“The churches tend to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that fear-rather than love-conquers all.” — Watchtower, Dec. 1, 1980 p.32
Rather than trusting it’s members to serve Jehovah God out of love, a look at Watchtower publications and the effects of their teaching on its members reveals a preferred reliance on fear rather than love.
In the Watchtower organization, Jehovah is feared, Satan is feared, the elders are feared, holidays, worldly people, and especially former members are greatly feared and to be avoided at all costs.
“While some contact with worldly people is unavoidable – at work, at school, and otherwise-we must be vigilant so as to keep from being sucked back into the death-dealing atmosphere of this world. Let the world go along in its way, reaping its bad fruitage in the form of broken homes, illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS, and countless other emotional and physical woes.” –Watchtower, Sep 15, 1987 pp.12-14
“Bad fruitage” is what every sincere Witness wants to avoid. Well-meaning parents among Jehovah’s Witnesses learn to use fear as a means of control to keep their children in the organization and ironically assume that if they excuse their children from “worldly” activities they will experience less “bad fruitage” such as fear. As we enter the holiday season beginning with Halloween, children among Jehovah’s Witnesses will be warned against any participation in school parties. So during the month of October, we kept a thread going on our Worldwide Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Internet Support Meetup to share any memories or thoughts about that particular holiday and discussed reasons for and against celebrating it. At the same time, someone had started a thread called “Real Fear” and the comments from our members are quite revealing as to where their fear began.
The discussion titled “Real Fear” was started by a man in our group who had an encounter with some Jewish women. After learning about their upbringing, he said,
“Their whole life seemed to revolve around fear. When they are home or when they travel. They were cautious being women, but even more so being Jewish. I thought about that off and on, the whole day. What that would be like. To me, that would take so much joy out of a person’s life. To have to deal with that on a daily basis. Fear of being hated is a part of their lives. The one lady said, that fear was bred into them, over the centuries, until it became a way of life.”
This generated a lot of discussion among ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here are some of those comments:
“I think fear is a big part of being raised a JW. When my Mom converted, we children were told we could no longer associate with the neighborhood kids or kids at school. We were even to view our “worldly” relatives differently. You see, we were told that “one day soon” these people would turn on us and we would be persecuted for our religion like the early Christians and/or put into camps like the JW’s were put in Nazi Germany. These were very real images for me! Why would I ever want anything to do with a worldly person if that was what they were going to do to me? Thank Goodness, Jehovah was going to destroy them–churches and all–at Armageddon! This fear-based belief system started for me in 1961 and was something I carried around with me for most of my life. Even when I stopped being a JW, there was fear that I was then on “the other side” and condemned by God! What a difference, however, when I began to study the Bible without the Watchtower “filter” and learned about who God is and who I am to Him! Now that God is my defender and protector, I am no longer afraid.”
“Any recreation you take outside of school should not be with worldly youths.” — Watchtower, Sep 1, 1964 p.535
And a Meetup member offered,
“Here is some encouraging scriptures regarding FEAR. Proverbs 28:1, Isaiah 35:3,4. Matt. 14:30-32. Psalm 55:4-8. The Watchtower controls with FEAR. It’s hard to get them out of your head. Call upon Him who has authority over your thoughts and fears. Place them in His hands and trust him.”
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread? (Ps 27:1)
And more responses came in,
“God does talk about Fear, and that when Jesus comes he will remove fear and place with hope in that we are “Now saved”. For a JW you have nothing that provides such a promise, and of course they believe it is something that is earned and that even in the end, you are never certain on the outcome. That more than anything placed a great deal of fear in me and I am sure the same for most JW’s. On top of that they “create divisions” by separating themselves from all others, having exclusive rules on pretty much everything so that they can be identified unique, in order to strengthen their case as God’s only chosen people. This of course will create even further fear as non-Jw’s will respond to this is many ways, most of which would not necessarily be positive, due to some of the weird rules they have that clearly are not sensible or biblical. To then come out of this situation and remove this fear that has developed over the years is very hard, and this for me is where we really need to turn to Christ, as there is nothing else that provides such assurance of hope.”
“I noticed that at an early age. The witnesses wanted to establish that they were a very different type of Christian. They wanted that uniqueness to make them Gods chosen ones. The, Us vs. Them mentality. The Jehovah smiles down on us but not you, type of thing. The witnesses practically have their own language and terms, to make them different. The rules that are not sensible or biblical, like you said, are there to just make them appear different. (We are in the world but no part of it) The wider that they can make that gulf, the better it is for them. I wonder why they don’t have a secrete handshake? Reminds me of an episode of the 3 Stooges Where Moe Larry and Curly belong to some secret club. Whoob, Whoob Whoob, Whoob! Nuk, Nuk, Nuk!”
“We were more recently compared to the day’s of Jerusalem in the book of Jeremiah. There was even a drama on it at the District Assembly. When the faithful Christians fled to the mountains, they were spared. Those left behind had a slow, horrendous, death. The book “The Works Of Josephus” gives gory details of their starvation, the mothers eating their children, etc.
