A Protestant visits the Jehovahs Witness Convention

June 17th, 2009

By Bridget Anderson

The phrase from Hebrews 12, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” took on a whole new meaning for me this weekend. I was name-tagless and alone in a sea of 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had many thoughts and observations churning around within me, longing to find release. Thus, this essay.

The first thing that surprised me was the style of the speakers. They all had the same style. It was totally devoid of humor, passion or individuality. It was striking how much “the same” they sounded; their deliveries were dry and droning, almost as though they were reading off a teleprompter, or reciting something they had memorized years ago. Not only was the boredom of the attendees palpable, one got the impression that the speakers themselves were bored with what they were saying. It was ironic, considering the subject  was “Keep on the Watch” and their constant repetition that Armageddon was “at hand” (as they have proclaimed it to be for 130 years).

Jehovah's Witnesses sing during a recent convention
The uniformity of the crowd was also somewhat amazing, considering it was so large. In sitting for a stretch of three hours, everyone did exactly the same thing: eyes fastened on the speaker, Bibles rustling to look up each verse, all taking notes. I felt kind of “obvious” by just taking sips of water a few times during the talks, or looking for my gum in my bag.

One of the sessions brought up past false prophecies that the Society has given. At first, one might perceive this as commendable and honest. Unfortunately, the way it was presented was disingenuous and downright deceptive. The Society has coined phrases like “wrong expectations” for some Jehovah’s Witnesses. They neglected to mention that these failed prophecies were not merely “expectations” of some of the silly rank and file, they were the official teaching of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the so-called only “channel of God” and only true Christians on earth today!

How could this be taught with a straight face when they published and distributed numerous magazines declaring these to be “God’s dates, not ours,” and referring to themselves as “God’s only channel,” and yes, PROPHET! A book published by President Rutherford entitled Millions Now Living Will Never Die in……..1920! For years they have proclaimed in the Awake! magazine that the generation of 1914 would not die out before the End!

The speaker claimed that the disciples’ question to Jesus in the book of Acts is analogous to their situation. They said to Him, “Lord, is it at this time you will restore the kingdom?” How is this simple question even remotely related to a publishing company claiming to speak for God through their publications and Governing Body, making many proclamations about various dates and events, and spreading this news from God far and wide? I kept looking around, to see if anyone else was freaking out or amused by this line of reasoning.

Another session that was amusing in light of the Society’s history was one on how helpful and uplifting it is that we do not know the date of the end, as Jesus said. Not knowing makes us “stay on the watch” more than knowing a certain date.

Interspersed through all the sessions was a heavy dose of guilt and fear. Guilt for not going to every meeting, guilt for not having a family study each week, guilt for not singing the Kingdom Melody Songs in your mind throughout the day, guilt for not praying enough, guilt for not making adjustments so you can “pioneer” (spend a certain amount of hours per month in door to door witnessing), guilt for not studying enough, guilt for relaxing, guilt for going on vacation, guilt for the incidental witnessing opportunity you missed, etc.  FEAR that you will not “make the cut” and be destroyed in Armageddon, never to be resurrected.  FEAR of reading “opposing” information. Fear of worldly people trying to trip you up and slow you down. Fear of apostates and the internet!

By the end of a full day of that, I was wondering if Jehovah would be annoyed if I wasted time by lingering on the toilet too long. Holy crap! (I don’t usually talk like that, but couldn’t resist the pun!)

I was surprised how many verses they quoted from the Pauline epistles, knowing that they officially teach that those epistles are only written directly to the 144,000, the “Annointed,” the only ones who can be born again, indwelt with the Spirit, and be in union with Christ.  Most of the epistles contain 2 parts. One part tells of our position in Christ by grace, the blessings of salvation, union with Christ, etc.  The second part then gives exhortations based upon this positional truth. EVERY single time the speakers quoted from the Pauline epistles, they only quoted verses about some command or exhortation.

