True Story: I Was A Jehovah’s Witness

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging, amazing things.  This is the story of Amber-Rose and her time as a Jehovah’s Witness.

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Hello there! I’m Amber and I live in Wales, UK with my boyfriend and our very fluffy cat. I work in digital marketing and will be 22 this October. I have an addition to Netflix and Earl Grey tea.
For those of us who don’t know, what are the basic tenets of this religion?
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ can be found in nearly every country, come from all walks of life but all have the same goal – which is to follow the teachings of the Bible to the best of their ability and to honour God, whose name is Jehovah. Because we witness, or talk, about Jehovah God and his Kingdom, we are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Oh, I come across so many, but the biggest? Hmm. Perhaps that we shun former members of the religion? If someone chooses to leave the religion, they are not shunned. I wasn’t! Witnesses still warmly greet me when I bump into them in the Supermarket. They also don’t automatically boot you out should you commit a serious sin.However, if someone makes a habit of doing something which is clearly condemned in the Bible and don’t change their ways, or aren’t sorry for it then they are disfellowshipped and ‘shunned’. They are still allowed to attend meetings, as these are public. Whilst they have severed their ties with their religious family, this shouldn’t change their relationship with their parents, siblings, spouse or children. I have heard of times when children have been unceremoniously kicked out of the family home after being disfellowshipped, but I have certainly never heard that officially encouraged by the religion. That’s a private matter for the family. My Mum (who is still a practicing Witness) and I have a very close relationship.

I’d say that the most annoying/worrying misconception is when people think we’re a sect or that we’re brainwashed. When you are studying with a view to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, you are taught only from the Bible and there’s no pressure. We do have a Governing Body based in Brooklyn though, and you can read more about that here.
How did you become a Jehovah’s Witness? Were you raised in the church?
My Mother and my Uncle have been Jehovah’s Witnesses since before I was born, but my Father never was. They divorced some years ago. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but decided to leave a few years back. This however hasn’t tainted my views on the religion. Whilst I don’t attend meeting anymore, I strangely still use the word ‘we’ when speaking about them.
How did being a Jehovah’s Witness affect your daily life?
It becomes such a natural part of your life you hardly notice it. It becomes a habit to pray, as if you were confiding in a friend that’s always with you. Sometimes it was hard, as you make yourself stand out by not celebrating public holidays, not singing hymns in school assemblies, and praying before meals etc.
The biggest thing is of course the ministry service, which all Witnesses do, to a varying extent. Why do we do it? Jesus told his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe God’s promise of everlasting life for all who obey him. (Romans 6:23) We endeavour to share our faith with others, hoping that they will benefit from God’s promises. But we don’t believe that we earn our salvation by engaging in our ministry.
Just like any religion, I’d imagine there are varying degrees of commitment. Did you do yoga? Did you discuss politics?
Oh certainly, there are some ‘grey areas’ where it’s simply a matter of conscience, and so of course there will be things that some Witnesses you encounter WILL do, and others won’t. Things like the Harry Potter books, certain films with ‘spooky’ elements and degrees of modesty in clothing.The MOST important thing however is that you don’t stumble or damage someone else’s faith through your decisions and actions. I quietly read, and loved the Harry Potter books as a teenage but I wouldn’t have mentioned it to anyone else, as whilst it didn’t knock my faith personally – it would have been unfair to bother someone else’s conscience if they disagreed with me. So to answer your question, I don’t know of anyone that did yoga, but maybe someone did if they enjoyed the exercise. Politics was certainly discussed, be certainly not heavily as Witnesses don’t have any political allegiance.

To flesh out the story of why I chose to leave; I was stumbling a fellow Witness by having close friend who weren’t Witnesses. This is generally discouraged, as they could have been a bad influence on me. I particularly enjoyed going to live music events with my friends; so I was encouraged to a weekend music festival with a few other witnesses my age I suppose to prove their point that I could do the things I enjoyed with other Witnesses. To cut a long story short, I was so appalled by these fellow ‘Witnesses’ behaviour that weekend – my faith my seriously knocked and I didn’t attend meetings after that. Since then, those people were disfellowshipped for repeating the conduct from that weekend on other occasions.
What does being a Witness bring to your life?
A sense of peace. The world can be a confusing and worrying place. You hear stories of wars, violence, racism, intolerance of culture and religion, natural disasters, sickness and corruption. It paints a sad picture. Not once did I go to the Elders of our congregation with a question and come away dissatisfied with the answer.
What’s your advice for someone interested in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness? 
Ask for a Bible Study and see what you think – even if you’re just curious! You can have a Bible Study in nearly any language, and you can nearly always find Jehovah’s Witnesses near you, even if you don’t think there are any. The website is www.watchtower.org via which you can request someone from your home town to contact you. It might surprise you.Thanks so much for sharing your story, Amber-Rose!  Are any of you guys Jehovah’s Witnesses?  Do you have any (respectful!) questions for her?


photo by peasap // cc

13 Comments

Anonymous

Hi, I really enjoyed that interview. I am a Jehovah's witness and it us really nice to hear an accurate story about what it is like. It's also very nice how positive and respectful Amber is although she has chosen not to be a part of the religion anymore.
Thanks!

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LadyJ

Hello there, I found this really interesting. I have two questions for you: first, how do I tell the Jehova´s Witnesses that are always coming to me door that I am not interested? They are really nice and friendly and I don´t want to be a jerk to them, Second, what about the behaviour of the other Witnesses during the festival appaled you? I can´t figure out whether they behaved brudishly or the opposite. Thanks.

