Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to Become a Jehovah's Witness

By Kenneth Guindon.

Here they come, walkin' down the street. They get the funniest looks from everyone they meet.

Hey, hey, it's the Watchtower, and they're not monkeyin' around. This former JW explains how the world's most effective door-to-door conversion machine is targeting you.

It's early 1956, and I'm seated in a long, narrow building in Venice, California, that used to be a laundromat. It still looks like one. The walls are bare of decorations, painted some nondescript pastel color. Small windows near the ceiling let in some sunlight, but the main light comes from the rows of fluorescent lights that hum and flicker above my head. A podium is perched front and center on the stage at the far end of the room. It's really just a well-furnished, drab little box of a meeting room, but everyone around me calls it the Kingdom Hall.

That was my first visit to what Jehovah's Witnesses respectfully call "The House of Jehovah." A large banner hung over the stage proclaiming a Scripture text I can no longer remember. Other than that one prop, there was no other evidence that Jehovah had anything to do with the place. Being raised Catholic, I understood "going to church" to mean prayer and worship, so my first visit to the Kingdom Hall was an experience very different from what I was used to. I had been invited to attend the lecture and remain for a "Bible study" using The Watchtower magazine. The Watchtower, a slickly-produced, full-color magazine, is the official source of the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the official name for the Jehovah's Witness religion). Balancing my Bible, a notepad and a copy of The Watchtower on my knee, I waited expectantly for the meeting to begin.
When we were told to stand for the opening prayer, my ingrained Catholic habits took over. Without thinking, I raised my right hand to my forehead and began making the sign of the Cross. Suddenly, realizing where I was, I sheepishly lowered my arm and looked out the corner of my eye, hoping no one had seen me. A few had, but no one said anything. I kicked myself mentally, reminding myself that I still had a lot of Catholic training to forget.

Compared to the Catholic Mass, my first impression of the meeting at the Kingdom Hall was that it was weird and pretty boring. I was neither expecting, nor comfortable with, the dry question-and-answer-style format. It reminded me too much of school. But in some ways, ironically, it seemed a lot better than the Catholic parish I had attended. The Traditional Latin Mass I had been raised with was far more outwardly impressive than the stripped-down JW "meeting," but on the negative side, Catholics were aloof. At our Catholic parish, nobody went out of his or her way to greet me, or anyone else for that matter, and why should they have? I was just another kid attending Mass. The Jehovah's Witnesses were anything but aloof. They smothered me with attention and acceptance.
Here I was welcomed by everyone, and I mean everyone. "Mrs. Jones," the lady who brought me to the meeting, introduced me to all her friends and to any young person she spotted. (It seemed odd to hear people call her "sister." She wasn't a nun, just one of the members, but everyone here called each other "brother" or "sister.")

I didn't know it, but Mrs. Jones had already informed most of these folks that I was facing lots of opposition from my parents, who were very antagonistic toward Jehovah's Witnesses. Armed with that knowledge, the congregation overwhelmed me with hearty glad-handing and a very welcoming atmosphere.
I was warmly greeted, politely encouraged, endlessly patted on the back and repeatedly told how very glad everyone was to see me and to hear of my "progress in the truth." JWs constantly use the expressions "in the truth" and "in the world" (cf. John 17:14-19). The one who is "in the world" or "part of the world" is not "in the truth." One who is in the truth is one who has come out of the world, which means he has become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. At first, the name "Jehovah" was strange to me, but I quickly became accustomed to hearing it and even began using it myself. Within a short period of time, I wanted very much to become a true worshipper of Jehovah God. In 1956, JWs numbered less than 800,000 worldwide. I was proud and grateful to be part of the faithful few. By becoming a Jehovah's Witness, I had done something very like joining Noah's family just before the Great Flood. I would be among the few survivors of Armageddon.

