Sunday, November 22, 2009

my former life hanging out on street corners

Some of you may have learned, from previous posts, that I was raised as a member of the sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses.  While they are mainly known for their door-to-door proselytizing and their refusal of blood transfusions, there is obviously much more involved in being a J.W. than that.  Witnesses live strictly by a literal (fundamentalist) interpretation of the Bible.  This results in them being mainly moral, honest citizens, but does make for a lot of other archaic rules by which they guide all their behaviours.


It has been over thirty years since I made my exit from their ranks, so while I want to talk about some of the things I was required to believe and do as a child, teenager, and young adult, remember that I do not know if the same requirements are still in effect.  I have a lovely family of J.W.'s that live across the way from me, and seeing them go about their activities, I would guess that they live their lives pretty much as I was required to, back in the mid 50's, 60's and early 70's.


I was a reluctant witness at a very young age - and in my last years in their midst, a quietly hostile one.  Once I had my first child and knew I would be required to raise her in the same way that I had found so oppressive, I got out.  (Not easy, and many repercussions, but I did it.)  Fortunately, my husband followed me out, and we are still happily together and happily FREE!


Here is a list off the top of my head of things we were NOT allowed to do if we wanted to continue as a Jehovah's Witness in 'good standing'.  We could not:


*  celebrate our own or anyone else's birthday (a 'pagan' festivity)
*  celebrate Christmas or New Year's Day  (really celebrations of the winter solstice and as such 'pagan')
*  celebrate Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, etc. etc.
*  make mother's day cards (or father's day), or participate in valentine card exchanges at school, or Christmas gift exchanges, or even draw things having to do with religious holidays in art class, or sing Xmas carols in music class, etc. etc.
*  stand in class when the national anthem was played (we are for God's kingdom, not worldly, secular ones)
*  participate when 'opposers of the true God, Jehovah'  recited The Lord's Prayer (the Bible says not to participate in worship with unbelievers)
*  have close associations or friends who were not Witnesses ('bad associations spoil good habits')
*  participate in school dances, school clubs, sports teams or extracurricular activities
*  read other religious literature
*  read books or go to movies that glorified sex or violence.
*  tell off colour jokes, swear or curse.
*  wear mini-skirts when they were the rage
*  eat meat products that contained blood or take vaccinations that might contain blood
*  pursue a higher education, as Bible study and the door-to-door activities should take precedence

Most of the things we were NOT allowed to do served the purpose of keeping us isolated - away from anyone who could question our beliefs or show us a better way.  Isolation is a basic ploy of cults.  They also tried to keep us from reading any material that would portray the religion in a poor light.Of course, they found Bible texts that seemed to back up their dictates, but the primary purpose was to keep us apart without too much influence from the outside world.


We were expected to:


*  prepare for, attend and participate at 5 meetings each week at the Kingdom Hall
*  study their publications and be prepared to answer questions about what we read at their meetings
*  speak to people at their doors from a young age, trying to 'interest them in the good news of God's     kingdom' (sell the Watchtower and Awake magazines)
*  go from door-to-door on Christmas Day and New Year's morning - because we should never pass up an opportunity to spread the good news of God's soon-to-arrive kingdom
*  go door-to-door as much as I could during summer vacations from school
*  prepare our little speeches for the door-to-door ministry, with Bible texts to back up our assertions
*  agree, support all the doctrines and never ask questions
* believe that if we did all they told us we would be rewarded by surviving the always imminent Battle of Armageddon (where God would destroy all the wicked non-believers), and living forever on a paradise earth.  (Only a few selected ones would receive a heavenly reward - the rest of us would live forever here on earth.) 


There was so much more demanded and disallowed, but the above abbreviated lists give you a sense of the life I led as a child and teenager, as did anyone raised as a Jehovah's Witness.  My mother was a friendly, extrovert who loved going door-to-door and engaging people in discussions about religion and the Bible.  I was a rather introverted child for whom the same 'witnessing' activities were torture.  I did not want to disappoint my mother, however, and realizing I had no choice but to tag along, I soon learned how to be a good little actress and play the role of dutiful devotee.  At that age, if my mother was happy, I was happy.  There is a price to pay for being untrue to oneself.  But I did not know this at the time.


