In a recent public talk in Germany, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses once again strong-armed Jehovah’s Witness parents, pressuring them to make children as young as 9 or 10 get baptized, willfully disregarding the fatal repercussions such a decision may have.
Mark Sanderson, member of the Governing Body, the spiritual leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the men behind JW.org, gave a public talk in Germany on May 9. Among other things, he addressed the parents among Jehovah’s Witnesses directly (you can download the audio here).
After stressing how much the Governing Body wishes for children to be baptized between 9 and 11 years of age, calling his own baptism “the best decision he ever made”, Mark Sanderson guilt tripped Jehovah’s Witnesses parents into agreeing by asking:
“Do you share that viewpoint of the Governing Body? Are you helping your children to become unbaptized publishers and to make their dedication at a young age?”
This is grotesque on so many levels.
Shouldn’t it be God’s viewpoint parents share, not that of the Governing Body? But I digress:
He then quotes from a Watchtower (Cult 101: Quoting yourself to prove a point you’re trying to make):
Occasionally, even when children qualify for baptism, their parents may decide that it should be postponed. What may be their reasons? “I fear that if my child gets baptized, he might later fall into serious sin and get disfellowshipped.” Is it reasonable to believe that a young person who puts off baptism will not be accountable to God for his conduct? […] Both baptized and unbaptized worshippers are accountable to God.
Here, the Governing Body is intentionally missing the point.
How? Jehovah’s Witness parents do not fear the disfellowshipping of their children because of some accountability to God – rather, they are afraid of having to shun their children in the event of a disfellowshipping, since this would mean having little to no contact with their offspring. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strict shunning policy.
The Governing Body knows this. Still, they opt for a Strawman Fallacy and go for a completely different argument, effectively guilt tripping parents by implying that their sinful child is f*cked no matter what. Which isn’t true, of course.
What do former and thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses take from this?
- Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest churn rate of all religions, says Pew Research: 2 out of 3 kids leave when they grow up. By making them get baptized at an early age the Governing Body is upping the inhibition threshold of leaving
- The Governing Body has absolutely no qualms about strong-arming their members. And they are ready to do it anytime, like in this talk. Quotes like “The Governing Body takes notice of how many young ones are dedicating their lives to Jehovah” or “[We thank you parents for encouraging your children] to make a dedication to Jehovah when young” will have Jehovah’s Witness parents rushing to heed this admonition.
UPDATE #2: I have been accused of lying in connection with this posting. The accusation is, of course, complete nonsense (if they had read the article with an open mind they would’ve realized that), but I would like to answer these wild claims nonetheless:
When claiming that Jehovah’s Witnesses pressure young children to get baptized or pressure parents to pressure their children, I am of course not implying that children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are violently forced into the pool. That is another Strawman Fallacy in the argument of fanatical Jehovah’s Witnesses and is pretty common in discussions with them. Pressure is solely psychological and is absolutely evident in the example cited in this article.
Accompanying a song called “Please hear my prayer”, which is about how one can please God himself, the video depicts a child getting baptized at a young age and a proud parent taking a picture.
What will children take away from this video?
- If children want to please God and have their prayers heard they must get baptized. The sooner, the better.
- Children can please their parents and make them proud if they get baptized.
As a Jehovah’s Witness child, these are two goals one wants to reach: Pleasing Jehovah and pleasing one’s parents.
So, while there is no literal force applied to children, there is actually psychological abuse involved, by guilt tripping young children into making a decision that may have fatal consequences when they grow up.
In conclusion: Dear Jehovah’s Witnesses, I can never rule out reporting incorrectly – but this is not the case here. The fact of the matter is:
Apart from being potentially blasphemous, Jehovah’s Witnesses are putting psychological pressure on young ones and their parents alike to make a grave decision. And while these children will voluntarily climb into a pool, the road there will not have been voluntary at all. What we have here is emotional abuse.
We can only hope parents will be wise enough to ignore this pressure.
UPDATE: Some commenters are saying that the Catholic Church baptizes infants. While this is true (and bad enough) the consequences for Catholics are less grave: Ex-Communication in the Catholic Church does not encompass social isolation. To the contrary: Catholics make an effort to get ex-communicated members involved in social activities.