Part of becoming a Jehovah’s Witnesses was finding out how evil the holidays are. The little old ladies told my mom that it seems Satan was behind the whole holiday thing, him and his pagan friends. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and Independence Day. Anything that had any fun involved was something he probably started. Since the world was so bad, it was important to stay away from any of its influences. It’s really a closed society. Unless they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, friends outside the faith are highly discouraged. To marry a nonbeliever is even worse.
My mom loved her new religion. She brought us kids up to love it too and we did. By the time I was in my teens I was a full blown self-righteous Jehovah’s Witnesses. My father never did fully embrace it. He told me years later that the day he got baptized he knew it was the biggest mistake of his life. That didn’t stop him from doing it. My Dad never could stand up to my Mother. He would always say “Just give in for the sack of peace.” So he got baptized to please my mother. It worked for a while.
Once you get baptized that means you agree to all their rules. My father wasn’t big on rules but he went along “for the sack of peace.”
So for many years we were classic Jehovah’s Witnesses family. We would go to the kingdom hall (this is what the building is called, where they have their many meetings) three times a week. Two hours on Thursdays where they had the “Ministry school” and “Service Meetings.” Two hours and fifteen minutes on Sundays when they had the “Public Talk” and “Watchtower Study.” We would also go to a private home on Tuesdays night for what is called the “Book study.” We would meet there every Saturday mornings to organize our “Field Service” activity. Yes, four days out of every seven we involved with some kind of church activity. As my mother would say “An empty mind is the devil’s work shop.” The church leaders knew it was important to keep you busy in the lord’s work too. No time to think if you are keep busy. Smart guys those church leaders.
Field Service is the door to door activity where they try to sell their thought system to other people. Of course they would call it something different. They would call it “The Spreading the good the news.” What is the good news? Put simply, “It is warning people of the coming destruction of the current system of things. After this destruction god would bring his government to the Earth and make it a paradise. The ones who survive this war would live in peace with perfect bodies and never die.”
Spreading this good news was the most important thing a person could do. The concept was that we were saving people’s lives. Just like in the time of Noah, they needed to repent and take advantage of the opportunity to get saved by joining god’s only true religion on Earth. Which just so happens to be the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Men, women and children all went from door to door, spreading the message. The minimum requirement was ten hours a month back then. Each person who did this was called a “Publisher.”
They said we are all the same in god’s eyes. That everyone is equal. To prove this they call everyone “Brother and Sister.” Sadly, this really isn’t the case. There are those who are definitely thought better of then others. That being said, this is a partial list of their rankings as a Jehovah’s Witnesses in every congregation around the world. This rank does make a difference in how people treat and respect you. These are some of the rankings as of 2001. They have changed a little since then.
1. Unbaptized, irregular, publisher. Someone that is going out in field service inconsistently and is not baptized yet. This rank is OK if you are a child, not if you are an adult.
2. Inactive Publisher. Someone is baptized and who has not gone out in field service for over six months. This person is “weak spiritually” and should be avoided.
3. Irregular Publisher. Someone is baptized who might miss a full month of field service every now and then. This person is also weak spiritually but not as bad as inactive publisher.
4. Publisher. Someone who never misses a month in field service. This person is in “good standing.”
5. Axillary Pioneer. Someone who is putting in a minimum of 60 hours (hours have been lowered over the years) in field service a month. This is a super charged publisher and is admired by others.
6. Pioneer. A person that puts in a minimum of 100 hours a month (hours have been lowered over the years) in field service a month. Except for being an Elder this is the highest rank in the congregation.
7. Special Pioneer. Someone who puts in a minimum of 150 hours (hours have been lowered over the years) in field service a month. There are very few of these around, if any.
8. Ministerial servant. Any males who want to be made into an Elder someday must first be a ministerial servant. The do all the jobs in the Kingdom hall that the Elders don’t have time to do, or want to do.
9. Book study overseer. This position is held by a ministerial servant or Elder.
10. Elders. This is the most respected position a male can have in the congregation. In a congregation of hundred there are anywhere from three to ten of these.
11. Elder’s wife. This position technically has no power, if you believe men never listen to their wives.
So as you can see there is a definite pecking order going on here. Though they say they are all equal in god’s eyes they definitely don’t look at each other in the same way. It’s a male dominated religion with women and children coming in second and third.
Women can be publishers, axillary pioneers and pioneers. Women are not allowed to be ministerial servants or elders. In fact a male elder in the kingdom hall can be removed as such, if his wife is not “submissive” enough to him or to any other males in the kingdom hall.
So you have ten or more different rankings in a congregation of less than 150 people. Most everyone knows his ranking and the rankings of those around you.
There are other rankings outside the local congregation.
1. City Overseer. He (males only) is in charge of the whole city. These are cities with many congregations in them.
2. Circuit Overseer. He (males only) is in charge of 12 to 15 different congregations or one circuit.
3. District Overseer. He (males only) is charge of 12 to 15 circuits.
4. Zone Overseer. He (males only) is in charge of a whole country.
5. Gilead Student. A missionary assigned to a foreign country. These can be male or female.
6. Bethelite. A worker at one of the worldwide headquarters. These can be male or female. There are too many rankings to even mention here. Service department, writing department, kitchen, laundry etc. etc.
7. The “governing body” (males only) ten to twenty “Bethel Elders” who run the whole organization. They are appointed to do this by Holy Spirit or god. Though they say they are just imperfect men, (false modesty) their word is law.
They purposely keep their congregations small, usually 100 to 140 people. This way they can keep better tabs on you and better tabs on each other. “Big brother” is always watching. The elder’s job is to keep the congregation clean and free from any wrong doing. Someone can be “marked” as “bad association” thus adding one more category to their long list.
If you missed more than a couple of meetings or too much field service, you might get a phone call or a visit from someone making sure you were “OK” and not spiritually sick.
It’s a tight nit group. With everyone “knowing” a lot of everyone else’s business. Part of the fun in going out in Field service is catching up on all the gossip. Even though this is discouraged, it has always been done. Your “car group” was the best place to find out what was really going on in the kingdom hall.
Whether you are god’s chosen people or not, people just feel better knowing they are doing better than others. It’s like saying “see god what a good person I’m.” Plus it’s really fun to have some piece of information that others don’t have, some little piece of dirt. It’s just human nature. Though most of it harmless, a lot of it can be real nasty stuff. Yes, the “Brothers and Sisters” know way too much about their “Brothers and Sisters.”
One big happy family.