The Witness leaders would have their followers advertise their big summer conventions by walking up and down streets handing out invitations to their discourses.  Way back when, they had you wear placards (like big Bristol board signs) that were attached by string and hung over your shoulders covering your front and your back.  They displayed the title of the discourse, the time and announced it was free.   They were, of course, designed for adults to wear.  But my mother wanting to impress 'the elders' and do something different, had me, as a little tyke, wear these big placards.  I'm sure she must have adjusted the placards for my size, but the Bristol board pushed my chin up and by the time our walking and handing out invitations was through, my chin would be bleeding from paper cuts.  I wonder if there was blood dripping down the placard, right over the announcement of God's soon-to-arrive kingdom?


This picture of an old car (1949?) has what looks like the kind of 'placard' I describe above, stuck on the back of the car.  Years after this picture was taken, I would have one similar hanging down my front, and one hanging down my back - doing free advertising for their public discourses trying to lure people away from their religions to the 'the one and only truth'.




Witnesses used to stand at busy street corners to hand out their tracts, magazines, etc.  I remember the cloth bags we had, to hold our supply of tracts, that you see in the picture here.  My mother took me along when I was just a toddler.  She had me all dressed up in a pretty dress and my curly blonde locks attracted attention and smiles (probably smiles of pity).  My mother was proud of me and tried to get me to hand out invitations to the Witness discourses to people walking by.  After doing this for a while one day, she bought me a pack of grape gum to keep me quiet while she finished handing out her quota of literature.  People kept looking and smiling and my mother says she was just so proud of her dutiful, little daughter that was drawing all this good attention to our God Jehovah by her good conduct!  Finally she took a look down to discover I had put the entire package of grape gum in my mouth and purple saliva was drooling down my chin, onto my dress, leaving a disgusting stain.  She quickly packed up her bag and took us home.  Not the kind of advertisement she wanted for Jehovah's kingdom message!



So that is a peek into the life I led as a child.  I was never physically mistreated in any way, but I now know I paid a heavy price for my involvement with this sect.  It was a kind of forced psychological and spiritual captivity and my mind/body/spirit balked at it from a very young age.  I could not let anyone know this, however.  All my friends and relatives were Jehovah's Witnesses.  Jehovah's Witnesses banish and shun anyone who defects.  I admired and loved all my family and friends, though I secretly did not espouse all their beliefs.  There was no where to go.  Besides, I attended their huge assemblies such as the one at Yankee Stadium in New York City, and as I looked out at the thousands and thousands of  devoted followers of Jehovah, I could only think there was something wrong with or bad about me because I did not want to be there.  How could I turn against God, family, and the powerful persuasion of all these enthusiastic, adult believers?



(This is a photo of a convention held in 1953 at Yankee Stadium in New York City)

C.S. Lewis said:
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims
 may be the most oppressive.
It would be better to live under robber barons
than under omnipotent moral busybodies...
those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end
for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."


Witnesses become moral and religious 'busybodies' not only with the approval of their own conscience as C.S. Lewis states above, but also feeling they do it at God's behest and with God's approval.  And so my young life was governed by a sincere, passionate woman who really believed she was doing God's revealed will, and doing the best possible thing any parent could for their children, by raising them as Jehovah's Witnesses.


71 comments:

  1. I can imagine how hard this was for you as a young child. I guess that you do not get to see your parents or family any more...

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  2. Chatty Crone: Thanks for visiting and commenting. Hope you come again. My mother and sister kept a superficial relationship with me, and despite the rules would not cut me off altogether. All my other relatives did, however.
    My father left the family because he did not want to be a Jehovah's Witness - and I never did find him after I left them too.