I returned home from my first meeting with Jehovah's Witnesses and sat down to think, to review what had happened. Suddenly a strange feeling came over me. I became very unsettled and uncomfortable. I had the strangest feeling that I hadn't been to church. I had been to a meeting. I hadn't really worshipped God -- I had heard a lecture and had spent the better part of an hour studying a magazine. I had scarcely prayed and certainly hadn't done anything I considered "worship." I was unsettled, but I decided I wanted to continue down the path I was on. There was something special, something attractive about the Jehovah's Witnesses, something I wasn't about to let go of.
I pushed that nagging "maybe I shouldn't be doing this" thought out of my head. Then I closed my mind and locked it tight.
I had become a Jehovah's Witness.
How had this happened to me?
The short answer is that I had fallen prey to predators. I had fallen into a trap, a well thought-out and programmed Watchtower plan to make converts. The longer answer is that this catastrophe of my losing my Catholic Faith and becoming a Jehovah's Witness took seven steps -- seven easy steps. And what happened to me can happen to almost anyone. It can happen to you or to someone you love. I know many intelligent and well-informed Catholics who have fallen into the same trap I did.

That long ago day of my first visit to the Kingdom Hall, I couldn't have imagined that one day I'd be warning Catholics not to take the seven steps I took that led me to the Watchtower.
Let me take you on a guided tour of the path I followed. I'll show you the danger Catholics are in when Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking at the door.

Step One: The JWs visit your home and offer you literature. And you take it.

This is the first step, the place where the separating of the "sheep from the goats" begins. Sheep are those who are willing to listen to the JW presentation at the door. Goats are the door slammers, the "I'm not interesteds," the "get off my propertys" -- those who won't give JWs the time of day. My first point of advice: Be a goat. No, I don't mean you should slam the door. Be polite, of course, but unless you're truly prepared to deal with the clever arguments and tenacious style JWs are trained to use (most Catholics are not), you should not enter into a discussion with them. Don't accept their literature. How do Jehovah's Witnesses find the sheep? They divide the neighborhood -- your neighborhood -- surrounding their Kingdom Hall into parcels called "field territories." Your home or office is located in one of these parcels and is targeted for an eventual visit. Jehovah's Witnesses "check out" a territory, much like checking out a book from the library, by obtaining a little card with a map glued to it from the local Kingdom Hall. The territory typically encompasses between four to eight suburban blocks. Often the one who takes a territory is a "book study overseer." JWs meet in groups of a dozen or so in a nearby home where a book study overseer has been appointed to conduct studies of the Watchtower Society's publications. On weekends, he leads the group in door-to-door "field service."

The group is divided into teams of two or three. Each team is assigned to work a territory of several blocks, visiting every home or apartment within the defined boundaries. Usually the more seasoned JWs train newer ones in the techniques needed to preach their doctrines. The teams fan out, knocking on doors, endeavoring to talk with each "householder" and leave literature with him. This is called "placing" literature or a "book campaign." During a campaign, JWs try to induce householders to accept a book. During the years I was going door-to-door as a JW, each piece of literature had a price, and we left it on the basis of a contribution of 50 cents or more. We were trained that it was very important to say, "This book is yours for a contribution of 50 cents." This was to avoid the accusation that we were selling literature, which was exactly what we were doing.
In 1990, the Witnesses began distributing their literature free in order to avoid litigation and the risk of losing their status as a non-profit organization. Now a potential convert is told he may give any contribution he likes; of course a suggested offering is mentioned. Whatever sum a Witness receives is then put into a box reserved for it at the Kingdom Hall. Those householders who accept literature are carefully noted by the JW, who records it on a "House to House Record" form. He writes down the family's name and address and the details of his conversation. This is used to prepare for the second visit to that home.

Let me stress again that Catholics should not accept any literature from Jehovah's Witnesses. By accepting their literature, you give them a handy pretext for a second visit to your home. And they will return if offered the slightest encouragement. Door-to-door work is drudgery. I've seen Jehovah's Witnesses walk down the street as slowly as possible. They appear to not be in a hurry to visit the homes. At first, though, it's kind of fun, and the conversations can be exciting. When I was new to door-to-door work, I enjoyed trying to pick a fight with whoever answered the doorbell. I would tell the householder straight-out that priests and ministers were lying to people about hell. Hell was my favorite topic. Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in hell. No one was prepared to argue with me on this. I had four or five Scriptures marked and chain-referenced in my Bible, so I could "prove" that souls who died were unconscious. Clearly they couldn't suffer torment in hell.
I had been told that Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, had convinced multitudes of this "new truth" about the nonexistence of hell by his public conferences and debates on death and hell. Eventually, I was told to stop using this method because I was supposed to use the sermon outlined in the "Kingdom Ministry" (a folder we studied at the Service Meetings).

Step Two: The JWs return to your home and ask to talk more. You let them in.

