"Is that toy magic?"
This is some of what we can hear in the animation video "Become Jehovah's friend", which was introduced at the religious community Jehovah's witness' assembly at Hamar last weekend. The movie is intended for children, and shows a young boy who's coming home with a wizard toy. The mother disapproves of this:
"Caleb, who likes magic - Jehovah or Satan?" "Satan." "Right. Magic is bad. That's why Jehovah hates it. Do you really want to play with something that Jehovah hates?"
The movie now receives strong criticism for the way the mother tries to raise the child, also from child psychologist Willy-Tore Mørch:
"We know that through blindly obeying someone throughout the childhood years, we may get anxious and dispirited children who will become afraid to have their own opinions. Because they always have to check their opinions up against the authority, and that limits the child's ability to fantasize and think for itself. Worst case, this might influence the child's psychological health at a later date."
Mørch reacts to how the mother in the movie gets the child to throw away the wizard toy, and how she also gives the impression that it was the boy's choice when it actually was the mother's own wish. The child psychologist also doesn't think it's right to introduce small children to "Satan".
"It isn't, because it's scaremongering. So that children will obey in order to avoid the catastrophic punishment. I won't interfere with people's beliefs, but whatever one threatens with, it will be serious to a child at this age. That is why this is problematic."
"Look at Sparlock's magic cape!" "Caleb, what toy is that?"
Child psychologist Ellen Flaaten reacts to the mother's behaviour toward the boy in the movie:
"He comes home excited and happy, and the mother greets him with an agenda that terminates his natural game. And the symbolic game is significant for the child's natural emotional development and personal growth. If the parents here are adviced to use such a systematic way to raise their children - and if this is representative - then I think that it may be unfortunate because the game and the playing is important and developing."
Bo Juel Jensen was a member of Jehovah's witnesses for 23 years, but left it 18 years ago. He now goes public with his strong critisism against the religious community, and rejects the idea that the movie is about the upbringing of children:
"In Norway we have freedom of religion, and this I accept. I have no problem with it, and I'm glad that we live in a state where this is possible. But... We have forgotten that there is no freedom of religion for children. They are completely subjected to what ever insanity their parents may choose to believe in. In this movie the mother's fantasy character who sits up in the sky, Jehovah, is so weak and so scared that it is forced to make sure that the boy's fantasy character, a plastic toy made in China, is thrown away."
Jehovah's witnesses would not let themselves be interviewed by RadioNorge, but Øystein Gaathaug, head of press relations, tells Hamar Arbeiderblad that he thinks it's a nice movie. The thought behind it is to bring up important issues that each and every family may discuss. He rejects that the movie is manipulating children.
"Jehovah loves you very much for obeying him."