Monday, June 18, 2007

New Religion Part II

As noted last week, I was introduced to the Jehovah's Witness faith at the tender age of 5. There were a number of things that changed in my life due to this. For one, I could no longer go trick-or-treating (one of my earliest memories is of doing so in our neighborhood). I traded going door-to-door for candy for going door-to-door preaching (though I didn't do much evangelizing at this time since I was just a little shit). I also could no longer get birthday or Christmas presents. This didn't bother me too much since my parents made a concerted effort to get us kids presents now and then out-of-the-blue. We didn't feel like we were missing too much. In fact, my 3 youngest brothers grew up as JW's, so they didn't know anything different.

Some of you may be wondering why JW's aren't allowed to celebrate holidays. From the official website of the JW's:

"Jesus never commanded Christians to celebrate his birth. Rather, he told his disciples to memorialize, or remember, his death. Christmas and its customs come from ancient false religions. The same is true of Easter customs, such as the use of eggs and rabbits. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, nor do true Christians today. The only two birthday celebrations spoken of in the Bible were held by persons who did not worship Jehovah. The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The custom of celebrating birthdays comes from ancient false religions. True Christians give gifts and have good times together at other times during the year."

We also weren't allowed to do the Pledge of Allegiance, but looking back, I have absolutely no problem with this one (pledging allegiance to a flag strikes me as a tad too jingoistic and, dare I say it, fascist). When the teacher asked the class to do any type of Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas art, I was assigned to do something else. It's something I just grew to accept. I also wasn't allowed to drink milk just before nap time. Stop rolling your eyes. There's a good reason for this. No, I'm just shittin' ya about the milk thing. I did have to drink chocolate milk, however, since I was (and still am) lactose.

Once or twice a year, our family went to JW conventions. We typically had to travel several hours to get there. The conventions would consist of 2 or 3 days of mostly "talks". But it wasn't all boring. Usually once or twice during the convention, there would be a play, or "drama", performed by Witnesses. They would re-enact some key passage of the Bible wearing period clothes. These presentations helped break up the monotony a bit. One other good thing about going out of town was being able to eat out every day (something I enjoy to this day). I can remember many occasions going to Bob's Big Boy and having a delicious hamburger.

One quite notable thing happened when our family went to Milwaukee County Stadium (where baseball's Milwaukee Brewers play) for a gigantic JW pow wow in '76. Tens of thousands of "brothers" and "sisters" were there. So much righteousness, so little time. Anyway, I was with my mom and siblings while dad was getting food or some such thing for us. We were walking through the concourse which was totally packed with people. My mom said she saw my dad up some stairs and asked me to obtain him for her. I said I didn't see him. But she told me to just head that way and I should see him. I sheepishly headed up the stairs and couldn't find the old man. Then I tried to go find my mom, but couldn't. Oh bother. No big whoop, though, since I knew exactly where we were sitting.

As I headed to our seats, this colored teenager asked what I was doing walking alone. I explained to him what happened and was about to say that I knew where my seat was, anyhoo, but before I could, he was leading me to the Lost and Found (person) section. He told me to sit and wait in a folding chair, that my parents should be along shortly. As I waited, I watched all the other families walk about, food in their hands, smiles on their faces. I stuck out my lower lip from time to time to try to get some of the passerby to feel sorry for me. "Look, an unhappy boy at a Jehovah's Witness convention. He can't be one of us."

Perhaps 45 minutes later, I saw my dad walking through the now-relatively-empty concourse (the afternoon session had now started). I saw relief come across his face as he saw me seated in the lost and found. I explained how I had been dragged to L&F, that I knew the whole time where our seats were. He smiled and we headed for our section, happy Jehovah's Witnesses once again.

I will continue with more of my Witness experiences next week.


Proxima said...

I wonder, Do school children still have to do the pledge of Alligence these days?

At some point in third grade I decided the whole thing was whacked and mostly mouthed it silently until I got to the point where I'd say "under dog" quietly.
The teacher couldn't hear me from the front of the room, but she always looked at me suspiciously, maybe 'cause she couldn't har my voice.

I got lost at the Stae fair once. How annoying to be dragged to L&F, I would not have tolerated that at any age! I'm a heathen, and yes, most religious holidays were meant to coincide with pagan festivals in order to convert the masses (namely, country dwellers).


plt524 said...

Tom--Here's one of those "we're going to have to agree to disagree" times. I don't think pledging to the flag is jingoistic and certainly not fascist. But I don't think anyone should be forced to pledge either.

Thomas said...

Proxima, I'm not sure if the Pledge is still in play these days. I like the strategy you employed, though, when you were a youngun. I'm also familiar with the fact that most holidays were set up to coincide with pagan celebrations (the winter solstice being just a few days before Christmas).

Welcome to the party, plt. I suppose pledging allegiance can be pretty innocuous if you know what you're doing. I'm just against mandatory patriotism. It should come from the heart. BTW, are you hot?

Rocketstar said...

it sure makes for good stories, those wacky JW's.

Mags said...

Tommy-I fear that you are trying to cheat on Kyra and should be ashamed.

It fascinates me that you are a JW. I don't know why either. I suppose it's because most people I know are Catholic or some other Christian religion normally found in New England. I've never actually "met" a JW other than when they've come to the door and people ask them to leave.

You should write more about this soon. I'm intrigued about what you've got to say.

Regarding the pledge-I think they still do it in schools. I know kids who wouldn't do it because they said it was their "right" not to. I think they were just trying to be cool. I'd say that the majority still do it, especially because I bet they teach patriotism in elementary schools.

Thomas said...

Rocket, yeah, it is pretty wacky looking back on it now.

Mags, you think I'm trying to cheat on you cuz I asked plt if he/she is hot? Come on. Perhaps me and plt have a soul-to-soul connection that will surpass anything I've ever felt before. Besides, everyone knows that your heart belongs to the B-man, anyway.

Keep in mind, though, that just because I was a JW in '76 doesn't mean I am now. I'll try to get part 3 together for you soon.

Mags said...


That's really leaving me on the edge. I don't know why but this is just really fascinating to me.

And yeah, Brian is my internet lover, but alas, he never follows thru.


And I love you too, you know.

plt524 said...

Tom--you are right about patriotism coming from the heart. Am I hot? Well, there's this one guy who thinks so. He tells me so quite often. Soul-to-soul connection--EXCELLENT!

Thomas said...

Mags, leaving you on the edge, huh? Sorry about that.

plt, wow! Sounds like you've got a keeper! Congrads and thanks for stopping by!