Jehovah’s Witness; you’ve either heard of them, seen them, and possibly even joined them at some point. Others, such as myself, have run away and avoided them like the plague.
During my time in New York, I had my own encounter with two well-dressed, incredibly polite individuals who stopped me on the sidewalk and gave me a copy of The Watchtower magazine as well as an issue of Awake! on my way home. I remember the day so vividly because, in New York, there’re occasions when one simply does not have time (which is more frequently than one could imagine). I took the magazines and went home.
As if some type of divine intervention had entered the chat, more Witnesses showed up on a Saturday morning because my aunt wanted us to have a bible study. One Saturday turned to a weekly event and soon enough we found ourselves surrounded the plain, cold walls of a Kingdom Hall in Queens. We even went to Bethel -which means House of God in Hebrew- the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Upstate New York. To be frank, we were knee-deep in.
Despite being immersed in a whole new religious world, no one around me really knew anything about this religion..or should I say cult? I come from a Tswana Roman Catholic background (think drums, ululating, catchy songs and a substantial amount of extreme socializing) so the confusion was real.
In addition to celebrating holidays and birthdays be seen as a pagan belief, I had no choice but to question everything I had ever known about religion.
Here’s what no one told me:
Jehovah’s Witnesses was founded by Charles Taze Russell in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1870s and today it has well over 8.68 million members.
What is it exactly?
Jehovah’s Witnesses is a “millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs,” and for those of you, like myself, who may have not known what this means, here’s the definition in layman’s terms: Jehovah’s Witnesses are a branch of Christianity that believes in a future utopian period which begins with the Second Coming of Christ, the purer and ancient form of Christianity, and rejecting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Moreover, if the concept of a whole new world seemed like something you only see in movies, then I’ve got news for you. For starters, you get a new bible, songbook, as well as an extensive list of things one cannot do. Because of these rules and regulations -which are serious red flags- many believe the religion, is in fact, a cult. It’s often arduous to isolate cults, however, if it quacks like a duck then it’s a duck; here’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses have to say about the allegation;
“Far from being a dangerous cult, Jehovah’s Witnesses practise a religion that benefits themselves and others in the community. For example, our ministry has helped many people to overcome harmful addictions, such as the abuse of drugs and alcohol. In addition, we conduct literacy classes around the world, helping thousands learn to read and write. And we are actively involved in disaster relief. We work hard to have a positive impact on others, just as Jesus commanded his followers to do.—Matthew 5:13-16.”
To be frank, if I was a cult leader, I would release a prim and proper statement about all the good I do too, maybe throw in a few scriptures to make the nonexistent halo around my head shine. To elucidate why it is believed we have a cult in our midst, on top of the skilful tactics of isolation, the brainwashing, new vocab, and the promise of a utopia as their pièce de résistance, here you go.
Another example of this twisted vocabulary is the Watchtower Society’s definition of the word Christendom. Although the word Christendom actually means “those who walk with Christ”, Watchtower leaders intentionally alter the meaning to any religions outside of the Watchtower organization.
It is believed that Christianity was introduced to Africa in the first or second century AD, and if you’re a firm believer in Black Jesus, you can say that no one really introduced us to anything. However, no one is quite clear on when exactly Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the motherland, possibly around the 1920s; we do know that the earliest recording of a Kingdom Hall built in Nigeria was in the city of Ilesa in 1935.
How do we feel about it?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been around for a minute now, and according to their site, there are over fifty thousand ministers who teach their bible and over a thousand congregations in Zimbabwe. Those who aren’t Witnesses may tell you that they’ve heard nothing good or will express their apprehensiveness about the religion.
One man, in particular, got physical with his sister last year, after she invited Witnesses into their home in Masvingo, claiming the Witnesses belonged to a “satanic cult.”
Historically, the religious movement stands charged with multiple lawsuits over sexual abuse allegations. In April 2019, a former Jehovah’s Witness left the world in shock when he used stolen documents to expose a streak of unreported child abuse allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades. Granted that many churches turn a blind eye to sexual abuse reports, we are talking about the “Witnesses” here; these are the actions of ‘faithful and discreet slaves’ with aspirations of making it to the Promised Land. Hmm.
The Witnesses believe that their relationship with God is proven by the work they do, doing God’s will -a phrase they like to emphasise. Refusal to cooperate with the law and effectively becoming an accessory in the obstruction of justice in the Lord’s name leads one to believe that the Witnesses are faithful and discreet to the wrong cause.
Did Jesus not say you cannot be a slave of two masters?
He meant what he said too! Truth be told, whether or not you believe in organised religion, you’re always going to be more loyal to one cause over another.
We live in a time where traditionalism and modernism are merging to form a grey area in many aspects of everything we’ve ever known since the beginning of our very existence, especially what it comes to religion and what Christianity is all about.
We have false prophets and religious leaders with their own agendas, who prey on those in need of a purpose, affection, and a sense of belonging; feeding people leaves, rats and snakes as well as praying them with insect repellents for various reasons -and believe it or not, the list does go on- right here on our continent.
Africans are privy to everything that happens within our borders; so from one neighbor to another, here’s my advice:
When Witnesses approach you, don’t act on the instinct to sneer and turn away. Simply kill ’em with kindness; they are taught to expect indecent behavior from people outside of their faith. Take their literature if you must, but only if they’ll take yours (if you happen to have your holy book in hand). If you decide to engage in conversation, beware of the scriptures that are meant to disarm you, unless you happen to know the bible from cover to cover.
Then walk away, keep it classy and graceful.
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