Returning to the territory, the Witness takes out his House to House Record and begins visiting the people who previously accepted literature. His new goal is to get the householder who has taken the first step (accepting literature) to take the next step, by agreeing to let the JWs hold a weekly "Bible study" in his home. Witnesses carry a little book called Reasoning From the Scriptures whenever they go door-to-door. It's a little encyclopedia of information and answers to just about any objection or argument that could be thrown at them. Little does the householder realize that he is not dealing with an individual JW who is speaking on his own, but with the Watchtower Society, who has prepared in-depth answers to any conceivable objection. Reasoning From the Scriptures has quotations from many sources, biblical and historical, all intended to bolster the arguments JWs use to promote their bizarre mix of doctrines. This little book usually enables the Witness to take charge of any discussion about religion. Years after I left the Jehovah's Witnesses and had become a Baptist minister, I was called to the home of a lady who had invited Jehovah's Witnesses to be there. Upon my arrival, I discovered a couple of JWs engaged in lively conversation with the Baptist lady. I jumped into the fray and pretty soon the conversation got a little sticky for the man (men usually lead these discussions, the women assume a passive role). His wife took out her copy of Make Sure of All Things (the former title of Reasoning From the Scriptures), and coming to her husband's rescue, began supplying him with Scripture references designed to refute me. I got up, went over to her, and asked if I could take a look at that book. I went back to my seat, pretended to look at it, and then placed it behind my back. I told them we were going to use the Bible without any books or helps. Which we did.

The JW man quoted a Scripture in Romans 10, trying to disprove the divinity of Christ. I replied, "Let's read the whole chapter." The woman protested that I wasn't letting her husband speak. I reminded her that he had had his chance and now it was my turn. Before reading the verse I had in mind, I read the whole chapter to show them that Romans 10 does teach that Christ is God. I made them stick to the context. This is extremely important. Never allow Jehovah's Witnesses to use only isolated proof texts to support their views. Force them to take into account the context of these passages.
By now, as you can guess, if the Catholic is allowing the JWs to return to his home for these informal discussions, he's in serious danger of having his faith shipwrecked. We're now approaching the shoals that will tear his faith apart.

Step Three: The JWs ask if they can conduct a Bible study in your home, and you let them.

This isn't really a Bible study. It's a study of Watchtower publications. In my case, I took this third step when I was sixteen and still, barely, a Catholic. A Jehovah's Witness lady gave me a book called Let God Be True and told me that if I really wanted to understand the Bible, I'd need to devote one or two hours a week going through the chapters in the book with her. Every paragraph in the JW book has numbered questions at the bottom of the page to guide students through the subject matter. Topics such as "the future of the earth," "the state of the dead," "the person of Christ," "the Trinity," "the second coming of Christ," "blood transfusions" and "Christian neutrality" are arranged systematically for ease of use in these small discussions. These are the subjects JWs want to teach you. They have one goal: to break down and obliterate your faith in the Trinity, in the Catholic Church, in the divinity of Christ, and to lead you to accept the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as your savior.
Like millions of others who have taken this step down the road to becoming a JW, I naively thought I was going to learn something about the Bible. At the very beginning, I had no intention of becoming a Jehovah's Witness. I wanted to prove them wrong. I thought I was smart enough to do it. What happened was that I became more and more impressed with what I was learning and my confidence in my Jehovah's Witness teacher and her organization grew. Little by little, much of what she said was becoming clear; everything seemed so rational, so logical. Her explanation that God created man to live in a paradise, and that because He is almighty, He will have His way, made sense.
Jehovah God's plan couldn't fail. He was going to create another paradise, and only His Witnesses would survive the destruction of the world, and then cultivate the earth to bring it into a paradisiacal condition. Jehovah's Witnesses would multiply, as God had commanded Adam and Eve, and gradually become perfect human creatures. That sounded great to me. I'd have a perfect wife, I wouldn't die, I'd be serving Jehovah God and living in harmony with nature and all animals. A couple, both former JWs, had this to say about their first contacts with the Watchtower Society:

