By Gordon Smith
As ill-luck would have it, I was born in 1964 to an unyielding Witness father who, as I was to discover, was intent on proving himself to be more holy than Swiss cheese. If that weren’t enough to be getting on with, my two older siblings and I regularly suffered the effects of his violent nature as well as his compulsive behaviour. So obsessed was he with his religion, that his life revolved around straining every last self-righteous drop of meaning from the society’s non-stop outpourings.
My earliest memories as a Jehovah’s Witness were that of being dragged mercilessly backwards and forwards to the Kingdom Hall and from door to door, preaching the Grim News of the Kingdom. Even then, the regimen and strict organisation of our lives seemed to me to be bordering on the criminally insane.
In his attempt to knock us into Christian shape, Dad doled out gratuitous discipline as though it was about to go out of fashion. Against today’s liberal standards, all that brute physicality would be totally unacceptable. Against my own personal standards of reasonableness and caring, even back then in 1960’s, my father fell awfully short of the mark.
Once at school, I had no choice than to begin to make comparisons between my own, rather bizarre life, and that of the other children I saw around me, and that was when the real horror of the situation struck me as hard as a black pudding to the nape of the neck. I was a weirdo!
The one shaft of light, however, amongst the impenetrable darkness of life as a Witness was knowing that soon, this system of things, as they frequently called it, was coming to an end. “Just five more years.”, were Dad’s watchwords and he would regularly talk us through the cataclysmic events that were to bring about the end of the world.