Why a young father left the JW's
Three part story in Germany's Der Tagesspiegel (26 July 2017)
Why a young father left the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part One)
He believed. To the end of the world, the mission, the community. Then he got two sons - and went out to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Oliver Wolschke pays a high price for this.
Why a young father left the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part Two)
The two-witness rule applies to child abuse
Why a young father left the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part Three)
An attempt to change his mind
Another big interview with Oliver Wolschke - this one is from the major German magazine Stern
"Psychological Terror" - A dropout of Jehovah's Witnesses
Stern, Monday, August 28, 2017 (via Google Translate)
For more than 20 years, Oliver Wolschke believed in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. That the downfall of the world is imminent. That premarital sex is a sin. When he became a father, his faith broke. He left the sect to save his children. Now he is glad that he succeeded. Though he lost a great deal.
Oliver Wolschke looks back on his life as a Jehovah's Witness. Today the 32-year-old publishing company is amazed at how he became "a slave to this ideology". The most important moment in the life of a Jehovah's Witness is baptism, often a mass ceremony like here in Zagreb.
How, Mr. Wolschke, was when you first rang the bell at a strange front door and said, "We would like to bring you the joyous message of Jehovah!"
I was nine years old, and I was traveling with my as it was with the Jehovah's Witnesses , "spiritual father". I have already been trained in such small demonstrations as to respond to refusals, objections to how to initiate a missionary visit.
So, what did you say?
"Hello, my name is Oliver Wolschke, and this is my partner, we have come to your door today, because we have established that people are less and less attached to a God Believe and ...
Then the door falls!
And then often the door falls - as soon as the word "God" has fallen or the word "Bible".
What I find strange, nonsensical, is that you must be a Jehovah's Witness, but at the same time it is said in the doctrine of the Lord Jehovah , that only 144,000 "anointed" are allowed to enter the thousand-year-old kingdom - there it will be quite close to the king's foot!
Yes, but you do not see it quite right, but I am afraid that as an outsider you can not really understand it, it is too bizarre. By 1934, all Jehovah's Witnesses, the official doctrine, came to heaven. 144,000 had a special place in the kingdom. But then they realized: "Oh, we grow quite fast, and soon more than 144,000 people want to claim a special place in the sky!" Thats not OK. And that is why they have their teaching changed. Now it is said, the places are occupied, the rest remains on the earth. And these 144,000 will reign with Jesus Christ a thousand years over the earth and all the believing people who survive Armageddon.
That is, as the Jehovah's Witnesses say, "the end-time decision-making battle in which God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the form of the Archangel Michael, together with the angelic Healer, removed Satan's world system and replaced it with a millennium of peace."
You believed that?
Yes, more than 20 years.
They also believed that this could happen at any moment.
Yes. Today, I am amazed that I have believed it all, and much more, rehearsed, never asked what we were told.
There are eight million Jehovah's Witnesses around the world, so eight million people will survive this battle. But the rest of mankind, that is, eight billion people possessed by Satan?
They all go on it. That's how hard you have to say that.
Your god is brutal. You Jesus a mass murderer.
This is how I see it now. But a Jehovah's Witness would never say that, he says, "People have the opportunity to find God in time!"
As a Jehovah's Witness you live in the constant fear of not coming to paradise.
But it is not true. But of course, this fear was always in the background, that one is not good enough for this paradise. And I was also afraid of getting lost in the Armagedon. On the other hand, one looks forward to this decision-making battle, which is constantly being driven into the head that God finally intervenes. This thought was always there.
What is that feeling for life?
You have been silent for almost a minute.
I try to get back into my thinking. I've only been away from the witnesses for a few months. But I still struggle to understand how I became a slave to this ideology. It is so strange to me today. On the one hand, you live a normal life as a Jehovah's Witness, you are planning holidays, you are doing something with friends - and yet, every day you think, soon comes Harmagedon.
So the sky crashes down on you.
It's raining fire from heaven. Meteorites shoot down, very small meteorites that crush the houses and destroy them, the earth tears open, and in the sky one can see how Jesus comes with his 144,000 anointed and kills every unbeliever.
