How to React if your Child has Been Recruited by Jehovah’s Witnesses
by Andrew X
If your child has been recruited by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, my advice would be to act quickly and – most of all – cautiously. Right away at the beginning of the Bible lessons, the Witnesses teach new recruits to expect opposition from “the devil’s” forces. So if you oppose the Witnesses’ influence over your child, he is likely to consider even his own parents agents of the devil. Their recruitment techniques are thorough.
Most non-Witnesses have the belief that they should consider an important decision from all angles before making a commitment, but Witnesses leave it up to their leadership to do that for them, and consider it rebellious to make their own decisions.
If your child has not yet been talked into that one, the fundamental ethic of “considering all sides of the story” may serve you well. Ask him to do so before committing; and present information that is consistent with his spiritual beliefs but disproves the organizational claims. This might include having him consider the long-term effects of becoming a Witness, which the Witnesses do not disclose to new recruits for obvious reasons. Here are some examples of the things Witnesses conceal from new recruits:
- The true intention of the Witness is to convert (“make a disciple out of and baptize”) them
- They will undergo a thought-reform (brainwashing) program
- They will have to cut off ties with non-Witness friends
- They will be discouraged from “wasting time” on (and will not be supported in making) personal growth until the New World arrives, and may therefore remain stunted
- They will have strained relations with non-Witness family members due to extreme views on holidays, etc.
- They will have to learn to become extremely judgmental and spy on their friends
- They will have to witness to others several hours per month
- They will be subject to shunning if they later change their mind about membership
- They will have to give over to the WT their decision-making on what to read, what to wear, what movies to watch, what music to listen to, and even what to think
Try to arrange a meeting between your child and non-Witnesses who have lost family members to the Witnesses, so that they can look him in the eye and tell him how their relationship with their family member has changed, and how they feel about it. It is important that this should be non-Witnesses, not former Witnesses, to avoid another potential mental barrier.
There is a great dichotomy among the Witnesses: loyalty to God vs. loyalty to the organization. Those of us who have survived the experience and are in recovery would consider these two things very different; but Witnesses are taught that loyalty to the organization IS loyalty to God, based on the premise that the organization is “spirit directed,” and is God’s own unique channel for distributing spiritual instruction. Out of one corner of its mouth, the organization officially claims to be “spirit-directed,” but out of the other corner, it officially disclaims being inspired. Don’t expect it to make sense.
So when I suggest presenting information that is consistent with his spiritual beliefs but disproves the organizational claims, I mean this: Learn what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach in terms of a basic relationship with God, and support this teaching to your child to show you are on his side, and ON GOD’S SIDE, while demonstrating how the organization’s claim to be “spirit directed” is merely a misguided claim by well-meaning men. Try to show him the contrast between his belief and relationship with God and his belief and relationship with the organization. Be very tactful, and use questions to make him think rather than declarations that attack the organization, to avoid bringing up his defenses.
This may help you avoid being labeled as an agent of the devil, and may help your child break free of the cult without having to grapple with the no-win dilemma of “loyalty to God.”
Any organization that claims to speak for God is deceptive, unless God actually reveals himself to them in some substantial way. Among Witnesses there is a widespread myth that their Governing Body prays over every question, and receives regular heavenly guidance in response. This is their assumption, but is never discussed. IT IS WORTH DISCUSSING. I suggest you obtain the book Crisis of Conscience, read it, and share excerpts with your child to expose the actual methods used by the Governing Body to make decisions; and it will become clear to him that there is no spirit direction upon the Witness organization as claimed.
However, be cautious in how you present such information, because Witnesses are taught to reject information from disapproved sources rather than considering an idea on its own merits; and the author of this book, a former member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body, was quickly and shrewdly expelled and denounced by the organization merely for speaking the truth about them.
I don’t think a discussion on the Bible or Christian doctrines will be helpful, because the theology can become extremely convoluted, and Witnesses are trained to answer most any question on theology. He will win that argument, and it’s beside the point anyway. It is not about spiritual beliefs, it’s about the right of a man-made group to pretend they speak for God in order to control followers.
Basic family love and simple reasoning will be your best tools. Especially the reasoning that unravels the errors of the organization while supporting his relationship with and beliefs about the Creator (even if they differ from yours).
I also highly recommend the book Combatting Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan. If you read material and bring it to your child for his consideration, make sure he does not feel that the material is directly criticizing the Witnesses. Books that identify cults by their characteristics but don’t mention them by name are the most helpful, because they do not bring up defensive responses.
Another idea would be to identify another cult similar to the Witnesses, and engage your child in a discussion critical of this third group. Witnesses LOVE to criticize other religions, and he may not be able to resist such a conversation. Finally, after having heard him voice his own agreement with how that OTHER religion is unacceptable (particularly on the issues of separating recruits from their families, and demanding too much of their time, and not allowing them time to think about what they’ve learned), show with GREAT SUBTLETY how similar that religion is to the Witnesses.
May you have success at regaining your child or at least reaching “detente” with him. Be careful not to overtly criticize, or you may make matters worse. May you have all the patience and confidence and tact you need to face this difficult situation.
Used by permission from: http://home.jps.net/xjwsfbay/ San Francisco Bay Area
From Free Minds Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, July/Sept 2001