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  3. Hi Bonnie~ Thank you for your honesty in telling us your story. I was raised a Southern Baptist and converted to Catholicism as an adult. These sects (including JW) are all Christian. There are variations in worship, celebrations, saint and Mary beliefs, etc., but my point is we're all Christians. Therefore, when a JW comes to our door occasionally, I always make that remark, and they always reply that their religion is the one true religion. (Honestly, the Baptists would probably not accept Catholicism as a true Christian faith either.) Very sad. I'm sorry for your childhood without the birthdays and holidays; how lucky you got out with your husband. Thank you once again for presenting something important. xxox

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  4. Well, bless your heart Bonnie. You were tough to leave and I admire you for having that fortitude. I had classmates who had all those same rules. I remember one Christmas I innocently asked what one got for Christmas. He quickly explained they didn't celebrate Christmas, but he had been sick...and got lots of great things such as an etchasketch. That was more than 40 years ago, and I still can remember I was glad he had gotten some presents. It's a big world out there isn't it?

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  5. Bonnie-- Thank you for this amazing post. Quite eye-opening. In 2 of my jobs, I've worked closely with JW women. I admired them a great deal; I can only imagine how difficult it would be to exit relationships with them, particularly family members. What a tangle of emotions to sort out at so young an age, and yet clearly you understood your own mind at a very early age. Know that the telling has been been a gift for your followers.

    Gratefully,
    Kathleen

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  6. Like all organized religions it sounds very much like a cult. Glad you are free now...

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  7. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. It's good that you were able to leave given the high cost. I abandoned the religion I was raised in as well, but my family didn't shun me. Mostly they just didn't believe me for a long time.

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  8. Bonnie
    Being raised in a fundamentalist church where wearing make up shorts or jeans were equal sins, I may be able to relate a bit. Thank you for sharing this story.
    Linda

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  9. Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. I have known quite a few JW followers and they are all good and kind people. However, any religion that trys to dominate their believers by limiting the path to God is not a good one, in my opinion. It must have taken incredible strength of character to pull yourself from all you had known. I admire you and your husband for doing what you felt was best for your child, and ultimately your family.

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  10. Bonnie your wonderful quote from CS Lewis adds to the poignancy of your story. And what a story. It is perhaps one of the hardest things of all to escape the thrall of religion, of cults and/or of family.

    A lonely journey but one you've managed, good for you.

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  11. It's so hard to digest that families will shun and disown any member that leaves. That, in and of itself, speaks of the definition of a cult. If others truly believe that their associating with you (because you disagree with them) threatens their eventual judgement in this life, that is control in the highest form. Fundamentalism in any form just saddens me. How can anyone truly think they, and only they, have all the answers?

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  12. It would take a very strong person to stand up for themselves against such an organized and integrated force, Bonnie. Good for you.

    We still get 7th Day Adventists around to the house but I can't say we've had JW's around for a while. Or Mormons. Strange that.

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  13. Great post Bonnie. Thank you for sharing. It must have been so hard for you - and it's a tribute to your resiliance and guts that you got out with your husband. Thanks for your story.

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  14. Oh, my. Thank you for sharing. I agree with C.S. Lewis about the tyranny of the well-intentioned. We would do well, all of us, to remember to hold our views lightly, gently, and with love.

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  15. Riveting and searing post, my friend. I studied JW theology in college, but your personal account showed me how damaging and scarring that life can be. Thank you for being the voice of so many who can't bring themselves to express their own stories because of the oppression of the "faithful" around them. Best reading I've had for a long time. EFH

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  16. Margaret: Yes, this was certainly not a unique experience. All fundamentalist religions, Christian or not, are stuck in either/or thinking. There is little flexibility, diversity, compassion or creativity.

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  17. thank you for sharing the story of your childhood. i am glad you "escaped". i can not imagine the pressure or the presumed turn from God and family. i grew up Baptist...and have been dropped at trailer parks for door to door duty and struggled spiritually for much of my teen years...hope you have a great week Bonnie.