They have lived for decades in a parallel world.
Yes. And I would now like to call those who are still arrested to this world: "Hey, leave them behind you, that's all nonsense!"
Did this nonsense make you a special one in front of your work colleagues?
I do not believe that. It was just that I was in a lot different. I have not participated in Christmas festivals, I have not celebrated Easter, because they are festivals of pagan origin. And if someone had a birthday, I did not congratulate him, I refused invitations for birthday parties.
Puh, and how was that at school, as a child?
Very unpleasant, one always lives in confrontation with the peers, I then tried to compensate by making one on class clown.
They have two children who go to kindergarten. Have you imposed these constraints on them as well?
Yes, we did it, unfortunately. When it was about Easter eggs, we said, painted stones. If a Christmas celebration was in the kindergarten, we did not let our son into the kindergarten that day.
How long have you been standing "in the truth", as it is called in the language of Jehovah?
Up to 31 years of age. I even believed in the time when I had been expelled for two years because I had met my present wife who was not a Jehovah's Witness.
That was a sin?
You should not have close contact with unbelievers. I was excluded, because I then lived with her.
They could have enjoyed this exclusion as liberation.
I was not at that time. I got a bad conscience. The Jehovah's Witnesses justify everything with the Bible, one must not disappoint God, and I thought they were right. It was a dilemma for me: there is the woman of my life, there is the faith that I do not want to lose. I realized that it would be hard, indeed existential for me! I knew the rules, I had twice before twice violated them, "missing", and had to appear before internal courts, of which I then two "reprimands" received.
What does this mean?
I had done something wrong, committed a sin, premarital sex. My conscience has plagued me so much that I confessed this to a community member. And then I had to face the "elders" before a right-wing committee, formed by three men. They were not strict to me, the Bible also says: They rub you with oil. You ask questions, whether it was a slip-up, whether it went for a long period of time, you tell what happened, says that you regret it.
That you are an adult human being subjected to such a tribunal - incomprehensible.
Today I do not understand that anymore. At that time I accepted everything, because you are ashamed because you have sinned before God. But now it was about my wife. The three elders made it clear to me: she or us.
And you decided for your girlfriend.
Yes, it was about our happiness. But it was brutal. I loved my wife, could not live without her. But I was still a deeply religious witness of Jehovah. I was excluded, but I did not want that. A psychological terrifying situation on several levels. All contacts will be canceled. Nobody knows you anymore. Your own mother is no longer talking to you. It is so sad. From one day to the next, your social environment is gone. Social isolation is all-embracing. For me this situation was unbearable.
They were in a prison without walls, the prisoners were psychoterror.
What saved you at that time? Have you missioned your wife?
Yes and no. My wife was then in a difficult phase, I do not want to talk about it. In any case, she found with me all these books of the Wachtturmgesellschaft. When I came home, she cried, said: "She feels like talking about the love of God in these publications. This reading was just the right thing for her at that moment. In 2005 we married, and a year later I was accepted as a witness again.
When was doubt about Jehovah's Witnesses in your soul?
In 2008, I first read critical reports about the Wachtturmgesellschaft on the Internet. They shook my faith in the short run. But at that time I was still a prisoner - the "firewall", the fire barrier, which had been built around me since my childhood, was perfect. Then I became father, in 2011 and 2013 we got children.
That changed your view of the Jehovah's Witnesses?
This made me more thoughtful, for example, in this case: The Jehovah's Witnesses reject blood transfusions. In the edition of May 22, 1994, the title of "Awakened!" The images of teenagers, and in history, three children were represented who refused and died of blood transfusion. They gave "God precedence," it said. Inhuman. I would never deprive my children of a transfusion!
Is there a concrete day when this barrier collapsed?
Yes, a woman in a Facebook group of Jehovah's Witnesses worried if her dogs and cats would survive Harmagedon. This was heavily discussed in the comments. Many reassured themselves with the story about Noah's Ark: "God saved the animals then." Then the question arose: "How many children did God take into the ark?" That made me think.
In the first book of Moses there is an answer.