They did not, of course, reference the verses that were verses of promise, and blessings of being “in Christ.”  So…one can disallow parts of one book of the Bible for most people, but one can choose to use the exhortations when it fits with one’s talk, or what one wants to prove?

Even verses from the end of Romans 6 were quoted. But of course verses 1-10 in the same chapter have no relevance, as the Society would vehemently deny that any but the Anointed are in union with Christ. This is indeed a strange and slippery hermeneutic!

Interspersed throughout all the talks were little “testimonies.” Outstanding Witnesses who could serve as inspiring examples were brought up and interviewed to tell of the sacrifices they had made for Jehovah. It just seemed so self-aggrandizing for those people who were sharing. Perhaps real sacrifices for God should not be trumpeted about. The “interviewer” would reply with little comments like “Oh good,” “that’s fine,” or “good job,” as though the person sharing was a small child being rewarded with the approval of a beaming parent!

There were several amusing incidents. One involved a woman who was sitting next to me. I had a huge binder open for note taking, and on one side was open an “apostate”-type article on the ransom theory. She thought I didn’t notice, but she appeared to be very interested in it, and I believe read as much of it as she could see.

I was also amused by a man who walked around with a sign in between sessions saying “QUIET” and “KEEP MOVING” in large letters. I really did enjoy kindergarten, and that sure did bring back some great memories of it!

I was amazed by another thing: perhaps there is just something I don’t comprehend about it, being an outsider, but when it was announced that there would be a new book of Kingdom Melodies coming out, there was uproarious applause! It was startling in the midst of the otherwise “dead” atmosphere. I guess I should get way more excited when we sing a new song at Calvary!

One person was noticeably absent from the Convention – the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was only mentioned in passing a few times. The greatest and most important fact in all Christianity was not mentioned. It’s the one that gives all Christians of every stripe peace and joy in this life, and that is that Christ died and rose again, in order that we might have the free gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins. It was as though the Gospel had been excised, ignored, and denied. Paul determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:20) and declared His death and Resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins the Gospel that He preached. (I Cor. 15)


Editor’s Note: I came across this very interesting little piece on Cynthia Hampton’s ex-JW forum based out of Southern California. I’m sure that many of you have enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s an outsider’s honest and fresh point of view, liberally sprinkled with humor, about what happened around her as she uncovered the facts about going to a JW convention.

The writer is Ms. Bridget Anderson of Tucson, Arizona. She is not a Jehovah’s Witness and never has been, but over time has had enough contact with them personally to have more than a basic understanding of them and their culture. She has also spent a great deal of her time researching their teachings and history.

Hopefully, if you are or were a Jehovah’s Witness, by looking through the eyes of an outsider you may now have a somewhat different attitude about the realities of attending a JW convention or assembly.

If you look very carefully, in the video you will see my family and I sitting down along the 1st base foul line about 30 rows up. This is how I celebrated my 15th birthday that Sunday, August 3rd, listening to Watchtower Society President Nathan Knorr go over the same material we heard the previous seven days!

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  1. Noe Nichols

    Your article is obviously biased. Why did you even bother. You were obviously there at the convention to ridicule and condemn. Of what benefit is an article to anyone when it is biased.

  2. Editor

    Noe, I take notice of your comment that our guest writer was biased. Duh, she’s a Protestant, not a Jehovah’s Witness. But if we had a JW write this article telling us about all the wonderful speeches that were given, all the love and association that was experienced, the beautiful music that was played, the floral arrangements that surrounded the stage – would that also not be biased?

    The point of this article is that an outsider, a non-member, went to this convention to see what happened there and reported on the events as she saw them. That’s why she bothered and that’s why her article continues to be one of the top five favorites of our readers.

    I can guarantee you that if a dozen non-Witnesses went to an assembly and wrote reports on what they saw and heard there, that their reports would be a lot closer to this article than what any JW would attest to.