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  18. Leslie: Yes, I remember Witness parents (mine included) bending over backwards to find some excuse to get their children some toys, or new things - so they would not feel too deprived or different at Christmas.

    For a while, in Toronto I lived in a mainly Jewish community. There were only 4 gentiles in my grade 4 class. I thought - great this year I won't be the only weirdo that doesn't celebrate Xmas. But most of the Jewish children were from secular Jewish families and they celebrated Christmas along with Hannukah.

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  19. Kathleen: You are so right. Most Jehovah's Witnesses are exemplary people. I just wish they would employ more of their critical thinking skills and see what a primitive organization they are aligned with.

    It was a tangle of emotions as I tried to leave. I finally did it for my daughter and my own mental and emotional health.

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  20. Luksky: Yes, while it is not usually classified as a cult, it does have many of the identifying marks of a cult. I was riveted to the details of the Jim Jones fiasco as it unfolded, as I saw how easily the Witnesses could succomb to the directives of their leaders.

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  21. beautifully poignant story, bonnie, and one i'm sure was not so easy to tell - while i do believe that cults such as the JW's enlist programs of intolerance and rigidity and "brainwashing" even, it seems to me that most organized religions are the same to some degree or other - the main thing being a lack of tolerance for anything different - anyway, lest i digress further, a very moving post - thank you so much for sharing such a personal perspective -

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  22. Ellen: It is not easy to leave is it? I did pay a very high price, and so did my children who never knew their relatives. The price to have stayed, however, would have been much higher. Freedom of thought and action is one of my highest values and I had been denied that long enough.

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  23. Linda: I'm sure you can relate. Imagine the hubris of these men dictating that you cannot wear jeans. The absurdity of it all.

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  24. Nancy: Thank you so much. Occasionally one of my children will snuggle up close to me and say, "Thank you for leaving them Mom - I would not have wanted to grow up in that religion", or something to that effect. It is such a joy to know they 'get it'.

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  25. Elisabeth: Thank you for your kind affirmation. It was a very lonely journey. While I was a member, and while I was extricating myself. I did not know if my husband would follow. Both of us were third generation JWs.

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  26. ignorance, superstition, fear, phychological abuse- that would be religion and I am not sure that any of them are particularly stupider than the other. It is good to know that more now than ever are not buying it. Science has become more available to all- information , and the effects of said religious abuse are more evident. Education is the key but I suppose there will always be a few feeble minded folks who will swallow anything and follow anything, just don't come to my door, please! I am rude.

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  27. Jayne: So true. Look at the havoc wrought by fundamentalist factions of the world's main religions. It seems people fall back on the security they offer during difficult times. I think there is also a lot of mental laziness involved. People don't have to struggle with the difficult questions of existence when their religion provides all the answers for them.

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  28. Barry: Thank you. I have read reports that say studies show that very few converts are made from the door-to-door 'ministry'. Most converts come from relatives or friends who are persuaded in private conversations. So perhaps they are cutting back on that a bit and that is why they don't call.

    Usually people don't complain about them not coming Barry! :)

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  29. Jazz: Well thank you! I have wanted to tell this for a while, because many other things I would like to share about my life require some knowledge of my background and the context in which my life is set.

    If I wasn't resilient before I left, I certainly was forced to be during and after!

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  30. Dan: How true. Everyone has a right to choose their beliefs - it is quite another to impose them on others. Such a simple, yet rarely heard statement that you make, 'to hold our views lightly, gently and with love'. The world would be a better place if we would all do that.

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  31. Expat: I didn't even get into the details of the damaging and scarring aspects yet! Or I thought I didn't. I was trying to keep it quite factual, with a little humour thrown in to lighten it up. But your education and experience would allow you to read between the lines. Thank you for your insight and compassion.