The JW’s compared those “fleeing to the mountains” as those that are faithfully following Jehovah’s organization. The ones that stayed behind and are caught in “The upcoming Great Tribulation” are like the one’s left behind in Jerusalem. Now that’s FEAR ! The problem is, I don’t have enough faith in that “organization” to follow them across the street ! Think about it! When the time comes and they tell everyone it’s time to gather their stuff and follow THEM, who would go? ESPECIALLY if you lived during the 1975 era ! Been there, done that. They’re going to have to start partin’ water or somethin’ before they do any convincing. They’ve kinda pooped in their own hat for now.”
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Is 41:10)
“Fear has many layers. Sometimes you overcome in the top two layers but then there’s 3 more layers to get to the core of it. Today I was in prayer and God stripped back a layer in an area I’ve been asking Him about. Sometimes we think we’re over something and then something happens to trigger it all over again and you find yourself locked up again in fear. I’ve been known to cry out to God and say “I thought we already dealt with this?!!”And He taught me today that we did… just not deep enough until now.”
“ I think that the jw’s in this country, are viewed mostly as an annoyance. Jw’s on the other hand are taught fear, that the worldly will turn on them, at any time. Of the destruction of Armageddon, of earthquakes, floods, bolts of lightning, and a dozen or more other disasters. Of being manipulated by demons, and turning their back on God’s organization. Such a unhealthy environment for a young child.”
And the conversation turned to children. How we felt growing up under that fear and how we as parents either put the same fear on our own children or tried to break free of it.
“This fear is not taken lightly by me at all. My daughter is having a horrible time right now, and there is little I can do to help her, other than keep encouraging her to investigate these things for herself. She is no child, but has four of her own. And so now she has the fear of being responsible for their eternal death if she walks away from JWs. The only thing I know to do at this point, is be an example that she will want to follow. For my family, it will take as many generations to shed these beliefs as it took to instill them so deeply in the first place. I, at least, have gotten into the mindset that if the JWs are right, then so be it. I would rather have no conscious existence than to live under the authority of whoever it is they are following.”
“that was my greatest fear. That my children would suffer because of my decision. That their chance of living on a paradise earth, would be taken away because of me. That’s what the society taught. That was a very powerful motivator. I can see why your daughter is so afraid. I was. That fear stuck with me for years.”
Another member in our support group talked about his adult son who went into police work after being raised with fear in the home of his two Jehovah’s Witness parents. He said, “now he is a walking weapons armament. He lives in constant fear of the “World”, but now thinks he’s “protected” because he has a badge to go with those guns ! But he doesn’t have God, in any form! He saw his mother and I argue about religion all our lives and we were both JW’s !!!!!! So my son is fed-up with “Religion” and is scared to death of the World ! “
“It was that fear in me that resulted in 2 of my children being JWs. I have few regrets, but this is one of them. I hope someday my descendants’ generations from now will not have these issues anymore.”
“As a JW mom, I didn’t play up Armageddon as much as some did. I was very strict about holidays and being honest and “doing the right thing” more than showing pictures of Armageddon. Of course, they saw them in their Bible Stories book and heard plenty at the Hall, but I’ve asked and neither of them have the “Armageddon nightmares” so typical among ex JWs. I’m thankful for that.”
“My Mom was the first generation JW and she was extremely strict. I felt like I had to be perfect. And when I wasn’t, the punishment didn’t fit the crime. It was over-the-top, which left me feeling unworthy, unloved and guilty. I believe it was this training which kept me in an abusive first marriage. Because of this, I wanted something different for my children. Certainly not all JW mothers were like mine. But, I wanted my children to have a more normal life than I did growing up. As a result, I didn’t use the “scare” tactics on them and I let them have friends outside the organization. I didn’t treat them like they needed to be watched at all times to keep them from their sinful, bad natures. I treated them like they were trustworthy, good kids…and that is what they proved themselves to be.”
“The biggest fear I’ve ever had was disappointing my mother and causing her more grief than I already have. But since I publicized my baptism at the retreat all over Facebook, I know there is nothing else I could ever do to that will upset her more than being baptized outside of the JWs. I just can’t let fear run my life anymore, and since being reborn in Christ Jesus, I know I don’t have to be afraid of anything anymore, because nothing that happens in this life is of any consequence to my eternal life with Jesus. When I feel fearful, I pray and wait for the fear to subside, and the courage of Jesus to fill me up instead.”
“After growing up in a strict J.W. Family I did not want the same for my Children. The only thing I found is that I didn’t know how to react to my Children as Teenagers because I had such a different upbringing and I found it very hard to handle their independence….. My oldest Sister sent me a card a long time ago telling me that “because I grew up to know the truth, that I had done the worst sin because I left the organisation.” When my Father died my Mother said to me “Your Father will be waiting for you and you won’t be there”. I had nightmares about this for ages. I grew up in fear thinking that the World would end and I would be destroyed because I wasn’t good enough. I am so glad that I have become a Christian and have a deep reverence to our Creator instead of the fear that I grew up with and learnt that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. (Ro 8:1). My 2 Children have also followed Jesus and given their lives to him. Even though my Siblings and other Relations have disowned me I am much happier and fulfilled.”
