When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me about her experiences as a special pioneer. She had been one until she married at the age of 38 and had given so much of herself to the organisation. She said that talking to Roman Catholics whilst pioneering had made her realise just what an insidious religion it was. She used to tell me that the Catholics had a saying, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” Apparently, this showed just how indoctrinated they were from an early age and that is why is was so difficult to convert a Catholic, because of this brainwashing. Catholics had such a hard time breaking free from the chains of Babylon the Great.
I would hear stories of how, when going from door to door, she thought that she could feel spots of rain on a regular basis, but strangely this only seemed to happen when she was talking to someone at their door. She laughed and said how she eventually realised that it was the Catholic householder flicking holy water onto her from a little wall mounted font just inside their front door. Patiently she would explain how mislead they were and how sad it was that they were blinded by Satan. My mother pointed out that Catholic indoctrination involved only being allowed to get any religious instruction from religious texts produced by the Catholic Church and learning various prayers and catechisms by rote. Discouraged from reading the bible, they took all of their instruction from a Priest with whom they must never argue.
Obviously, Jehovah’s Witnesses weren’t like this. See how we are encouraged to read the bible and to reason on it. We can think for ourselves and decide. We’re not forced into a highly dogmatic and superstitious religion that is only worried about keeping their members subjugated and obedient. We don’t have a collection plate passed round each meeting, we’re not forced into giving money. We have a choice, we decide whether or not to worship Jehovah. We don’t baptise infants. We let people choose when they are old enough to make an informed choice.
Oh boy, there’s a lot to unpack there. As I child, obviously I believed my mother without question. I wasn’t an argumentative child. I wasn’t allowed to be. My father believed most strongly that corporal punishment was correct and proper and I learnt at an early age not to answer back or disagree. That’s a conversation for another day.
Origin of the Quote
Firstly, for the sake of accuracy, I must clarify something. The quote, “give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man”, is often attributed to several different people. Most of the time it seems to be attributed to various Jesuits. Now I’m no historian so I can’t comment or not as to whether the Society of Jesus ever used this phrase as part of their ethos. However, it seems that these are highly likely to be misattributed. It appears that the most likely candidate for this phrase is Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist.
- Aristotle 367-347 BCE
- St Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556 CE – Jesuit (Society of Jesus)
- St Francis Xavier 1506-1552 CE – Jesuit (Society of Jesus)
- Baltasar Gracián 1601-1658 CE – Jesuit (Society of Jesus)
As explained by Barrie Cook of the British Museum:
“‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man,’ was supposedly said by the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola, though it probably ranks among the most misquoted, misrepresented and abused quotations in the book. Still, there is a basic truth, in that something fixed firmly in the mind by that age is unlikely ever to go away.” – Barrie Cook, curator, British Museum 
The Choice Faced by the Children Raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses
So do the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses have more of a choice? To answer this, I’m going to take each of the claims that my mother made and answer directly from my experience:
We are encouraged to read the bible and to reason on it.
Yes, yes we are! However, there is a caveat. We are encouraged to read the Bible in conjunction with publications provided by the Watchtower organisation. You see the Governing Body are the only channel used today by Jesus to feed his followers spiritual food. This is because they are the anointed “Faithful and Discreet Slave” and obeying them is exactly the same as obeying God. We can study the Bible and Watchtower publications, but not anything else because Christendom is part of “Babylon the Great” the harlot of Revelation.  Hmmm… but what about secular texts about the Bible? Basically, any knowledge not from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not from God but from Satan, because as mentioned they are the only channel used by Jesus.
So as you can see, Jehovah’s Witnesses, including their children are taught to rely on the information provided by the Watchtower organisation and are actively discouraged to seek out knowledge from other sources as this knowledge is from Satan. Not very impartial and objective if you’re only getting your information from one, biased source.
We can think for ourselves and decide.
Yes, yes we can. As Anthony Morris III from the Governing Body says: “Well there’s no chains on anybody in our Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls,” and my favourite: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are the thinkingest people on the planet.”