    Think of it this way: Turn on your TV and watch one of those “send me your money” Pentecostal evangelist scammers. Watch as they rant and rave, wailing and jumping, mumbling and “talking in tongues,” all claiming to be filled with the “Holy Spirit!” You being favorably associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses would probably say they it’s clearly all a scam, they’re just in it for the money, and all those people in that auditorium are just blind to what is happening right in front of their eyes. What are they thinking? Are they crazy? Why are they tossing money up on the stage? Why are they crying and raising their palms up to Jesus, when all this bad actor posing as a minister is doing is selling them hot air and empty promises? Yet look at the crowds of believers in those seats – and you know that those seats will be filled again next week, and the week after that.

    You would think that they are all crazy – everyone of them – and are being taken by someone who is clearly a scam artist. And you know what? I would agree with you totally. But that’s because you and I would be “biased” against them, right?

    When someone from outside of the JWs attends an assembly and they have to listen to a half-dozen talks that drone on and on that go over the same material again and again, sitting in the hot sun at a ball park or stadium, they’re going to think, why do they do this to themselves? What’s the point? Was anything new really announced or explained clearly? Did anyone go home that night with some new, life changing information? I doubt it.

    That’s what JW conventions are like. Everyone lives for the moment when a new book is released. Then they take their copy home and look at it once or twice and rarely pick it up again – because it has the same information they see in the Watchtower magazines and older books before it. But for them it is something new to offer to the public.

    I once asked a JW who had just come back from a mid-summer convention what had happened. He told me that there was “new light” announced, a new book released, and everyone took an oath to serve Jehovah.

    I responded, “Hey that’s great. What was the new light?” He said it was something about the people who died in Sodom and Gohmorrah. “What is the new book about?” He said it was an updated version of an older book, but with a slightly different title. “And what was the oath for?” They pledged their belief and faith in Jehovah, appreciated the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and recognized the power of the Holy Spirit. They promised to attend all meetings and spend more hours in service as their way to show obedience to the Higher Powers and to Jehovah’s “earthly organization” represented by the Governing Body and the Bethel Headquarters. They also promised to avoid sinful things such as unholy and unclean reading materials, TV shows, and Internet websites.

    Needless to say, I was unimpressed and thought that spending a half dozen days in the hot sun for those three “major events” was not worth the trouble.

    I guess I was just biased…

  3. bryan

    Hmmp. I respect all the things you said, but we people have different opinions. There are many non-JW’s who attended that convention. and each has different comments about that, In fact all non-JW’s who attended that convention comes from different religion, and each has different comments about that. And this article which is posted here is just one of the comment that was post. But why don’t you ask some of the people, which is a non-jw, who attended that convention? ask about their opinion. And you compare..

  4. MIKE

    THE EDITOR IS SO BIASED.if you want conduct a survey throughout the world. Of course she’s a protestant, so what will you expect? To have a good reaction/comments at the said convention?!All of us, even you did not know the true motive of that person why she acted like that. We..people have our rights..one of that is..to choose our religion..What if one of Jehovah’s witnesses will also visit protestant’s convention?How will she act?Of course each one of us has our own understanding about the truth. Why dont we make the bible as the basis?Bible is God’s word and no one is greater than HIM.


    Editor’s Note: Please note that this poster has been permanently banned from Ex-JW.com for plagiarism. See my comments below.-JH

  5. Editor

    Please note that “MIKE” – the writer of the comment above – has been permanently removed and banned from further comments on this site. Beside being overly critical of other posters, “MIKE” (who claimed “WATCHTOWER.ORG” as his personal website) has submitted several rather long comments, mostly focusing on Bible translations. I commented earlier that I felt he was “being either a hawk or a parrot for the old men in Brooklyn.” Upon further research, I have discovered that Mike’s comments were direct and unattributed quotes from The Watchtower of May 1, 2008. This is, of course, plagiarism. Plagiarism is unacceptable in any form of journalistic or creative writing endeavor and is definitely not allowed here. A comment may include short, attributed quotes from Watchtower Society publications and those of other writers (that is considered to be “fair use”), but wholesale copying of printed or online materials is, of course, unacceptable. I have removed the offending comments from this site and apologize to the Watchtower Society, its writers, and any Jehovah’s Witnesses who may have read “MIKE’s” comments. Please note that Mike did not directly claim to be an active Jehovah’s Witness, but he did represent himself as one by the tone of his commentary.

