Saturday, October 24, 2009

More of the Past

Yesterday in the comments Betts gave me a few suggestions of things to write about, one specifically being my childhood as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. This topic is hard for me to write about, not because it's awkward or makes me uncomfortable, but because to me it all seems so boring. The best way for me to write about this is in snippets, because that's sort of how all of this comes to me. As I start writing, little things that I think you'd find interesting come back to me in bits and pieces. Just like the last time I wrote about this, (which you may want to go back and read since it's essentially the first part of my story) it will be a bit of facts about the religion mixed in with my personal experiences and opinions. Also, as before, this will probably jump around a bit but I'll try to make it all as easy to understand as possible. If you have any questions, please, please, please ask. I'm an open book and don't mind sharing. I just don't always know where to begin.

*There is a specific headship order in Jehovah's Witness families. Mom and Dad are head of the kids. Mom's head is Dad. You want to know who watches over Dad's behaviour? Jesus. Yeah, Jesus. Needless to say, there are a lot of men who abuse their power. I can't tell you how many times growing up I personally heard the phrase, "Because I'm the head of the house, that's why." I cannot imagine being in a relationship where I had absolutely no say. My marriage is a partnership between two best friends with the same goals. When I sit and think about various families I knew in the congregation, I can't help but wonder if many of those wives were enduring some type of abuse, be it physical, sexual, or emotional. As a side note to this, because I actually have a say in my life, my dad insists that Jay is a doormat and that I "wear the pants in the house." There is no convincing him otherwise.

*Gay folks need not apply. Being gay just isn't allowed. There are no gay Jehovah's Witnesses. Technically. Again, if I were to sit and think about the congregation, there were definitely some people who I know with every fiber of my being, were not straight. I cannot even begin to imagine what they went through, or even sadder, are possibly still going through.

*Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in pursuing any form of higher education. If you decide to go to college, you won't get disfellowshipped (excommunicated), but you and your actions will be "frowned upon." You'll probably forever be marked as not quite 100% faithful. No one will come right out and say this, but you'll know. They basically tell you that you shouldn't even want to go to college because your time would be better spent witnessing and speaking about Jehovah. But, in my opinion, it's because if you go to college you'll be exposed to people who will tell you that your beliefs are crazy and then you'll question everything you've ever known. I never went to college. I don't know a single Jehovah's Witness my age who did.

*Jehovah's Witnesses are against blood transfusions. Blood is sacred. They'd sooner die than get a blood transfusion. They all carry around a medical directive in their wallet that is commonly called a "No Blood Card." It's a binding legal document that you are told to carry with your ID at all times in case anything unfortunate happens. This will ensure that you don't get the dreaded transfusion. There was a similar card to carry if you had children under the age of 18. This was probably a turning point for me, maybe the first real time (as an adult) that I started to question my beliefs. When my first child was born eleven years ago, I knew there would be absolutely no way I would let him die when there was a viable medical way to save his life. I carried around an expired No Blood Card for seven years. Legally speaking, it was garbage. The one for my son was never signed, legally also garbage.

*It was widely rumored that Michael Jackson was once one of Jehovah's Witnesses. To the best of my knowledge, he and his family studied with Jehovah's Witnesses for years, but technically none of them were ever baptized members of the congregation. Interestingly enough, Prince is one of Jehovah's Witnesses now. Here's an article from June about how he needs hip surgery but refuses to undergo the procedure because a blood transfusion is necessary.

Hmmm......I guess that's all I have for you guys right now. Like I said, it all kind of comes in spurts. It's not that all these memories are repressed, it's just that it all seems to have happened a hundred years ago. As far as I'm concerned, it was another lifetime. Again, please feel free to ask me anything. Maybe I can get another blog post out of this.


Jessie Earth Momma said...

I like this topic. Keep em coming!

When I look back to the person I was involved in the church, my actions, thoughts and choices were totally based on Catholic dogma.

Higher education makes for highly logical thinkers. Bad! Bad!

In my family, from a marriage equals man over woman standpoint, I am the head of the house. They way you describe you and Jay is probably what 90 percent of non christian, jewish, and islamic families are like.

Not Your Aunt B said...

I do like learning about other religions too. Good and bad because all religions have both, I feel.

I was not aware of the card for no blood transfusions. We have a special document for JWs who do not want blood, plasma, or platelets. I have only had to use them a couple of times, with no problem as they were all adults except for one child who needed surgery and *might* need blood. I was so worried for him, moreso as a mom myself, than thinking of the spiritual consequences for him.

And why does someone have to be the head of the house? Like you can't make decisions together? Don't get it.

Daphne said...

