Please note that this blog contains discussion of child sexual abuse in the context of the findings from the BBC Panorama documentary “Suffer the Little Children” from 2002.
Every day that inner voice says the words, “what if?” The difference now is:
- I’m able to admit that this inner voice is saying those words.
- That they are just words.
- That just because an organisation told me over and over something was true it doesn’t make it true.
- That I need to trust my heart and my head by using observation, research, reason and logic.
- I need to reject that belief in fear as the only way to live.
- I need to acknowledge that just because I know what isn’t true doesn’t mean that I’m ever going to know what is true.
Perhaps that last one makes no sense to you. Please bear with me. As a Jehovah’s Witness I was taught that the “truth” about humans and their history and future is all contained in the Bible and that “Jehovah God’s” organisation that had access to this “truth” was the Watchtower/Jehovah’s Witnesses and no-one else. Ergo, once I came to the conclusion through observation, research, reason and logic that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not teaching anything that could be demonstrably called “true”, I was left without any certain knowledge of a deity and their possible plans for humanity. So I had to come to terms with the fact that this is OK. It’s OK not to know things. It’s OK to admit that there are things that I can’t know. This is the main reason that now I call myself an agnostic. I cannot know if there is any deity or deities, it is not possible to know. If there is, the chances are that it’s nothing like humans have imagined in their various religions and holy writings through the years.
Once I reached this stage I was able to look more objectively at the organisation what had indoctrinated me since birth. I was able to see that their doctrine and organisational structure was damaging to members of the organisation. To this end and only two days ago, I finally watched the BBC Panorama documentary from 2002 “Suffer the Little Children”. If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to do so. It can be found on YouTube. This is a description taken from the archived BBC Panorama web page:
With the Catholic Church still reeling from revelations that it kept child abuse quiet, Panorama investigates a world-wide religion that stands accused of shielding abusers: the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The programme tells the harrowing stories of children put at risk by the Watchtower Society’s bible-based policies and unearths evidence of a database of members suspected of child abuse – many of whom have never been reported to the police.
The organisation claims to monitor the men accused of raping and molesting children but now faces allegations that it covers up crime and pressurises victims not to go to the police.
Panorama takes its evidence to the heart of the organisation and reveals the damage caused by the silent witnesses.
What is even more shocking is when I realised that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been told not to watch the documentary as the Governing Body claimed it contained nothing but lies.
Today, In kingdom halls across the country, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses gathered for a bible study class only to have it cut short for an unprecedented announcement from their Governing Body in Brooklyn New York.
The “faithful and discrete Slave”, as the 11-member board running Church is called, wanted ordinary witnesses, to be able to refute “‘false allegations” about how the organisation handles child abuse being made in tonight’s edition of Panorama: Suffer the little Children (BBC ONE, 10.15pm).
The allegations aired in the programme refer to the organisation’s bible based Child protection policy which some elders have interpreted as doing nothing when allegations of child abuse are made.
The Governing Body repeat that Elders told of a crime should contact the legal desk and that then counsel will be given “to report crime to the proper authorities and to comply with any additional legal requirements”. In all the cases Panorama investigated this did not happen.
I immediately recognised the “doublespeak” that they used in their statement to the BBC. They said that “Elders told of a crime should contact the legal desk and that then counsel will be given ‘to report crime to the proper authorities and to comply with any additional legal requirements'”. It might not be immediately obvious how this is doublespeak. You need to understand how the Watchtower organisation views the secular authorities of any country.
This is best explained by reading from the study edition of the Watchtower June 2008 in an article entitled “Accept Jehovah’s Authority”:
Our View of Authority
3. How did first-century Christians show that they did not blindly submit to human authority?
3 As Christians, we take a position different from that of the world. It is not that we blindly do whatever we are told. On the contrary, at times we must refuse to submit to the will of others even if they have positions of authority. This was also true of first-century Christians. For instance, when the apostles were ordered to stop preaching, they did not cave in to the high priest and other authority figures who were part of the Sanhedrin. They did not abandon right conduct in order to conform to human authority.—Read Acts 5:27-29.
4. What examples from the Hebrew Scriptures show that many of God’s people followed an unpopular course?
4 Numerous servants of God in the pre-Christian era acted with similar resolve. For example, Moses “refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God,” even though doing so incurred “the anger of the king.” (Heb. 11:24, 25, 27) Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife, who had the power to retaliate and cause him harm. (Gen. 39:7-9) Daniel “determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king,” though his position on the matter was not easy for the principal court official of Babylon to accept. (Dan. 1:8-14) Such examples show that, historically, God’s people have taken a firm stand for what is right, regardless of the consequences. They did not give in to men simply to curry favor with them; neither should we.
5. How is our view of authority different from that of the world?
5 Our courageous stand is not to be confused with mere stubbornness; nor are we like some who rebel just to make a political point. Rather, we are determined to accept Jehovah’s authority over that of any human. When man’s law conflicts with God’s law, the decision as to what we will do is not difficult. Like the apostles in the first century, we obey God as ruler rather than men.
They think that the procedures that they have in place are directly from “Jehovah” and, therefore, if secular authorities require actions in opposition to those considered appropriate by the Governing Body, they view their procedures to supersede any given by “men”. Therefore, when they refer to reporting a crime to the “proper authorities”, I’m not completely certain that they are actually referring to secular law enforcement.
By the end of the documentary I was sobbing. I was so angry, so upset. I felt so betrayed. Even though I had left this organisation so many years ago I had always been loyal and had never allowed a bad word to be uttered against them. I just felt that they probably had the “truth” and that I just wasn’t good enough, strong enough spiritually, or faithful enough to remain in the organisation. It was all my fault why I was no longer a Jehovah’s Witness. The Watchtower organisation had never done anything wrong.
Except they had. They had betrayed the trust of the people that were their members. The children, the parents, the families. They had protected heinous paedophiles and had sided with these perverted criminals even when they were found guilty in a court of law. They had made child abuse victims face their abusers. They allowed their abusers to interrogate their victims over again. The heartless cruelty is truly shocking.
How could this be an organisation used by a “loving” deity? Short answer is that it couldn’t be and either no such deity exists or it isn’t anything to do with the Watchtower organisation.
Then I started to think of all the lies I’d been fed. I remembered how loyal and faithful and obedient I’d been when I was a Jehovah’s Witness. How much time and effort I put into being obedient even though I had physical and mental illnesses to cope with on a permanent basis. I remembered how I had been treated and how a paedophile in my very congregation had been allowed to keep his good standing and associate freely with all of the Witnesses. I felt sick to my stomach that I had been so duped and that so many other people are still blind to the reality: that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are nothing but a fundamentalist doomsday cult.
I observed, I read, I researched. I mourned the loss of my childhood. And I hate the claws that they got into my brain so deeply so that even now that treacherous voice still says “what if?” But the difference is now I know that it’s not true, that none of it ever was and I look forward to healing myself and I am so grateful that my children have not been exposed to the danger, the lies and the abuse.
Thank you for reading my blog.