However, it’s interesting to note what he also says, in the very same talk, that “Satan’s promises” are “false refuges” and with regard to these false refuges: “The first one is independent thinking” and “independent thinking is dangerous”. So we can think as much as we like as long as it’s not thinking independently. So… we have to think the way the Governing Body wants us to think. This is because those not of the Governing body “teach ‘the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men'” Also, just in case you didn’t quite get the memo, Jehovah’s Witnesses are told in The Watchtower, “All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.” Okie dokie then!
We’re not forced into a highly dogmatic and superstitious religion that is only worried about keeping their members subjugated and obedient.
I suppose it depends on what you consider to be force. Force doesn’t have to be physical, there are many meaning of this word. One definition is “to compel, constrain, or oblige (oneself or someone) to something”. I may not be the sharpest tool in the box but I’m pretty sure that what the Governing Body do is exactly this. According to them Jehovah’s Witnesses must:
- obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not;
- this is because: obeying them is exactly the same as obeying God;
- if you don’t obey them you will die, literally.
We don’t have a collection plate passed round each meeting, we’re not forced into giving money.
It is correct that a collection plate it not passed around! However, just because a physical plate isn’t handed round the meetings or assemblies doesn’t mean that Jehovah’s Witnesses are off the hook. Frequently, the Watchtower organisation requests regular donations. If you don’t donate, you’re made to feel guilty about not doing so. Giving money to the Watchtower organisation is framed as a “privilege” because God gives us so much for “free”. And by God they always, by extension, mean the Governing Body and the Watchtower organisation because as previously discussed, obeying them is exactly the same as obeying God. If you don’t obey them, you die and, therefore, won’t see your family again. The emotional blackmail used is intense, they don’t need a physical plate.
We have a choice, we decide whether or not to worship Jehovah.
I’m not sure whether I really need to even address this point separately. I’ll just summarise based on what I’ve discussed already: Your choice is to either obey the Governing Body or die. Cool, where do I sign up?
We don’t baptise infants.
We let people choose when they are old enough to make an informed choice
Oh, wow, where do I start? Firstly, what exactly is the definition of an infant? There are a few and if you’re interested please have a look HERE. However, for this discussion I shall concentrate on three:
- The word infant is from the Latin infans, meaning unable to speak, so very often infant refers to a baby.
- However, as a legal term, “infancy” continues from birth until age 18.
- Also, in British English, an infant school is for children aged between four and seven.” – as someone who lives in the UK I can attest to this fact.
My mother was six when she was baptised, the UK. Therefore, she was, by definition, an infant. She may not have been a physical baby, but she was most definitely an infant. When I was baptised in the 1980s it was less common for pre-teens to get baptised but it appears to be gaining popularity again. According to the Watchtower in a discussion about parents readying their children to become “baptized disciples of Christ” they state “even relatively young children can grasp and appreciate Bible truths”. The accompanying image is of a very young child. So although Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t baptise babies, they most certainly do baptise infants and very young children.
Did you know what you wanted to be when you were six years old? Kids of that age have zero grasp on what life is really about. Ask any six-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and you get some hilarious answers! Breed dragons? Be a mailbox? Honestly, kids are so funny because they are completely unaware at that age. If you want to see the answers from some children have a look HERE.
Indoctrination versus Inculcation
My mother was so sincere and was so faithful to the Governing Body and Watchtower organisation. She was so genuinely full of love and kindness. She could not have done more in her life, but sadly, she was plagued by feelings of inadequacy her whole life believing that she was never doing enough. That’s a discussion for another time when I can go into it in more depth. But suffice to say she wholeheartedly believed that the education provided for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses was not indoctrination. Even though she was baptised at age six.
Sadly she was so very misguided, so very wrong. Aristotle’s saying “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man”, is true for Jehovah’s Witnesses as well. In fact, although the Watchtower organisation shies away from using the word indoctrination, it happily exhorts parents to “inculcate” their children, including taking them in the preaching work when a baby. What does the word inculcate mean?
Inculcate comes from the Latin inculcātus which is the past participle of inculcāre. This literally means “trample, impress, stuff in”. The dictionary explains it as implanting information “by repeated statement or admonition” or “to cause or influence (someone) to accept an idea or feeling”. What is the difference between indoctrinate and inculcate? Erm… let me see, what is the dictionary definition of indoctrinate? Oh yes, “to teach or inculcate.”