I think this is all so interesting. It's the strange little random (to me) tidbit which I find most fascinating. The dreaded transfusion! Oh nooooooo! Where did THAT come from? I can (sort of) understand the whole traditional household thing, and I can even understand why they'd discourage higher education (which is NOT to say I agree, just, if you're interested in power over people, then yeah, you'd discourage higher education). But why the blood thing?

On a side note, I think you would adore college and I think you should take a class to see what you think.

Question: around what age did you leave the church? Was it official or did you just stop believing and slowly drifted away? Does Jay have a JW background? (I think you told me at one time but I can't remember)

Barefoot_Mommy said...

There are several Jahova's Witnesses around this area and I went to school with several. I never understood how they could be happy not celebrating birthdays or christmas... one kid I was in the band with never played the National Anthem before games because it was against his religion.

That being said, a lot of the other things such as the man being head of the house, the no gay tolerance, the discouraging of further education... as far as I can tell all apply to a lot of the different churches in *OUR* area: The Baptists, the Pentacostals, The Holiness. Now, I don't know about OTHER areas, as we've mentioned before... South Alabama is a whole other can of biscuits... but that's the way are down here. A lot of time women stay in abusive relationships because they'd be shunned and viewed as horrible sinners for leaving the abuser.

Tim and I have a relationship like yours and Jay's. So I'd have to say that I agree with jessie up there.

Tammie said...

i really wish i remembered the specific scriptures that were used to back up the no blood thing, but i dont remember and i dont even know if i could find my bible to look them up. so much of what i believed was basically what i was told to believe. a lot of times i didnt even bother to do any research of my own.

daphne: i'll probably answer the rest of your questions in tomorrows blog post. :)

barefoot: honestly, the holidays thing never really bothered me, because i didnt know any better. it was all i had ever known. (BTW: i cant comment on your blog for some reason. i dont know if its an issue with my computer or your new layout. will you check into it for me?)

onasilentsea said...

My mother converted to JW a little more than 10 years ago. I studied on my own for a while, but then the woman I was studying with basically quit on me because I wouldn't get baptised. She asked me why and I told her, "honestly, I know too much about everything else and I don't think anyone has the absolute truth." I never heard from her again. Oh well :-) It wasn't for me anyway.

We stopped doing birthdays and holidays as well. And if you really look into those kinds of celebrations, they are based on pagan rituals and beliefs...also the celebration of birthdays and Christmas are not discussed in the Bible, thus making them irrelevant for JWs. (Actually, one birthday is mentioned...that of a queen or something and she requested the head of John the Baptist. So since that is a negative representation of a birthday, they see that as a sign that they shouldn't be celebrated...among other reasons I'm sure.)

I actually didn't mind not celebrating holidays and what not. We still had family togetherness and they weren't focused on the commercialism and selfishness that tends to be a part of birthdays and Christmas. Not saying that everyone is like that, but our culture as a whole is quite materialistic and selfish. You can show your love and appreciation and give gifts at all times of the year.

I like running into other ex-JWs. I think it's interesting to see why they leave. Thanks for posting this Tammie.

Tammie said...

ooh this is so fascinating. i love running into other ex jehovahs witnesses too. (although for me it happens rarely.)

i would love to know more about your relationship with your mother. does she treat you any differently since you dont share the same faith?

Hotch Potchery said...

I find religion fascinating because I don't really understand believing in things that, to me, seem just so irrational. (But, then again, I live and die on Saturdays on 50 college boys and their ability to play football, so there you have it.)

I think that is why I love Big Love (the show) so much, different religions all just seem so strange.

I had NO idea about higher education...then what do you do to support your family?

Barefoot_Mommy said...

hrm... I don't know why you can't comment. The comment box pops up for me if I click on it.

I can see Onasilentsea's point about the selfishness and commercialism that is attatched to holidays and birthdays, and can see how that part of it at least would not be missed. Actually, I can feel the birthday part a lot. When I was a kid it was important to me, but as I get older it just doesn't really seem that special anymore. LOL

Betts said...

Fascinating! I love hearing about religions from former members. My questions would be about holiday. Are there any that JW's can celebrate? Do they not celebrate because it's considered worshipping a false God? Or some other reason? Is it true a JW won't knock on your door if you have a US flag hanging on your property?

hester said...

I found this post so interesting as well. I admire you for forging the life you want for you and your family with Jay. It sounds like such a good, honest life with no BS. And you sound so together for someone who has "left" such a seemingly strict religion. I have a very smart, gorgeous friend who was caught up in a cult for a few years (I know that is a different situation) but she was quite traumatised. You must be made of strong stuff, Tammie.

Dani said...

Interesting post. I have had quite a few Jehovah's Witnesses in my class at school. I find this helpful.