“Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice.” – 1 Samuel 15:22
Watching your childhood toys being packed up invokes memories of an innocent age lost in a sea of time, preserved in a cardboard box. Presents from Christmas like the Millennium Falcon and X Wing fighters bought after watching Star Wars for the first time. Spectrum games given for your birthday where you fight valiantly against hordes of ghosts and monsters to save the damsel in distress.
I was still a child when such things were gathered, and what was chosen by an elder would be buried or burnt for all time. For those things above suggested a power beyond that of Jehovah, referencing the occult and satanic machinations. My mistake was playing one of my computer games where you collected a crystal ball during a visit by an elder. Even PAC man did not escape this moral maze. I was nine years old when childish things were put away.
The year before at school assembly we had thanked God for the rain. Which made me wonder, if God decided where the rain should fall, why was there drought and people starving as a result in Africa? If we were all God’s children we all deserved life giving water.
My mother did not have the answers. There were no science books at home, and the internet did not exist. That same evening there was a knock on the door by Jehovah’s Witnesses. She put the question to them, and their answer made her start a bible study with them.
By the time I was ten this study involved four meetings of two hours a week each, door to door ministry at the weekend and about 20 odd hours of personal study preparing for questions at meetings. At these meetings Watchtower and Bible Tract Society publications were read, and bibles checked to see scripture said what the publications referenced. My aim was to find the verse while the sound of rustling still resonated in the hall.
To prepare for the end of this system of things I was taught at home during high school. The aerial for the TV was removed to prevent watching subversive programming shortly after the first Iraq war. The end of days were clearly at hand were the mutterings of the faithful.
Not even one per cent of the population identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of all faith groups it has the biggest exodus of children once they are adults. My time came early having read subversively Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It had been banned by the elders because it suggested an alien race built the earth, not Jehovah, and for mice not us. The humorous quotes a lodger mentioned made me want to read.
Hitchhikers made me think how would I prove God not aliens made the earth? Researching Society publications for this ultimate answer unearthed instead prophecies made that did not happen during the 1920s. My head swooned. The bible warns against false prophets and to reject them. Plus new editions of books I had read changed dogma while quoting different scriptures. Once, those destroyed at Sodom and Gomorrah would be given a second chance after Judgement day in an old edition. Now, the new edition said they had already been judged for eternal destruction. There was no acknowledgement of the change – it just happened.
I was fourteen when my mother and I decided to leave. Her doubts started because she would not say “only those that call on the name of Jehovah will be saved”. She felt it was for God, not man, to make such judgements. So she was not allowed to go door to door.
Wonder and curiosity – these are qualities that made me to want to understand the world and universe I live in. For me there is a greater comfort in knowing we are working to reduce suffering caused by disease than thinking God will end this but probably kill 99% of the living population in the process.
Those qualities are not childlike but essential qualities to go beyond unquestioned obedience and sacrifice.
I had gone from bible student to being regarded as an apostate. Despite the elders best efforts I found there was a richer world of knowledge, culture and humour than was imaginable in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Follow up blog: A Brave New World (on becoming an apostate)
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog