You don’t just walk into a kingdom hall and sign up. As with many religions, new converts need to be educated.
What happens with JWs is that they walk into your house and preach to you. Or, you might work with a JW who is duty bound to try to witness to you on breaks. If you show interest a return visit is made and the JW will attempt to get you to agree to a “Bible” study. What that means is that they will hand you a book that features numbered paragraphs and questions at the bottom of the page corresponding to the paragraph numbers.
The Witness will return to your home weekly to read over the paragraphs and ask you the questions, providing additional information to help you understand their teachings, which, let’s face it, are strange if not bizarre and largely a complete flip-flop from your average Judeo-Christian theology.
If you are enchanted with their story of eternal life on a paradise earth where your deceased loved ones will be resurrected to join you, you’ll probably easily swallow the rest of it.
As you move along through the book, the JW will invite you to the kingdom hall to attend the meetings. There you will find many smiling faces and intense interest in you. People will invite you to get-togethers and to dinner at their house. You cannot help but be impressed by how nice everyone is, how clean-cut and nicely dressed they are, how polite the children are, etc.
There comes a time when the JW who is studying with you encourages you to participate in the field ministry. You will meet with one of the elders who will ask you a few questions just to be sure you are morally upright enough to represent Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Being this far along, it’s only a matter of time before you are encouraged to get baptized. There are more questions to be answered – they want to make sure you know what you’re signing up for. I’m not sure of the procedure now, but when I was qualifying for baptism back in 1973 there were 80 questions I had to answer to the satisfaction of the elders before I could line up to get dunked (it’s total immersion, by the way).
Those are the basic steps. Along the way, you will have to work on conforming your life to Bible standards as interpreted by the Watchtower Society and elucidated in their publications.
When you convert you have to chuck out a ton of stuff:
- Anything related to “spiritism,” such as tarot cards, the Narnia/Harry Potter/Twilight/ Grimm’s Fairy Tales books and movies. This would include your entire collection of dragon and wizard sculptures along with the wand your daughter carried as a prop in her kindergarten dance recital.
- Anything related to nationalism or politics such as flags, anything with an eagle motif, your grandma’s 100-year-old cross-stitch sampler that’s worth thousands of dollars, and probably your favorite Norman Rockwell print (if there’s a flag on it). My parents had chosen an early American motif for our home, so we had to dump a gajillion objets d’art featuring eagles.
- Guns. Allowed but frowned upon. This may vary from region to region.
- All holiday decorations, even the ones you treasure, including your entire collection of Christmas Village houses.
- Anything related to “false religion,” meaning any religion that isn’t JWs. This would include anything with a cross/crucifix motif, the Buddha statue in the foyer, and your mother’s rosary beads. Oh, and if you have a painting on the wall that includes a church, chuck that too.
- All unsuitable entertainment. This broad category would include any movie rated “R,” any book featuring sex (your copy of “50 Shades of Grey” along with anything by Jackie Collins), violence, spiritism (at one point “spiritism” included charm bracelets and Scooby Doo cartoons), etc., any music with lyrics – well, maybe that’s going too far, but the lyrics had better be clean and uplifting, so to be on the safe side, just clean off your CD shelves and reformat your MP3 player.
- All of your “immodest” clothing. No more plunging necklines or body-hugging Lycra. Oh, and check your t-shirt collection while you’re at it. You’ll have to toss your AC-DC Highway to Hell shirt.
- All of your sex toys (no self-pleasuring allowed), porn (soft or hard core), anything that references drug abuse, photos from your frat/bachelor/stag parties.
Along with this, you’ll have to get used to the Watchtower Society’s presence in your bedroom. They have some strict rules about how much fun you can have there.
Now that you’ve crushed your individuality, turned over your mind to them and accepted the ultimate authority of the Watchtower Society, you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.