  6. javierjulien

    I enjoyed this very much! Good job, Bridget. Thank you.

  7. Marie

    I was an ex-pentecostal, ex-baptist, when I went to my first Jehovah’s Witness assembly. —
    I had not been invited. I just went.
    I LOVED IT!

    I had been given a copy of the Truth Book, and LOVED IT. That’s why I went to the assembly. I had seen a notice about the assembly in the paper.

    I loved what they taught. — Still do.

    But…I am inactive. –

    Still love the truth. Just could not go to doors and invite people to our kingdome hall anymore, as I felt that women there were not being treated with dignity and respect.

    Two elders in our congregation were divorced by their wives, because they were so unchristian in their attitude and behavior.

    I personally think that one of the biggest problem in this orginization is that too many men just do not understand the difference between headship and dictatorship. Nor do they understand the difference between submission and subservience. — Too many want to dictate and have their wives and children be subservient to that dictation.

    Obviously, anybody with half a brain is not going to tolerate that unchristian, dictatorial attitude.

    I have no iterest in going to another church. — I went that searching route many years ago. Didn’t believe what they taught then. Don’t believe it now.

    When I started studying with the Witnesses my Mother , who was Pentecostal, said: “Oh Sis, they don’t even believe in the trinity”!– I said: “Mom, no one with half a brain would”. — I had that opinion before I studied with the Witnesses.

    Also didn’t believe that if God was good, he would throw people in a fire and torture them forever. — Still don’t beleive that. Therefore, there is no place for me to “go away to”.

    What I would like to see is the orginization figure out that if the women aren’t happy in the orginization, there is not going to be happiness in JW homes!!!

    Guess time will tell if that happens or not……………

  8. jozz adrados

    i agree with those who sees the being bias of the editor to speak for this protestant who attended the convention as well as the biasity of this protestant. This attendant seem to be so feeling perfect with the association that she is in of whatever protestant denomination she has. As if when one witness or non-witness would attend to their conventions as well, we could expect a different sight where all of their members are fully attentive of what their religious speakers are talking of or as if they are all paying attention to the convention. If you could find a perfect audience fully attentive to any event (well HuH! i’m pretty sure you’re out of this world ma’m. the point is that whether you’re a member or not a member of the convention you’re attending to it is your own accountability to pay or not to pay attention to the convention. It is so bias to sum up everybody as a whole to receive such comment. if you feel like being perfect, better think a lot of times…..

  9. jozz adrados

    hi marie, i understand your sentiments. There is no such religious organization in this universe where all men members are perfect. WITNESSES doesn’t claim either to be perfect husbands, so though as wives. each has our own shortcomings. so don’t expect one for this time. if ever this cruel husbands passes the eyes of their elders for disciplining, they for sure would never pass through the eyes of Jehovah. Just like how God revealed the so-called perfect crime that David made to Uria the husband of batsheba. ryt!!! No one would escape God’s punishment for unrepenting ones…

  10. jozz adrados

    noe nichols, i appreciate your keenes. you’re definitely right!!!

  11. Bettie Weinberg

    Just because you decide that the Witnesses aren’t right (for you or in general) or that the Bible isn’t the inerrant Word of God, why feel that there are no other possibilities except atheism/no afterlife/no spirit, no soul? There are many other religions and philosophies! I researched the witnesses and found them to be un-Biblical. Then, I researched the Bible and found Jehovah to be a murdering, savage “god” who doesn’t like women or children, has uncontrollable temper tantrums, gives tacit approval to rape and slavery, plays favorites, is on surprisingly friendly terms with Satan(see Job), uses and abuses his most devoted followers(see Job) and explains himself (not really) by boasting about his knowledge and power for several pages (Job again). Not even an apology for messing with Job’s mind and life.( There’s plenty more if you check out “dark bible” or “evil bible” websites. (These contain quotes from the Bible which show Jehovah’s true character.). But anyway, even though Jehovah isn’t God, all is not necessarily lost. There’s Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism (Vedanta), Deism, Stoicism…there is a whole world beyond the Western/Middle East origin religions. Not all of them believe in an eternal hell or heaven. not all believe in a personal God who watches from above and gets mad if you aren’t an obedient slave. It’s great in many ways that we have the Internet to keep us well-informed. So, before committing to any religion or no religion, why not use the Net to hear from all sides?