"In the fall of 1950, a Jehovah's Witness couple called on us, and they seemed to have all the answers. They came every week and studied with us, giving of their time and of themselves to be there. They 'proved' their false doctrines by quoting Bible verses, but I know now that these were twisted and out of context. Their study material came from publications of the Watchtower Society and was the reasoning of man. They continually stressed that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was 'God's only channel of communication on earth today,' and pointed out the shortcomings of the rest of the world, and of Christendom in particular. These statements were repeated over and over as fact, until they became truth to our deluded minds. We were slowly and methodically brainwashed and indoctrinated." Douglas, a personal friend of mine who used to be a Jehovah's Witness, describes his first encounter with them:
"At this stage of my life I was really confused. I had no God, no hope, no security . . . Then one day in the summer of 1970, one of Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door and I was willing to listen to the views of this group. Soon we agreed to a Bible study with this impartial (in terms of my wife's Catholicism and my agnosticism) third party who represented an organization that held some of the same political and social views we did . . . In the course of our three years with the organization, we were taught doctrines and 'truths' from the Watchtower publications in a clear and logical manner." You can see that for the person who is searching, or is even mildly curious about religion, the Jehovah's Witnesses have great appeal.

Step Four: The JWs invite you to the "neighborhood book study."

Once the personal home Bible study has progressed this far, it is time to introduce the "Bible student" (as the JWs now refer to you among themselves) to the "organization," meaning other JWs. It's time for you to attend the Neighborhood Book Study on Tuesday evenings. The Witnesses introduce you to the book study overseer and to other "friends," another name JWs use for their fellow JWs. Most students are impressed by the friendliness, the JWs' clean-cut looks, the suits and ties and modest skirts. The method of study is just like the one he has been following at home, but the group dynamics have changed. Even more friendly attention is focused on you as a prospective convert, more compliments and encouragement are dished out, and the subtle pressure to take the next step is steadily stepped up by everyone in the growing circle of JWs who surround you.
Like water in a windmill, you're being steadily pulled away from your Catholic Faith without fully realizing it. You're well on your way to becoming a Jehovah's Witness. It's time for step five.

Step Five: You're invited to visit the Kingdom Hall on Sunday.

It may not be apparent, but things are now progressing at breakneck speed. You realize, or maybe you don't, that you have very little time for your former friends. The Jehovah's Witnesses are now swarming, dominating your time and energy. You are reminded repeatedly that your non-JW friends and family are in the world -- they're deceived by the devil. But you've come to know the truth, and don't you want to be in the truth?
Now you receive an invitation to visit the local Kingdom Hall on Sunday where, you're assured, a very interesting lecture will be given. The Witness just knows it will be so helpful to you. Most likely, the talk will include a lengthy, exciting description of the coming Kingdom of Jehovah on earth, sprinkled with lurid details of Armageddon and the destruction of all the wicked (ie. all non-Jehovah's Witnesses). So you visit the Kingdom Hall and go through the same experience I described at the beginning of this article. Best of all, there's no collection! This is a feature JWs always tout with pride. They never take up collections like the churches of Christendom. Everything here is voluntary; no preaching for money and no salaried clergymen, like in the world. Jehovah's true followers work for free. Once you become somewhat regular at Sunday meetings (this means you've ceased attending your own parish), you're ready for the sixth step.

Step Six: You accept the invitation to attend the "Ministry School" and "Service Meetings."

You will be asked how you liked the public talks on Sundays and the study of The Watchtower that follows. If you're coming along nicely and enjoying your new friends (by this point in my case, I was dating Jehovah's Witness girls), you'll be invited to attend the Ministry School and the Service Meetings on Thursday evenings. You'll be told you can enroll in the school and receive in-depth training in the Scriptures. The Service Meeting is designed to teach you how to be a witness for Jehovah, how to talk to others about JW beliefs, and how to answer objections. Lectures, role-play skits, informal talks and question-and-answer sessions make up the program. You'll be impressed with how well the respondents -- folks just like you -- seem to know the Bible. You won't realize at this point that the questions are given out to chosen individuals ahead of time.
The time has finally come to share what you've learned. This is a definite psychological line that, once crossed over, is very difficult to return from. You're reminded by the JWs that a "generous and responsible" person who really loves Jehovah God and his fellow man will be motivated to share all that he's been learning. You're invited to go into the door-to-door field service "just to see what it's like." You'll be able to see for yourself how the Witnesses are like the first Christians, generous, selfless, sacrificing, willing to go out to the highways and byways to spread the message of Jehovah's Kingdom -- to be a witness for Jehovah.