“Fear is huge in the Watchtower. I wasn’t raised JW, so I was a pretty calm and cool person until I began to study in my 30’s. I remember becoming paranoid. Even so, at least I had a filter from the previous 30 years that made me think “this isn’t me, I’m not really like this, I didn’t used to be this way.” It took a while to shed off….. what always got me was how they’d tell us moms how important it was to train your kids up as JWs otherwise they’d never grow up to serve Jehovah. Huh? Then what was I doing there going to meetings and door knocking after a childhood filled with Christmas presents and school dances????””
“Although I have been out the J.W.’s for a long time I still suffer from fear. It is horrible. I have been driving for over 30 years, but am now fearful of driving in open spaces. This is probably due to the fact that someone sideswiped my car causing it to be a right off and having to be cut out of my car. I just pray that I will get over this fear as I don’t want to be bound by it but I was always fearful growing up at a J.W. and I feel this reignited it. I know that God is in control and I have been blessed many times and don’t want or need this fear in my life.”
Once again, through the counsel of many, some comfort and healing has taken place on the Meetup.
“Thanks. I really have to read my Bible more. I am a bible believing Christian and know that “God can cast out all fear”. I just have to get my head around it and read my Bible and pray more. God has been so good to me and has seen me through many life threatening circumstances so I know that he can do this too. I have been ashamed to tell people my fear as they just tell you to get over it but unless God is on your case it is humanly impossible. That is why we can encourage each other as we know where we have come from. God has not given me a spirit of fear and through him I can do all things. Thanks so much for putting me on the right track.”
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Ro 8:15)
Most of these people avoided Halloween as children. As the only adult convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses in that discussion, I DID get to go trick-or-treating and walk through haunted houses as a child and yet, I noticed they had so much more FEAR growing up than I did. It’s that FEAR that can stay with members long after their membership in the organization as many of them can testify.
The Watchtower organization addresses what the effects are on people who live with constant fear:
“When people have to live with fear, they may feel sapped of their energy. Fear can rob them of enjoyment by preventing them from doing what they want to do. Fear can dominate people’s thinking and can prevent them from concentrating on other things.
Living with fear is highly stressful. It often leads to depression and can ruin a person’s health. “Stress suppresses the immune system and is a contributing factor in most diseases,” explains a health magazine. “The body will develop symptoms of wear and tear, especially on the organs involved. Hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disorders, ulcers, headaches, insomnia, depression, and anxiety can develop. Prolonged time in this mode results in exhaustion.” — Living with fear Awake! August 8, 2005 p.3
Many current and past members of Jehovah’s Witnesses can attest to these ailments. Why? Because fear dominated their childhood and continued to haunt them as adults. It says in a Watchtower study article of August 15, 2012 under the heading “Escape the noose of fear and pressure” on page 22,
“An animal caught in a snare loses control over its freedom of movement. Similarly, a person who succumbs to fear and related pressure has given up at least some control of his life.”
The Watchtower seeks control at a very young age keeping it’s children restricted not just from holidays but many other extracurricular activities under the fear that “bad associations spoil useful habits.” Fear immobilizes a person to the point of giving up their own control to become more pliable in the hands of whoever seeks to control them. Non Witness family members and friends often notice a vacant look in the eyes of their Jehovah’s Witness loved one or an inability for them to reason or even listen to another view outside of their Watchtower indoctrination. They are controlled not just by fear at that point, but the continued pressure that made them give up all control. Ironically, this same Watchtower article offers the solution to those who have succumbed to this.
“Success in resisting pressure involves a combination of such elements as accurate knowledge, humility, modesty, love for God, and fear of Jehovah, not humans. If our faith is built on accurate knowledge, we will courageously speak about our beliefs with conviction. This will help us to resist pressure and conquer fear of man” —Beware of the Devil’s snares! Watchtower August 15, 2012 p. 22
Look over the quotes now from those Meetup members who have resisted the pressure by researching the Watchtower Society’s history and the Bible itself in their quest for accurate knowledge. Do you see how they moved past the fear of man? Do you see the humility coupled with courage enabling them to speak with conviction their love for God at great personal cost to themselves? These are the fearless people I admire. These are the ones who’ve not just survived their Watchtower upbringing but CONQUERED it! These are the ones that the Watchtower calls “apostates” and trains their members to fear. ‘The article was right, there is SUCCESS in doing these things! And I am proud to be FEARED as an apostate of Jehovah”s Witnesses by those still trembling at men in the organization.
5 From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
7 The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes. (Ps 118:5-9)
Jesus is LORD!!!
Keep yourself in God’s love,