The last two weeks have been spent in a post-Jehovah haze. My head has been buzzing continually with conflicting thoughts. I feel like I've literally been living and breathing the Jehovah's Witness faith. I was really tempted to go back and meet with Mary & Eric again this week, just to be near their kindness, their warmth. But I didn't, I couldn't. Because of everything else the Jehovah's Witness faith makes me feel.
These are probably the most “Christian” people I know. They take the bible as it is written. They don't pick and choose scriptures to live by; they wake and sleep daily by the entire word of God.
This also makes them the scariest Christians I have met. Because they live in a world dictated to by the words of men written two thousand years ago and have no room for cultural context, or changing societal values. For my Christian readers among you, this may sound like a good thing, the way the bible intended to be read. But you'd probably be amazed how much your church doesn't follow the bible in this way.
And no, I'm not talking about Old Testament doctrine; sowing of different crops in a field, marrying your brother's widow. I'm talking about New Testament law.
I'm going to give you some examples I have read from the information given to me by Mary & Eric.
1 - We must shun practices that displease God - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
So this includes: greediness, lying, cheating, homosexuality, stealing, overtly admiring, alcoholism. Sounds fair enough, until you think about the last time you told somebody their haircut looked nice but it really was bad, or the last time you pinched a grape from Coles, made your friend a mixtape, or sold your house at an unreasonable profit, or the last time you talked yourself up on your CV, or the last time you proclaimed your love for Ryan Gossling.
2 - We can please Jehovah (God) by hating what he hates - Romans 12:9
Now if we take this scripture in the context of the passage, it also says ‘be devoted to one another in brotherly love; share with God’s people who are in need; bless those who persecute you; live in harmony with one another; be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody; if your enemy is hungry feed him, if he is thirsty give him something to drink.
So I say, best leave the wrath of God to God alone.
3 - We can show respect for life by not endangering it and not eating blood - Acts 15:28-29
This passage also mentions you should abstain from the meat of strangled animals, but I don’t know too many Christians checking in on their local abattoirs conditions. Or ensuring their steak is always and only 'well done'. Also this is why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in blood transfusions. They explain it this way:
Suppose a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Would that simply mean that you should not drink alcohol but you could have it injected into your veins? Of course not! (taken from “What the bible really teaches” page 130)
4 - Children need to obey their parents - Ephesians 6:1-3
I only highlight this one because as the child of non-Christian parents I was regularly encouraged by my church leadership to obey them before my parents.
5 - It is wrong to take part in celebrations that have pagan origins - Ephesians 5:10
So here we’re not celebrating Easter, Christmas, New Year, Halloween or even birthdays.
When I was speaking to Mary and Eric after the service, I was pretty quick to quiz them on some of the more difficult issues surrounding the modern church. I asked them how they chose ‘which parts’ of the bible to follow. They explained that as Christians, they followed the new law, and therefore old Jewish law didn’t longer apply. They directed me to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (which feels a bit like a go to for Witnesses) and listed the current “wicked behaviours”. I interrupted them at “adultery”.
But how you do know what the bible means by “adultery”? I asked.
What do you mean? asked Mary.
Well, where do you get your definition of what adultery is from? I mean, isn’t it adultery to re-marry a divorced woman?
Eric loved this question. Well, in order to define what is meant by adultery, we refer back to Old Testament law, you see, a woman could re-marry, if she was divorced because her husband had committed adultery on her…
He did answer my question with a lot of gusto, but it did make it harder to see the difference between old and new law, if he has to refer back to the old law to define the new.
When I raised the issue of homosexuality they were gentle in their delivery, but firm in their choice of words.
But Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality his entire ministry?
But it was listed in the wicked behaviours, right next to fornication, which they explained to me was ‘sex before marriage’.
I realised then that normally by this point in a service I’ve been able to slip into conversation that I live with my boyfriend and let people decide how they feel about that for themselves. But I hadn’t warned Mary & Eric of my situation. So I sat there, listening to them kindly explain to me the wickedness of fornicators, when I knew I was done with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Here’s why. You can tell me all you like my relationship is wicked, I’m living in sin. You can call me a fornicator or sexually immoral. But until you’ve walked into my home and seen the love and respect that we have for each other, you don’t have a clue. I understand Christianity; I know the way it works. But I also know, if Jesus were alive today, I’d have no shame welcoming him into my house.
Mary & Eric were kind people. They loved their God. I respect them and I wish them all the best. But their God isn’t my God, even if we all read different versions of the same bible.
There’s another side of the Jehovah’s Witness faith I discovered though, and that is their deep concern for each other. Their Awake! magazines include articles on how to ‘Protect yourself from crime!’, how to 'Avoid hurtful speech' and 'What to do if you're being bullied' for teenagers. Although I'm not entirely sure if I think this is kind, or just further adding to their apparent fear of the world outside the church.
But it's much easier to be cynical when you've just been labeled a fornicator, an idolater, a thief, greedy and a drunkard. I guess no amount of kindness and hand holding makes that feel better.
So yeah, I'm still looking.