I have been thinking a lot about the lack of support, judgement and criticism of teenagers in the organisation. I am dealing with the fallout of these policies with my two adolescents...I found this excellent article this morning which is worth a read for anyone interested in this topic - see the links below but first I also wanted to add my own bugbear, forgive the rant:A key factor which isn't mentioned in the article is the 'bad association' rule and it's extended application. Firstly we have 'bad associations' in the world, so JW kids are told they shouldn't/can't associate with any children who are not 'Jehovah's friends' - school & neighbourhood friendships which form naturally in a normal setting are stunted, not able to progress to any real friendship with it's advantages of support and nurturing, because the witness kids can't go to the other kid's house or party or get-together.
Then we have the extended application - there are 'bad assocations' also in 'the truth'!!! 'beware anyone who is not spiritually strong' , 'be prepared to report on your friends to the elders' etc etc.. This leads to an atmosphere of judgement and suspicion between youths in the congregation and their parents. Time and again I have seen a teenager begin to waver, to be tempted by the 'world' - instead of pulling them into the heart of the congregation with love and support, the witnesses first response is to criticise. For example, one boy of 15 changed his haircut to a more 'worldly' style and started to exhibit a bit of attitude (all the while still regular in service, meetings and answers) - but this was all it took - gradually the witness invitations dried up....he's already struggling to resist the 'temptation' of hanging out with his other friends from school who are telling him how great he is and how much they want to spend more time with him - so what happens when the congregation members judge him as a bad assocation? According to WTBTS he should go home and pray more, maybe try to make friends with some brother in his 30s or 40s instead (weird). Totally unrealistic advice. Of course he's lonely and feels rejected, after weeks of sitting alone crying and praying, he finally starts to rebel against his parents' stand and hang out with his 'worldly' friends (how dare he!). Then what is the institutional response by this 'loving' community? The witness friends reject him completely, harsh discipline sometimes follows and either way the shunning begins.
The Watchtower has created an atmosphere for young people of judgementalism, criticism, suspicion, it wants youths to be subservient robot drones in order for them to be accepted. They are not permitted to explore their unique attributes or abilities (hence the ban on extracurricular acivities and higher education). It forces false friendships based on hierarchy & status in the congregation and shamelessly neglects the 'fatherless boys'. There are no organised social events or youth clubs, instead the emphasis is put on parents to arrange such, those parents who are already exhausted from the endless demands of meetings, ministry, family study, bible reading etc etc... Elders want their kids to be friends with other elders' kids, pioneers etc and so on and so on... The society's response - they would rather pioneers spend 70 hours driving in circles and knocking on empty doors in the service each month than a few hours encouraging the current young members of the congregation. They have got it SO, SO wrong - hence the hemorrhaging of young people from the organisation.
It would only be a good thing if it didn't leave such awful emotional scars and neglect vulnerable young people.
Read the full article here: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/blog/young-ones-leaving.php
Some of the interesting paragraphs:
At what point do they begin to ask themselves if there is something that THEY are doing wrong? Ironically, they can’t do that, because the organization has already been identified and branded as a “spiritual banquet” where “nothing is lacking”. Therefore, if young people are uninspired, bored, or unmotivated to engage in the theocratic treadmill, Jehovah's Witnesses can simply blame it on the influences of MTV, high school, or on their favorite buzzword: the “world”.
It should be noted that the Soviets used the same methods of argumentation and reasoning – claiming that nothing was lacking in Mother Russia. Strangely, their newspapers only had good news to publish about the Soviet government, and only had bad news to report about Western democracies. If anyone defected, the leaders simply blamed it on American influence, the defector’s lack of gratitude, or on some horrible personal defect of the defector. Does this sound familiar?
Beside simple boredom, what we also see in the Watchtower organization are many emotionally troubled people and single parent families who join the religion for the promises of relief that it holds out for them. In situations such as this, I have often noticed that the kids don’t have much in the way of emotional support and guidance. Other churches give single parents some relief by offering activities and programs for their children to get involved in and bond with other young people. I have seen many really good kids in the organization totally get neglected because they didn’t have a father who was a Witness. Many of them had some very deep emotional issues that never got resolved. Additionally, it has been noted by many of us that when there is a family in which the father does not hold some kind of office, the family is often left out on the periphery without much social support. I have observed that children in families like this most often never thrive, and are swiftly on their way out by the time they reach teenage years.
With the recent crack-downs on college education, the Watchtower is looking less and less like a spiritual paradise, and is looking more like North Korea. What we see from regimes like North Korea is a disregard for many of the societal endeavors that make a nation stronger, such as infrastructure, good universities, economic freedoms, and democratic processes. Instead, all of the nation’s human capital is invested in one thing: warfare. The leader Kim Jong is so deluded that his idea of inspiring his people is to walk out on his balcony with his huge Elvis glasses and clap his hands. The Watchtower organization’s sole purpose is to proselytize, whereby all of its human capital must be channeled into that goal. Other programs that would make for a much stronger, robust, and enthusiastic membership are pushed aside and dismissed due their possibly interfering with proselytizing. Much like Kim Jong walking out and clapping his hands, the Watchtower’s idea of motivating its people is to deliver talks denouncing college, Watchtower articles ridiculing those who disagree with them, and the repetitive promise that the end is “just around the corner”. Are you inspired yet?
Those few born-in Jehovah's Witnesses who do stay in will pay an enormous price in that they will never have gotten to know who they really were. For them to stay in the organization and have an approved standing, they will have had to squash their inner self, and adopt an organizationally-created identity. Many will have had to cover over passions and talents that would have given their lives much greater meaning. Many of us here paid that price, only to wake up to it years later. But fortunately, after having been out for a number of years, many of us are getting to know who we really are and what gives our lives meaning.