  12. linz

    @Marie – Hi Marie, I agree with you on a few things. I am inactive but I also love the kingdom hall as a whole. I am totally confused about your point on the woman. Seeing the families & relatives as well as my own for 30 years+ I have never felt or seen that. I also Live in California, haha maybe that’s it. My mom is 50 years a JW & she loves the truth, pioneers from time to time but she also has happy-hour nights with her friend, goes on little girl trips with them & has a loving happy husband at home that supports her. He is also active, about 55 years JW, In the kingdom-hall of course there are situations that we many not know the whole story, I personally do not want to know. But I have seen couples separate or divorce. Some had problems with alcohol, gambling and the one I knew led to affairs that came out. I guess that the reason behind the strict structure, its the only organization, that truly tries to keep their congregation clean. Influence is huge. My non JW grandfather used to say, show me your friends & I will see you”. But i haven’t experience little submissive wives at all. Of course most men wouldn’t like their wives cheating etc.. my point is just that we don’t truly know the whole story. Although I’m inactive, 1 thing I always know is that people are imperfect period, they csn sin, they can lie , they make mistakes. Some JW may do things I dont like, just as someone at work may. I would not let people stumble me, Its not about them, They can even be test. When it all comes down to it, its my & your personal relationship w/ Jehovah. I wouldn’t want anything to do with it if the woman were obviously unhappy.

  13. linz

    @linz – sorry for the typo & short writing, im typing on my phone with a few sticky keys 🙂 lol

  14. Jonh

    If i may be so inclined as to post a comment here. I am no longer one of Jehovah Witnesses, i was in the “truth” for over 20 years. Then my personal search for the true God took place about 4 or 5 years ago, to this day i still struggle because of the mental “grip” it has on my mind. I am 32 years old so as you can see more than half my life was spent there. I will spare the time of quoting scripture after scripture of why i think they have most things wrong, but with almost any religion you won’t find many who admit there wrong about things, but with that said, you don’t have many (Christian) religions with a HUGE list of do’s and don’ts, and prophetic statements regaurded as doctrinal truth, they leave that for the bible and your relationship with God to speak it. However I have to admit i really do agree with the first posted article. Although i found myself “happy” at the conventions or meetings i look back now and ask myself the question, why? Why was i “feeling” happy, internally i was depressed, suicidal and always felt sub-par. No matter how good i thought i was, or right i thought i was, or how true i thought they were, i constantly hated life, myself and felt i was only going to die in Armagedon, or at least hoped i would be spared. I could never live up to the expectations, there was always a “better” JW than me. I come from divorced parents, abuse and growing up very alone, even in my own congregation. I sought the elders help when i was very depressed and suicidal and the response was ” are you attending all the meetings”? “you should probably spend more time in field service”. etc. With that said if anyone i knew and cared for was feeling that way i would call them daily to check on them and help them work through there time of heartache and pain. The “shepards” moved on to other not so problamatic sheep. Never a phone call, never a question as to how i was doing. For those of you who do not believe me, sorry but this was my expirience with it.
    Since i have left, yes even though i struggle with things, I have absolutley found more inner peace, no more depression medication, no suicidal thoughts. I do still struggle with not being good enough and i’m am trying to work through and except that “none of us are GOOD enough” if we were then Christ death meant nothing. I do not try to steer active JW’s away from there faith, i do not feel responsible to do so, I leave that in God’s hands for His choosing. My mother aplogized to me the other day for raising us that way, my response to her was that, a part of me is somewhat thankful, for the simple fact that now i search deeper than ever before, i pray more than ever before, and i am at peace more than ever before. and If i hadn’t been raised that way i might not be where i am today. God may “allow” us for a time to be in a certain place or circumstance for what reason only He knows, and if He allowed me to be a JW for over 20yrs knowing one day i will “REALLY” come searching for Him, then it was 20 yrs well spent. I can say as much as humanly possible i rely on God now more than ever before. Being a JW made me proud, because i had something most did not, a relationship with God. And my how the tables have turned, my love for God has increased 10 fold since i am no longer one of Jehovah Witnesses. I don’t pray for JW’s to “see the light” I find myself praying that God’s will be done, and IF He wants to use me i’m availible, if not i will continue to love my neighbor and use my life as an example in showing God how much I love Him.
    Best to you all.