You're invited to take note of the religious indifference and ignorance of the Bible displayed by the people whose homes you visit. You'll be forewarned that many, perhaps most, people hate Jehovah's Witnesses and persecute them because they are messengers of Jehovah's truth (cf. Matt. 24:9).
You're told that by going door-to-door, you will enter into the "narrow way" that leads to eternal life. You'll be able to earn the gift of life! With Armageddon just around the corner, don't you want to be safe and happy with Jehovah's chosen few, the only ones who will escape the coming calamities? By now, all of this seems perfectly reasonable to you. It makes sense. It's very attractive, almost exhilarating. So you accept the invitation to go out door-to-door. At the moment you knock on that first door, you've crossed a crucial line. You've bought into the JW ideology. It's now your ideology, and by going door-to-door to spread that ideology, you have become a Jehovah's Witness.

Step Seven: You agree to be baptized as a Jehovah's Witness.

This is the final step. Since you are now a Jehovah's Witness in spirit, you must symbolize your dedication to Jehovah God and His organization by being immersed in water and, in so doing, officially become a Jehovah's Witness. Being baptized doesn't mean you will be born again (cf. John 3:5). That is reserved only for the 144,000 who will be in heaven for eternity (cf. Rev. 14:1-5). For you, baptism means only that you are following Jesus Christ and promising to be obedient to the organization that Jehovah directs through Christ and the 144,000. You agree to accept all the directives coming to you through Jehovah's channel, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Congratulations! You've become a statistic, part of a carefully scrutinized Watchtower report showing new converts. Now it's your turn to go out into the field service and remit a monthly report to your local Kingdom Hall. As a full-fledged Jehovah's Witness, you will be expected to begin immediately leading others through the seven steps that brought you to this point. You're warned by the local elders to never entertain negative thoughts about the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, but to banish them. You may never talk to ex-Witnesses or anti-Jehovah's Witnesses, nor are you to read any of their literature. These people have turned their backs on the truth and are considered "worse than pigs, who having once been washed, have returned to wallowing in the mud; yes, they are like dogs who have returned to their vomit" (2 Peter 2:22). Jehovah will soon destroy them forever!
If you should ever turn your back on the truth, you will be shunned. No one at the Kingdom Hall will be able to talk to you because you will have become a traitor. If you're ever disfellowshipped (ie. excommunicated), your spouse or your children won't be allowed to converse with you on any Christian matters, nor will they be permitted to pray with you, because you will have turned away from Jehovah's organization. If you ever leave the Watchtower, you will become a "dog," a "Judas."

Now get out there and start knocking on those doors.
An excellent essay dealing with this process is found in William J. Schnell, "A Seven Step Program, Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave, The Confessions of a Converted Jehovah's Witness" (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958), chapter 15. Schnell calls this program "brainwashing." See also, Edmond Charles Gruss, Apostles of Denial, An Examination and Expose of the History, Doctrines and Claims of the Jehovah's Witnesses (Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 247-249. Mr. Gruss agrees that these seven steps are a form of "brainwashing." Edmond C. Gruss, We Left Jehovah's Witnesses -- A Non-Prophet Organization (Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Inc.)


Gray said...

You don't have to go through 7 steps. Many may. My wife is preparing to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. She didn't follow your 7 steps. Some do. Some don't. Jehovah's Witnesses are true followers of Christ. They believe all His teachings, including His command 'Love your enemies.' The pseudo-christians pray to their god to bless their guns to kill their enemies. World War 1 & 2 were both started by pseudo-christians and on both sides they prayed to Jesus to bless their guns to kill the pseudo-christians on the other side. Madness. Disobedience to Christ's command to turn the other cheek. Become a true Christian and accept all of Christ's teachings including,'My Father is greater than I am.'
Graham Mewburn

Gray said...

Brainwashing is telling a person again and again that black is white until they believe it. Pseudo-chritianity has told the masses that god is a trinity again and again for hundreds of years. And you all believe it. Can show one scripture that says your god is a trinity? Can you show one scripture that describes your god as a trinity? Regardless you will continue to believe it because you are brainwashed. I wish this were not true, as so many people I love are victims of this lie.
1 Cor 11:3 "God is the head of Christ"
Will you listen to the Word of God or cling to a teaching of men.
Warm Christian Love
Graham Mewburn