Right, years before the Flood, it was clear that only Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives would survive. So at that time many children had lived who were drowned miserably. I looked at my children, and I saw how the doubts of faith grew in me.
Have you talked to your wife about it?
In the beginning not, I could not. I knew my doubts and thoughts might break our family. I suffered, became more discouraged, more closed. I slept badly, sat there often, and only looked into the void. We were always praying before dinner, I could not do it anymore. Somehow my wife shook me and asked, "What's the matter with you?" Little by little I told her everything. She was shocked, dismissive, she said, "I can not go this way with you!"
Yes! I wanted to get my children out of this, as I now found, sect-like organization, but I was clear: If my wife does not go along this path, it will not work!
But at some point your wife, Oliver, you are right!
It took a few days, we tried to talk about everything. Both of us were clear: We are at a fork in the road. Now everything can break. Somehow I noticed that my wife began to research on the Internet via the Wachtturmgesellschaft. And then, suddenly, we could talk openly.
You are now a renegade. In your Internetblog, you have compiled materials that make the Wachtturmgesellschaft appear as an almost despicable organization that protects the child molesters. The title of your work are a few cryptic numbers: 1800.1006.579.0.
These are the numbers found in Australia for the processing commission of abuse victims in the Jehovah's Witnesses databases. When I had read their report, I realized that this organization is not of God. There were 1,800 victims, 1006 alleged perpetrators, 579 of these 1006 had their injustice in internal courts of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but 0 cases were passed on to the judiciary or the police.
And you think: That's what it will be like in Germany.
I can imagine that it is worse here than in Australia. Because there is a serious difference: in many parts of Australia, one is legally obliged to report abuses to the authorities, but not necessarily in Germany. In Australia there are 68,000 Jehovah Witnesses, 165,000 here. In Australia, the investigator said he knew of no other religion that has such deficiencies in dealing with child abuse as Jehovah's Witnesses.
Until recently, I thought Jehovah's Witnesses were quite odd, slightly cranky, somewhat jammed, but ultimately harmless.
There are dear people in the organization. But the organization itself - as I see it today - is totalitarian in its claim, it tries to possess its members physically, mentally, morally, psychologically.
How dangerous the Jehovah's Witnesses are, I realized when I wrote this internal secret book for the "elders", that is, for the sect's leaders, "Keep the herd" ...
The normal members unfortunately do not know!
... got and read. It is not just a book full of rules, commands, and how to watch the members, it is also surprisingly often about sex.
Sexuality is also a major topic in the meetings. And even if our young sons are there, we talk about anal and oral sex and that homosexuality is not allowed to live out. This secret book is also about child abuse and how to deal with it. One should "leave the matter to Jehovah," it says. In the plain text: The offender is protected. And he is even more protected because the victim is believed only when another witness confirms the abuse, they call the "two-witness rule". Abuse, contact breaking, blood transfusion - it is incomprehensible for me that this organization has got the tax-privileged status of a corporation under public law!
I suppose the day of your leaving you will never forget.
No. For it was a day of liberation. On March 27 this year, my wife and I decided to leave. The way to the last meeting was difficult. A few days later we said goodbye to our friends - not personally, but with text or speech messages. In the ensuing meeting, we were no longer there, our resignation was announced. Shortly thereafter, I watched as one friend after another disappeared from my WhatsApp group. Social isolation began.
You have spent years in this community every day. I am afraid you must learn a new life now.
I have lost faith in God, he is gone. I am free now. And I note with great joy: The world, which we have always been warned, is so bad. It is now full of colors, not as black-and-white as before. My wife is growing up, and we are happy, our children are more lively, more relaxed, much more open towards us. We all need to learn a few things together now: about how to celebrate Easter, Christmas, birthdays. Recently, my wife said something beautiful to me: I am much more attentive to her than before.
And this has something to do with your withdrawal?
The Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden to divorce. One is resting a little in such a relationship as we say, divinely secured. Now it is our love, not the rules of this organization, which holds us together. This is a nice thought.
Thanks for posting.
Great read. Happening in a lot of places all over the world. We need to keep getting information out there in peoples primary languages.