Imagine a father who is intensely involved with a certain sports team. He’s been following the team since he was a child under his own father’s guidance.
After having a son of his own he makes it his personal mission to inculcate love for the team into him. Growing up, the son watches the team year after year, and under his father’s guidance he follows every game.
Throughout the son’s life he is surrounded by others who are crazy about the same team. No other teams, no matter how superior at the same sport they may be, get a look in.
In such a case, is it any coincidence that when this child grows up he harbors a special affinity for this particular team? Of course not! He has been conditioned to love the team by an environment that was imposed on him. His love for the sports team has been carefully manufactured by his father and peers since infancy.
Its a similar principle for parents who indoctrinate their children into the Jehovah’s Witness religion. The love Witness children have for their religion is manufactured by their environment. This phenomenon is aptly demonstrated in a September 15th 2014 Watchtower article entitled “Parents Shepherd Your Children.”
The article is mainly directed to the heads of Witness households. Just as Christ acts as the shepherd for the Christian congregation, the head of a Witness household is to act as a shepherd for his immediate family. The responsibility for guiding children into “the truth” is mostly placed on the father’s shoulders.
The analogy that a father is a shepherd and his children the sheep is a curious one. While it’s true that parents must direct their children out of harm’s way, do they really need to direct what religion they believe or don’t believe?
That is the aim of this article, namely to instruct fathers (and parents in general) on how to manipulate their children into feeling love for one religion over the countless others that have been invented throughout man’s history.
A disingenuous approach
The article encourages parents to “guide” their children to develop a “genuine desire” to serve Jehovah, and make a “personal decision” to dedicate their lives to him. The question is, how can their desire be genuine and their decision personal when their entire childhood is fine-tuned for a certain outcome? Only one side of the story is ever given to them, and all critical information is regarded as dangerous and strictly prohibited.
Notice what the article has to say regarding parents whose children have doubts about their faith:
“…what if your children begin to express doubts? How can you shepherd them and help them to see that serving Jehovah really is the best way of life and will contribute to their lasting happiness? Try to determine the underlying cause of their doubts. For example, does your son really disagree with Bible teachings, or does he just lack the confidence needed to defend them in front of his peers? Does your daughter really have an issue with the wisdom of God’s standards, or does she just feel lonely or excluded by others? Regardless of the cause, you can help your child to come to grips with the root of any spiritual doubts.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, pages 20-21.
The writer portrays the religious doubts of children as merely emotional responses rather than genuine disagreement.
According to the above quote there is nothing on this planet that can top the lifestyle of a Jehovah’s Witness. They claim their level of happiness is unmatched and any idea contrary to that assertion is merely an obstacle to be overcome. Never does the article even hint that other systems of belief or non-belief have any comparable value.
This sounds very similar to someone asserting the dominance of one sports team over all others in a certain sport. It’s as though Witness parents all hold foam fingers with the words “we’re #1” printed on them. Never does it even cross their minds that they may not be the only team in town. Only total confidence is acceptable, anything else is seen as an error in need of correction.
When a child who has been conditioned to love a sports team grows up, he or she might sometimes grow to realize that they don’t truly love the team they were raised to support. Likewise, a child indoctrinated into a religion sometimes breaks through the conditioning and sees his or her situation for what it truly is. Tragically, a child who wakes up from Watchtower indoctrination faces dire circumstances due to the brutal shunning arrangement.
Baptism comes at a high cost
Baptism is the ultimate goal of the article, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasingly encouraged to ensure small children undergo the religious ritual. Sadly, those who go through with it are forever attached to a corporation that seeks to micromanage their lives and use them as a human resource. This particular article overtly urges parents to gain access to the minds of their children in order to influence their life decisions…
“Frequently talking with your children gives you greater access to their thoughts and feelings. That, in turn, will help you to have a greater influence on the decisions they make in life.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, page 19.
Naturally, parents want to help their children to make good life decisions, but the Watchtower is specifically talking about baptism, and devotion to their deity and organization…
“Young ones who develop such appreciation will dedicate their life to Jehovah and get baptized. Understandably, they should take such a step when they are mature enough to make that decision and have a genuine desire to serve Jehovah.” – Watchtower Sep. 15, 2014, page 20.
While the above quote may sound reasonable, what the Watchtower considers a mature age has been known to be as low as 8. As mentioned earlier, the “genuine desire” to serve Jehovah has been carefully nurtured by the parents from the moment the child could communicate. How, then, can it possibly be considered genuine?
Clearly, the organization has an ulterior motivation in herding children into their baptismal pools.
Once they are baptized, members are held accountable to the Watchtower’s standards, enforced by a strict disciplinary system. This creates the highest likelihood of locking people into a life-long career, including countless hours of volunteer labor, as well as considerable amounts of money donated over many years.
And of course, then you have the prospect of the child eventually having children of its own and starting the cycle all over again. A healthy increase in membership is thus guaranteed, even if the success of the preaching work is increasingly negligible.
Happiness is freedom
It is my hope that more Jehovah’s Witness parents will see through this coercive Watchtower article and offer their children true freedom of choice. As Richard Dawkins so eloquently put it, “There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents.”
Fortunately, the Watchtower has a very low youth retention rate, which I can tell you from experience is largely thanks to the overtly pushy tactics articulated in articles such as this.
As a father I have observed that the more you push a child to do something, the more they want to run away. Offering children the mental freedom they deserve is the only true way of providing them the best chance of a happy life.