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  32. Brian: I wasn't aware Baptists were required to go door-to-door. I have never had any come to my door. What a lonely, scary thing to do to a child - drop them at a trailer park and expect them to go to every door with their message. I well remember. Sometimes I would stand at the doors and not ring the doorbell. Then I left feeling like such a bad person - having surely lost the approval of God, who knew my every thought and move. What a double bind situation for a child - love God and obey or be true to your inner knowing. The choice was disown God or disown yourself, and of course God should and would come out on top.

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  33. GYPSYWOMAN: Thank you for your comments. Well, that's where religion has the edge over any individual. Once you claim God is on your 'side', how can you 'tolerate' any dissenting views?

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  34. Linda Sue: I won't come to your door, unless it is with a bouquet of flowers! You are so right, education is key and Witnesses actively discourage higher education. But when someone is a lawyer, or an engineer, boy, do they ever put them to use for their ends!

    I hope you are right - but when you still see fundamentalist religions lobbying for the banning of books, and even killing people with opposing views to their (abortion doctors) you have to wonder if we have come very far at all.

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  35. What a good idea; stand at the door and not ring the bell! You found little ways to be nice to yourself!

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  36. I am so sorry for what you had to endure as a child and young adult. Anything that a young child is forced to go along with simply because they are the child of a believing adult is wrong in my eyes. It is one thing to expose our children to our beliefs; it is another thing to have a child participate in something beyond their years of understanding.

    I am so happy that you and your husband got out and are happy today. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite philosophers, BTW...

    Jennifer

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  37. This was a fascinating, disturbing, and poignant post, Bonnie. I learned a lot here about JWs - having only known the very basics before. This kind of experience is unfathomable to me, and to have decided to leave without knowing whether you would lose the man you loved, and the children their father (as you did, and I'm so sorry) took enormous courage.

    Should you write in a future post about how your life as a JW still affects you, I will be most interested to read it. And I am glad to have this knowledge of you, and can't help but think your experience has contributed to your very compassionate response to others.

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  38. Deborah: You are very kind. I plan to write more about the my life 'in captivity' and out.

    There is much I take away from the whole experience - some of it is actually good - a lot of it was not. All of it qualifies as a great learning experience. I have done the 'work' I needed to do to get past it - mended what fences I could and come to terms with those I could not.

    Your interest and affirmation is greatly appreciated.

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  39. Quite an expose. Very interesting reading. I had an aunt who was a JW. She lived some distance from us and never really got to see her and therefor never got into nor understood her religion except for basics that I have heard over the years. I do know it can be quite an oppresive type religion.

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  40. Hi Bonnie,

    This is such an important story to tell. It can not be told often enough. It is the story of Jehovah's Witnesses but also of so many other narrowly defined religious and political groups. (It could make a great book, but would undoubtedly put you on somebody's shxx list.)

    I was just listening to the radio on my drive back from Cincinnati this morning and I heard Christian talk radio fomenting about the insanity of keeping Christmas out of the public schools... As a mother I will feel complete if I am able to teach my children unbridled compassion paired with critical thinking skills.

    *I must have missed the sermon where Jesus preached on shunning.

    Peace and love to you!

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  41. Gary: Thanks for commenting. Yes, it did feel oppressive to me. Yet my husband, even tho he left did not feel 'oppressed' by it. Mind you, he could exercise more of his intelligences, talents and skills in their midst - I was a lowly female expected to be submissive to all the males and to know my god-ordained role.

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  42. Butternut: Yes that's a potent combination - compassion and critical thinking. I'm sure that is what you are teaching with both words and example.

    No, Jesus never admonished shunning; as I recall it was dear old batchelor, mysoginist Saint Paul. He told the early congregations to not 'sit with unbelievers'. I used to know this all by heart - he said many other similar things which I cannot recall right now. My heart is full of other things - like compassion. :)

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  43. Too many comments for me to read so I dare say I am repeating what others have said, but may I say it nevertheless:

    My heart aches for the child you were. Two phrases you used sum up fundamentalist religion and, in fact, all religions for me - remain isolated and never ask questions. I grew up as a Catholic child (although my family was mostly anti -) and went to a Catholic school. I left the Church when I was fourteen, and subsequently had a very hard time at school. But, I always asked questions and still do, not suitable for the adherent of any religion.

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  44. Dear Bonnie,
    Thank you for the story of your years growing up as a JW...I can tell you have found the blessings and let the rest go. Your honesty and humour tell how balanced you are today. Incredible work! Recovery from childhood oppression takes years of self love. Just learning what self love is takes years of work! Thank you again. When we share our stories we share hope. We let others know they are not alone.
    Thank you.
    Namaste,
    Sherry

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  45. bonnie,
    thank you so much for sharing your story. you are such a strong soul. i admire your bravery in standing up for what you believe in despite losing some of your family & community. you are amazing dear lady!

    x,
    myan

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  46. bonnie - much of this is a revelation to me. i have taught jw children but they didn't tell me much about their lives. now i get it. steven

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  47. Friko: Yes, yes, yes. We must be able to question!!! It takes our thinking to higher levels and we learn. If you are told not to ask questions - ask why!

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  48. Q. Thank you. Even self-love is frowned on among JWs. All glory and love is to be directed toward God - not yourself. JW children do not learn how to love themselves from the religion - some do from their parents.

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  49. zuppaartista: You are very kind. I did not feel very strong at all while in or while trying to exit. I felt weak, afraid and fragile. But I did it anyway - perhaps that is strength.

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  50. steven: You raise an important point. It would be great if teachers understood the amount of pressure jw children are under. In a time when peer pressure dominates, they are expected to continually exclude themselves from common activities - and thus be different from everyone else. They feel trapped and humiliated, when everyone else can do something, but they must say I can't or I'm not allowed. As well, when other children are home doing their homework, jw kids are often at meetings and don't get home until 10:00 p.m. They do not have the same amount of time as other kids to work on school projects on the weekends, because they are expected to go door-to-door Sat. & Sun. and to attend the 2 hour Sunday meeting.

    I had a couple of teachers who somehow knew my life was difficult and helped me through a couple of challenging situations - I will never forget them for their awareness and compassion.

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  51. Bonnie~ When I try to imagine what it was like for you, it hurts, because, I somehow 'feel' what you felt. I know you have spoken so openly about this before and I know it has to have taken quite a toll on you. You are incredibly strong to have pulled yourself from this.

    You are an inspiring woman, my dear friend~
    Have a beautiful love-filled Thanksgiving!

    Calli xo

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  52. Jennifer (Shattered): Thank you. C.S. Lewis is quite a philosopher, although I don't buy into all his Christian philosphy. Did you see the movie about him with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, called Shadowlands. I really enjoyed it.

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  53. Calli: Thank you. But the 'toll taken' is over and I am quite comfortable talking about it. I have had a long time to 'recover' and have done a lot of psychological work around it. Now I feel it is an interesting history with many lessons that can be learned.

    They did not disable me. I stand tall, with my head high and accept my life for what it was and is.

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  54. WOW, I am glad I stopped by. An extremely insightful and honest post. I went to school with a jw, I remember always feeling so sorry for her on days that people would share gifts and cards - I never truly understood why she didn't but I still remember her look of sadness.

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  55. My sister went through that stag, and also our mom. We went to her baptism and we respected her belief. My mother loved the company and the people were so nice, she didn't join and as soon as she told them that she wouldn't stop celebrating the holidays they stopped coming to the house. When they come to my house I always thank them but say that I am very happy in my own beliefs. My sister stopped the JW right after our mom.

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  56. Thank you for sharing your powerful story, Bonnie. What a difficult and painful thing for you to extricate yourself from this cult, at the expense of many family relationships. It also kind of makes my blood run cold that a mother can be so sincere in doing what she thinks is best for her child, and damage her child in doing so. As a mother, it's scary to think about.

    Your story reminds me of a beautifully written memoir called "In the Wilderness" by Kim Barnes, who also grew up in a very repressive religious sect. You might like it.

    Hugs to you.