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Amber-Rose

Hi LadyJ! It's nice of you to ask, not everyone is so courteous! I'd just smile, be gracious and say "Thank you for calling, but I'm really not interested. Do you think you could make a note of it somewhere to save you the trouble in future?" There isn't really a way of saying 'never call again' to someone without it sounding at least a little abrupt. If you just say the first part though, they will just think the haven't come at the right time and come again.

As for the behaviour at the festival, it was the irony of the situation and then how it was handled afterwards that upset me. I went with two sisters, their mother and two of their friends whom I hadn't met before. We were 19, 18, 16 and 14 at the time. The mother had been lecturing my mum for ages about how I shouldn't be associating with non-JW teenagers as they would be getting drunk, taking drugs and generally being a bad influence… so, we all went to this festival and they were getting the 14 year old little sister drunk on shots of vodka, managed to buy some cannabis off someone and were actually acting worse than my other friends.

When we came home, and I told people about it, their mother said I was lying and everyone believed her. I was so upset I left and didn't look back. This was pretty rare though, and was quite the scandal when the truth came out after they were caught doing the same thing again and were disfellowshipped. I don't hold a grudge against any of them, as looking back, it was handled the best it could have been under the circumstances when it was my word against all of theirs. All teenagers can make mistakes, misbehave and lie to their parents, it doesn't matter what religion you're brought up in. 🙂

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Anonymous

I'm sorry, I cannot respect a religion that tells you who your friends are, because your non-Witness friends MIGHT not be good people. Whatever happened to giving people a chance?

I also find it really disturbing that they tried to dictate who you can see; that really smacks of cult-like behavior to me.

You seem like an awesome person, but every experience I've ever had with Witnesses has been unpleasant or outright dangerous. I'm glad you made the decision that leaving was best for YOU.

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Anonymous

The Jehovah's Witnesses that came to our door once were nice, but VERY insistent. We thought they might get extra points for converting Jewish people or something hahaha.

Very nice, just a little bit too push for my personal tastes.

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ToriD

So what does being disfellowshipped mean, exactly, if they can attend the meetings? What specific types of behavior might cause that?

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Anonymous

As an ex-Jehovah's Witness having been born and raised in the religion, I can answer this for you. You can only be disfellowshipped if you have been baptized into the religion. Once you are disfellowshipped, you can still attend meetings but that's it. You cannot speak to any of the other witnesses other than the elders that took away your "privileges" and (I have to disagree with the author here) all the members INCLUDING your family are discouraged from speaking to you. You can't comment at said meetings, and you are discouraged from preaching about the religion until you are reinstated since you're not considered in good standing with the congregation.

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Charles T. Russell

Obviously a load of tosh, who would recommend a way to become a JW, after having left. If so satisfied and at peace why did you leave? Clearly greeting your sexual needs fulfilled, which I am all for, was more important as you would not be living with your boyfriend, just the cat, or more likely at home with your parents as a single witness woman would have no need to live alone. You lie peddling cretin.

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Best Thoughts to You

The person who posted as Charles T. Russell, Amber, I think you should take that down. I find his comment offensive. You posted a worthy article and name calling; well it should be beneath any intelligent person. Amber like many on line people has posted her OPINION, calling her a liar over it? There is a man similar to Amber who was raised in the faith but does not participate but makes U-Tubes that tell of his experience. He too, has many objective and nice things to say. I would like to support Amber’s viewpoint. Not everyone remains with the religion the grew up with, no matter WHAT it is. Thank you Amber, I understand how you felt with the truth of your situation with the other people not coming to light at once. But it did come to light. No matter how many years go by, do not hesitate to consider the bible again in your life. The witnesses, like the general public, are made up of imperfect people. Making mistakes, and sometime deliberately so. IN fact in the bible in the old testament, the new testament warned repeatedly about the ‘ungodly men’ or people slipping in right among the congregation. YES. Even the Jewish nation of the old testament faced this as WELL as the apostles and Christ. And so it remains today. Yes, people have been in kingdom halls that were there for other reasons than the teachings and following the faith. Why? Why does it happen in any religion? But it happens in ALL of them. The JW’s will likely have a lot LESS of it than other faiths as they DO ask people to leave that are unrepentant about sin. Where as MOST churches, not ALL but most, do not care if their members life style matches the bibles commandments or not. And so it has been since the beginning of time. Thank you Amber. I hope you still read the bible. No matter what has happened in the past, the future, which will be perfect, indeed will come. Blessings to you.

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Best Thoughts to You

“But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with an called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. For what to I have to do with judging those on the outside? Do you not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? Remove the wicked man amongst yourselves.” 1 Corinthians 5: 11-13. There are many other explanations of this teaching, including in the old testament. The Jewish nation was accused of ‘brazen conduct’ based on understanding God’s forgiveness in the book of Jude. Disfellowshipping is rare in the congregation of JW. If a person just drifts off out of the religion and becomes inactive, they are NOT disfellowshipped. There would be NO need, they are NOT associating with the people in the congregation. Before you say how awful this is, how many parents wish they would have never met that first person who introduced their son or daughter to drugs? That makes sense to anyone. Essentially, people disassociate due to moral conduct all of the time. And they judge within the congregation. Not society. The meetings are public. And we all start somewhere in changing our lives to fit our faith.

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