Obituary Witnessing: coercing those who are in despair

 

Cemetery photo

Cemetery photo (Source: Unsplash)

A man who endured the death of his daughter recently received an unwelcome letter. Sent by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the letter expressed sympathy for his loss.

How did this Jehovah’s Witness learn about the man’s tragic loss? Apparently by scouring the obituary section of a Jacksonville, Florida newspaper.

 

According to a news report, a second letter was sent to the man’s church.

A news reporter from the local station reached out to Eva Robinson, the Jehovah’s Witness who sent the letter. Robinson explained that she couldn’t understand why the man was so upset.

This was not the first time she had scoured the obituaries. No other people had expressed disgust at receiving letters from her in their moment of grief, she added.

The man who received the letter explained to the reporter that, during times of grief, it is understandable that one would want to be surrounded by family and friends. However, he said it was not appropriate for a random stranger to send a grieving person a letter with an enclosed tract in an effort to proselytize (or ‘witness’) to you.

Robinson said she was sorry and meant no harm.

McKee asked Robinson why she would send a pamphlet to someone who belongs to a Presbyterian Church. To a non-Jehovah’s Witness, it seems to defy logic and serve no purpose. To one familiar with Jehovah’s Witness culture, it is a way to count hours toward field service.

Witnessing to people who are grieving and emotionally vulnerable is a cruel way to recruit potential converts. It reminds me of ambulance chasers, the phenomenon of lawyers following a road accident victim to hospital in the hopes of drumming up business.

Reading the obituary section for the sole purpose of evangelizing to grieving families to count time for a field service report is reprehensible, and a sad indictment of the extremes to which Witness indoctrination can lead.

Hypocrisy: Will It Ever End?

The title of this blog post mirrors that of an article from the December 2015 online edition of The Watchtower.

In the Watchtower article, three people are featured: Panayiota, Daniel and Jeffery. Each person wrestles with their own dilemma, but I will concentrate on Daniel.

Daniel has disturbing memories of “priests who drank heavily, gambled, and stole from the collection plate.” However, during Mass, these priests would warn their parishioners not to sin so they would not burn in hell. The Watchtower makes it clear that these priests were hypocritical.

Later in the article, it is revealed that Daniel “made an error” which caused him to relinquish some of his privileges in the Kingdom Hall. The article doesn’t mention what he did, but it does let the reader know that he was ‘readjusted’ and able to resume his privileges “with a good conscience.”

The article ends by encouraging the reader to “find out who Jehovah’s Witnesses are” and “what they believe.”

The December 2015 Watchtower bemoans hypocrisy in “nearly every area of human activity”

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When I read this article, many thoughts ran through my mind. One thing I noticed is that, when reading about the priests in Daniel’s scenario, there was no mention of child sexual abuse. These priests drank heavily, gambled and stole from the collection plate… but they weren’t pedophiles! Over the years, how many times have the Watchtower and Awake! magazines mentioned the child sexual abuse crisis that grips the Roman Catholic Church?

In the June 2009 issue of the Awake! magazine, three pages were devoted to Catholic youth. That article mentions that Catholic youth are “disillusioned by church scandals, such as those involving pedophile priests.”

While the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was devoting pages of theAwake! magazine to warning Catholic youth about church scandals and pedophile priests, they were hiding the child sexual abuse scandal taking place within their own organization.

During my teenage years and into my early twenties, I attended a small Kingdom Hall. When I was around thirteen years old, I was close friends with another girl my age. Once in a while, after school, we would spend time together. Her mother was single and was dating a brother from the Kingdom Hall. He was the conductor of the Tuesday night book study at the Hall, so I assume he was a ministerial servant or maybe even an elder.

My friend told me that she didn’t like her mother’s boyfriend. I couldn’t imagine why. He was soft-spoken and always very nice when I saw him at the Hall. She told me that the reason she didn’t like him was that he had molested her many times over a period of about a year. I don’t know where it happened. I only know what she chose to share with me.

I don’t know if he also molested non-JW kids, but at some point, someone reported him to the police. He went to jail.

The Kingdom Hall that I attended for 11 years.

The Kingdom Hall that I attended for 11 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Kingdom Hall, people noticed that he was missing meetings. I don’t think many people (except the elders) knew where he went. I remember hearing that he was away, but would be back. One night, many months later, I entered the Kingdom Hall on a Tuesday or Thursday night and he was there. People were surrounding him and hugging him. My friend and her mother were also there that night. I felt bad for them because no one knew what that brother had done to my friend. If the others knew, would they be hugging him?

That night, from the podium, the speaker welcomed this brother back to the Hall and everyone clapped. They welcomed him home as if he had just come back from serving a mission. To this day, I still think the whole thing was bizarre.

While researching for this article, I checked the Sexual Offender Registry for my home state. He is among the people listed.

In the December 2015 article, “Hypocrisy! Will It Ever End?,” it states that Daniel was ‘readjusted’ and able to resume his privileges “with a good conscience.”

Before there was an online Sexual Offender Registry, did people at the Kingdom Hall know there was a pedophile in their midst at our small Kingdom Hall? According to the list, he has been arrested for child sexual abuse multipletimes since the 1980’s. Apparently, he was not ‘readjusted’, although he was welcomed back to the Kingdom Hall and allowed to resume conducting the Tuesday night book study “with a good conscience.”

There are so many examples of hypocrisy within the Watchtower organization. In Australia, child sexual abuse within the Watchtower organization has been investigated. In England, an investigation is in the planning stages. Do these scandals make the pages of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines?

In the December 2015 article, it states that those who serve God without hypocrisy “learn to ‘remove the rafter’ from their own eye before offering to ‘remove the straw’ from their brother’s eye.” By their own definition, they are hypocrites!

It is time for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to follow their advice and “remove the rafter” from their own eye.