I am aware that there have been many more questions raised in this blog post than I have answered. I shall be revisiting some of these points in future, including more about my upbringing and an in-depth discussion of the BITE model.
Thank you for bearing with me in reading this lengthy post! I very much appreciate all of the support from my readers.
2 “When giving the sign of his presence, Jesus said that he would use “the faithful and discreet slave” to give “food at the proper time” to his domestics.* (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – July 2013 – “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”
3 “Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – July 2013 – “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”
4 “Jehovah has appointed his Son as Ruler over the Christian congregation. (Colossians 1:13) Jesus, in turn, has assigned his “faithful and discreet slave” to look after the spiritual needs of God’s people on earth. (Matthew 24:45-47) The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses serves as “the faithful and discreet slave.” As in the first-century Christian congregations, elders today receive instructions and counsel from the Governing Body, either directly or through its representatives, such as traveling overseers. When we as individuals respect the authority of Christian elders, we are obeying Jehovah.—Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17.” – God’s Love – Chapter 4 pp 43-44 – Why Respect Authority?
5 “In the decades leading up to World War I, Charles Taze Russell and his associates realized that the organizations of Christendom were not teaching Bible truth. Accordingly, they resolved to have nothing to do with false religion as they understood it. As early as November of 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower straightforwardly set out their Scriptural position by stating: “Every church claiming to be a chaste virgin espoused to Christ, but in reality united to and supported by the world (beast) we must condemn as being in scripture language a harlot church,” a reference to Babylon the Great.—Read Revelation 17:1, 2.” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – November 2016 pp 26-27 – “They Broke Free From False Religion”.
6 Talk by Anthony Morris III at The Irish 2012 Special Convention held at the Citywest Hotel complex in Dublin, 13th and 15th of July, 2012. – http://jwsurvey.org/cedars-blog/getting-to-know-our-governing-body
7 The Watchtower – Study Edition (Simplified) – October 2013 – “Slave for Jehovah”
8 The Watchtower November 15, 2013 p 20
9 Stephen Lett admits income/expenditure shortfall as he reminds Witnesses to donate “valuable things” (link includes footage from JW Broadcasting) – http://jwsurvey.org/cedars-blog/stephen-lett-admits-incomeexpenditure-shortfall-as-he-reminds-witnesses-to-donate-valuable-things
10 “But Jehovah’s servants already belong to the only organization that will survive the end of this wicked system of things.” The Watchtower 2007 – December 15, p14
15 “although the popular use of the word means the early years of age up to seven, in law, it is under-age or minority. Historically this meant under 21 years, but statutes adopted in almost all states end minority and infancy at 18. An ‘infant’ cannot file a lawsuit without a ‘guardian ad litem’ (one-purpose guardian) acting for him/her, in most states cannot marry without parental permission, and cannot enter into a contract that is enforceable during his/her minority.” http://.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=949
16 “Thus, the goal of all Christian parents should be to teach their children from infancy with the intention of helping them become baptized disciples of Christ. Granted, an infant would not qualify for baptism. However, the Bible shows that even relatively young children can grasp and appreciate Bible truths.” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – March 2018 – “Parents, Are You Helping Your Child Progress to Baptism?”
19 “Consider what Moses said. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 states: ‘These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.’ The word ‘inculcate’ conveys the idea of teaching through frequent repetition. A small child is like a sapling that needs watering at regular intervals. Since repetition helps adults to remember important matters, it will surely help young children!” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – August 2013 – “Parents – Train Your Children From Their Infancy”
20 “Regarding her young daughter, a mother and regular pioneer said: ‘I have been taking her along with me in the ministry since she was only one month old. Although she could not understand what was going on, I believe that this early exposure had a beneficial effect on her. By the time she was two years old, she was confidently offering tracts to those we met in the field service.'” – The Watchtower – Study Edition – August 2013 – “Parents – Train Your Children From Their Infancy”
21 Hans Burgkmair the Elder “The Whore of Babylon; sitting on the seven-headed beast, St John and the angel looking on from a cloud in top right corner. From a series of 21 woodcuts of the Apocalypse for Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament (Augsburg: S. Otmar, 1523). 1523 Woodcut” Colored by user:Shakko