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  57. EternallyDistracted: Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Yes, it is hard for kids to be different and have to exclude themselves from fun activities.

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  58. Remistuff: Isn't it unbelievable how easily they can drop you, like a hot potato, if you do not conform to all their ways. It is a bit schizophrenic how they can be so nice, and then cut you off at a moments notice.

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  59. Sallymandy: Yes, my mother was a good person - and she had a fabulous sense of humour, and I know she believed she was giving my sister and I a great gift. But she was mistaken.

    Thank you for the suggestion of Kim Barnes book, I will check it out.

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  60. Bonnie, I believe you have taken the good from your Jehovah's Witness upbringing--yes, the Jehovah's Witnesses I've known have been people of high moral standards, people who want to do the right thing. But you've moved beyond the narrowness of their outlook. Life is to celebrate!

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  61. What an interesting, and uncomfortable, post to read. I could never have taken a religion that was force-fed to me, and reading all the rules and regulations that seem so "out there". Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and thankfully we live in a country that you can do so, but I tend to shy away from religions that try to gather more people by going door-to-door or approaching you. I'll come on my on free will and time, thank you very much!

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  62. Pat: Well, you have it right - it really was 'force fed' indoctrination and isolation.

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  63. I daresay that it is not only JWs who are moral busybodies.

    I have a friend who was a good little JW boy, loved and still loves "door-knocking," got married as soon as he was twenty-one to his beautiful JW sweetheart. I attended the wedding and had never seen so much glitz and glitter and display of the female form! I was surprised! Sadly or perhaps not so sadly, my friend has had a taste of Real Life and is facing the same dilemma that you went through. He is effectively leading a double life.

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  64. This is a very good post Bunny. Living on the Muslim side of the world, I started to think that how hard core believers in every religion tries to take the fun and enjoyment in the daily life..

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  65. Hello Bonnie - I am a first time reader of your blog - led here by The Temptation of Words. I taught art to a now 13 year old girl for 4 or 5 years. Her parents are JW and I know she is suffering in it and resents it. I didn't realize how strict it was until I read your post! I feel I should help her somehow. We are still in touch and she lives close by. She is their only child and they adore her - surely they wouldn't shun her if she refused to go door to door with them? How can I help her or should I even try?

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  66. June: The lives of JWs are often full of contradictions - because in a way each and every one is trying to live in two worlds - the world of obedience to the written word, The Bible and the world all around them full of this culture's attractions.

    I feel bad for the man you describe - not easy.

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  67. Turquoise: Yes, the 'hard core' believers in all the world's religions live a strict and restricted life - some by choice, some not.

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  68. Betty: Thanks for dropping in! JW parents would not usually shun their underage children - I cannot recollect ever seeing that. If they are rebellious and not following scripture, other members of the congregation could be asked to limit association with the child.

    In the case you describe, I don't think you have any legal grounds on which to intervene. If you have any time alone with her you could mention that you know it is not easy being a JW kid, and that if she ever needs to talk you would be willing to listen. Just having someone to talk to could be a release of tension and a source of comfort. Unless you suspect some kind of abuse you cannot interfere in her relationship with her parents - no matter how well-intentionned you might be.

    Thanks for your compassion and concern towards this child. Hope you drop by here again soon!

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  69. I had no idea that your childhood was like this. It shows just how far you have come by following your own heart and mind.

    I spent several years of my younger years in a very conservative Lutheran church (Wisconsin Synod) and it never fails to dismay me how robotic so many of my friends from that time still are. Afraid to think for themselves because they have been so browbeaten, they simply repeat what they have been told. They are why I don't trust any religious groups.

    I'm glad you were able to give your family a different kind of life. And you have gone on to help so many other people besides. Well done, Bonnie!

    The C.S. Lewis quote sent chills down my spine.

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  70. Angela: Thank you so much. My experience has left me quite a skeptic with regard to religions too. I realize they fulfill a lot of human needs, but I think they are often dependancy needs . . . but that's just my point of view.

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