photo by peasap // cc
This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Amber-Rose and her time as a Jehovah’s Witness.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello there! I’m Amber and I live in Wales, UK with my boyfriend and our very fluffy cat. I work in digital marketing and will be 22 this October. I have an addition to Netflix and Earl Grey tea.
For those of us who don’t know, what are the basic tenets of this religion?
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ can be found in nearly every country, come from all walks of life but all have the same goal – which is to follow the teachings of the Bible to the best of their ability and to honour God, whose name is Jehovah. Because we witness, or talk, about Jehovah God and his Kingdom, we are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Oh, I come across so many, but the biggest? Hmm. Perhaps that we shun former members of the religion? If someone chooses to leave the religion, they are not shunned. I wasn’t! Witnesses still warmly greet me when I bump into them in the Supermarket. They also don’t automatically boot you out should you commit a serious sin.However, if someone makes a habit of doing something which is clearly condemned in the Bible and don’t change their ways, or aren’t sorry for it then they are disfellowshipped and ‘shunned’. They are still allowed to attend meetings, as these are public. Whilst they have severed their ties with their religious family, this shouldn’t change their relationship with their parents, siblings, spouse or children. I have heard of times when children have been unceremoniously kicked out of the family home after being disfellowshipped, but I have certainly never heard that officially encouraged by the religion. That’s a private matter for the family. My Mum (who is still a practicing Witness) and I have a very close relationship.
I’d say that the most annoying/worrying misconception is when people think we’re a sect or that we’re brainwashed. When you are studying with a view to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, you are taught only from the Bible and there’s no pressure. We do have a Governing Body based in Brooklyn though, and you can read more about that here.
How did you become a Jehovah’s Witness? Were you raised in the church?
My Mother and my Uncle have been Jehovah’s Witnesses since before I was born, but my Father never was. They divorced some years ago. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but decided to leave a few years back. This however hasn’t tainted my views on the religion. Whilst I don’t attend meeting anymore, I strangely still use the word ‘we’ when speaking about them.
How did being a Jehovah’s Witness affect your daily life?
It becomes such a natural part of your life you hardly notice it. It becomes a habit to pray, as if you were confiding in a friend that’s always with you. Sometimes it was hard, as you make yourself stand out by not celebrating public holidays, not singing hymns in school assemblies, and praying before meals etc.
The biggest thing is of course the ministry service, which all Witnesses do, to a varying extent. Why do we do it? Jesus told his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe God’s promise of everlasting life for all who obey him. (Romans 6:23) We endeavour to share our faith with others, hoping that they will benefit from God’s promises. But we don’t believe that we earn our salvation by engaging in our ministry.
Just like any religion, I’d imagine there are varying degrees of commitment. Did you do yoga? Did you discuss politics?
Oh certainly, there are some ‘grey areas’ where it’s simply a matter of conscience, and so of course there will be things that some Witnesses you encounter WILL do, and others won’t. Things like the Harry Potter books, certain films with ‘spooky’ elements and degrees of modesty in clothing.The MOST important thing however is that you don’t stumble or damage someone else’s faith through your decisions and actions. I quietly read, and loved the Harry Potter books as a teenage but I wouldn’t have mentioned it to anyone else, as whilst it didn’t knock my faith personally – it would have been unfair to bother someone else’s conscience if they disagreed with me. So to answer your question, I don’t know of anyone that did yoga, but maybe someone did if they enjoyed the exercise. Politics was certainly discussed, be certainly not heavily as Witnesses don’t have any political allegiance.
To flesh out the story of why I chose to leave; I was stumbling a fellow Witness by having close friend who weren’t Witnesses. This is generally discouraged, as they could have been a bad influence on me. I particularly enjoyed going to live music events with my friends; so I was encouraged to a weekend music festival with a few other witnesses my age I suppose to prove their point that I could do the things I enjoyed with other Witnesses. To cut a long story short, I was so appalled by these fellow ‘Witnesses’ behaviour that weekend – my faith my seriously knocked and I didn’t attend meetings after that. Since then, those people were disfellowshipped for repeating the conduct from that weekend on other occasions.
What does being a Witness bring to your life?
A sense of peace. The world can be a confusing and worrying place. You hear stories of wars, violence, racism, intolerance of culture and religion, natural disasters, sickness and corruption. It paints a sad picture. Not once did I go to the Elders of our congregation with a question and come away dissatisfied with the answer.
What’s your advice for someone interested in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness?
Ask for a Bible Study and see what you think – even if you’re just curious! You can have a Bible Study in nearly any language, and you can nearly always find Jehovah’s Witnesses near you, even if you don’t think there are any. The website is www.watchtower.org via which you can request someone from your home town to contact you. It might surprise you.Thanks so much for sharing your story, Amber-Rose! Are any of you guys Jehovah’s Witnesses? Do you have any (respectful!) questions for her?
photo by peasap // cc
photo by peasap // cc