there is a sense, spoken or unspoken, that ‘others will not understand what we’re all about, so let’s not let them know—that way they won’t be able to ridicule or persecute us.’ …In a place where authority is grasped and legislated, not simply demonstrated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside of the system who are trying to weaken or destroy ‘us.’ This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abuser from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave—because they will then be outsiders too.”— The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, 1991, pp. 73-74
From my experience, what these authors have documented about the connection of paranoia with spiritual abuse is so true. I still remember the days when I was new to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I decided to bring my guitar into the Kingdom Hall one night after the book study meeting to play a few Christian worship songs with the kids that I had learned from my Christian childhood. Knowing how important Jehovah is to the Witnesses, I chose the song: “Jehovah Jira My Provider.” The lyrics go like this:
“Jehovah Jira My Provider,
His Grace is sufficient for me,
For me, for me, for me!
His grace is sufficient for Me!”
You would have thought I brought Babylon right into the Kingdom Hall that night! The Witness parents stood around just starring at me and their kids in disbelief. One grabbed the Kingdom Hall songbook, Sing Praises to Jehovah, and frantically searched to try to find the song we were singing. Of course, it wasn’t in there. It didn’t matter that the lyrics were doctrinally acceptable to Jehovah’s Witnesses and emphasized Jehovah and His grace. The simple fact that the song wasn’t produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society made it taboo for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to sing. Thankfully, the elder in charge of our book study wasn’t there that night or I know I would have been kicked out for this action because only a few weeks later, I tried teaching the kids another song based upon Micah 6:8 that went like this:
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what Jehovah requires of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
This time the elder was there and his wife privately pulled me aside and told me that under no circumstances was I allowed to sing songs with the kids that were not in the Sing Praises book of the Watchtower. (I didn’t bring my guitar that night or I think they would have really had a fit!) Thankfully, nobody told on me to the elder about the previous night. So, I was allowed to stay for a few more months before being kicked out for asking too many questions that the elder couldn’t answer, but that’s another story.
I am always amazed at how this type of fear controls Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for years even after they leave. Many are afraid to enter Christian churches for fear of the “cross” posted on the wall, or fear that demons will jump on them when they enter. Fear or “apostates” also keep many trapped to avoid any spiritual literature written by non-Jehovah’s Witnesses. And even after an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness person decides to start listening to outside sources, there is always the fear that Jehovah is angry or Satan is lurking around the corner to snag them.
Getting free of this “fear” is difficult. Although I was never baptized and never fully bought into the fear complex of most Jehovah’s Witnesses, even the short time that I was in the Kingdom Hall, I had begun to struggle with being uncomfortable around the Christmas ornaments displayed by my family (I was still living at home as a young single adult at the time). Thankfully, I researched and learned the Christian origin of many of these symbols and this information REALLY helped me overcome the little bit of “fear” they had begun to ingrain into me.
This experience showed me how important it is to research and hear the “other side” on ALL of the beliefs that Jehovah’s Witnesses embrace. I learned how twisted their views about Christmas were and I saw how their views on other biblical issues were twisted as well. As the Watchtower lost its authority in my life and the lives of many others I have personally worked with in ministry over the years, I have learned the truth of the Scripture at 2 Corinthians 10:5 as a prescription for getting free of paranoia fear:
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (KJV)
On this subject, I really recommend the following articles from our 4jehovah.org website:
- I’m hurt and confused, but I’m afraid to leave…
- I’m afraid of being destroyed at Armageddon. What if Jehovah’s Witnesses are right after all?
- I feel like I’m going crazy! How can I get Watchtower thinking out of my head?