  15. BRENDA

    Its unfortunate how the editor did not enjoy the convention….but how could she when her foremost motive to come was to see all the bad within the witnesses! i have no words for her!

    My condolences go to John for your experience…..Search more, pray deeply to Jehovah n u will find that what you learnt 20 years ago was really the truth, you just did not make it ur own! all the best

  16. Dimitry

    Now I see why the society told us not to view these webs sites with these negative comments about Jehovah’s Witnesses…But don’t worry the truth about Gods Kingdom will be revealed soon…!

  17. What the Heck

    ?? What the heck? Biased? Why are some of you saying the author is biased?? OF all the illogical statements in the world! Jesus says, “straight is the way, NARROW is the gate!” C’mon! There’s no room for “UN-truths” We can’t be lukewarm, it says so in the Bible! How can you say good things about something that is totally un-biblical just to seem un-biased???? Jehovah Witnesses are NOT BIBLICAL according to Christians! Unbelievable the logic of some people…..
    people have to stand for something ALL the way and not be wishy washy about it! You want the Author to be “open-minded”???? What the heck! What would that make the Author? A wishy washy person that has no solid ground to stand on!! So stop saying Christians, or anyone else that has a belief system, is biased…. that’s just stupid! Is it biased to think that 2+2 will always equal 4??? Sure makes good math sense to me! Anything else is just Chaos!!!

  18. What the Heck

    … yah believe in something and you stick to your guns! That’s the sum of what I was trying to say…. Just hope your believing in the right thing…..

  19. Karen

    I found Brenda’s comment to “Jonh” to be extremely insensitive and callous. It’s typical of many JWs to blame people suffering from serious mental illness for their own distress. How disgusting! I rarely post such strong reactions on blogs as I don’t like to be antagonistic, but as someone who has also suffered acute mental distress because of being brought up as JW, I have first-hand experience of this despicable victim-blaming. JWs really have no idea how damaging their words can be. Shame on you, Brenda!

  20. Brian

    I don’t dislike JWs. I pity them for how they have been misled and continue to be controlled by the organization and the Governing Pharisees.

    Their religion caused me to be separated from God for many, many years. Thankfully I have now found the truth and come to know God more and more every day through his Son Jesus.

    It really saddens me how JWs are trained to never “test the spirits” of the false prophets among them (1 John 4:1, Deuteronomy 18:22). But the society has this insidious game perfected. They even made their own version (not translation) of the bible where they’ve added and removed words as they saw fit to support their unbiblical doctrine even after being warned not to (Deuteronomy 4:2).

    I always hope for God’s will to be done and hope that includes waking up JWs to the truth.

  21. Diane

    Jonh, (or John) My gosh, just read your story 4 years later and felt every word you said was what I went thru and feel now upon having left the JW’s. I was never suicidal, but can attest to all the rest. Thanks for writing that!

  22. ced

    http://a.imdoc.fr/1/culture/awake/photo/2859650285/23710868d2c/awake-awake-bd_armageddon_hd-img-img.jpg

    yes
    it is the reality

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