So you wanna see if you can solve the mystery of Jehovah’s Witnesses huh? Who are they? What do they believe… all that jazz… What are their rules? Well… sorry folks, only answering one of those things today. And I’m not even sure what you’re about to get is an answer. ← How ya like THAT mystery?
The truth is, actually first, let me give you this other little snippet of truth: A little back story on yours truly here. My parents (both born Catholic but neither really ever “practicing”) both had what I would call a rough upbringing. My dad 1 of 5 kids and my mom 1 of 10. Neither of them were raised with the Leave it to Beaveresque lives one would imagine back in the 50’s and 60’s. There was divorce, foster homes, single parents, no fathers, that sort of thing. And of course all kids ran the streets without parents seeming to so much as bat an eye back then too so… you know… Suffice to say, they both wanted better for their children. Makes sense, right?
Long story short: Mom “seeked out” the “true religion”, Jehovah’s Witnesses came a-knockin. She went for it, my dad eavesdropped on her bible studies and ended up getting baptised before she did. Ultimately, they both made their “dedication” to this religion, and dedicated they were. Around 1986-1988 both my parents were full-fledged Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Soooooo… Now that you have that, I’m going to write about this. And undoubtedly will get some flack for it if certain people read it. But, you know… I’m just gonna do it. Because it was my experience, and it’s my own personal view and I’m entitled to it. I have nothing against the religion itself, it’s just not for everyone, and I respect that. So there ya go. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to sway anyone’s faith, speak out against the religion or anything. It is not my intention to do anything of the sort because honestly, my PERSONAL belief is everyone is entitled to their opinion. And this is mine.
What are the Jehovah’s Witnesses Rules?
Well, you would think after about 11 years attending the church I would know. But you know what? It’s way harder than it really seems! There are “rules” and then there are RULES… you know? And as far as I can remember (and yes, I actually did look it up myself to be sure) there aren’t really any HARD AND FAST RULES. Like you don’t just sign up one day, and they give you an official “I’m a JW” card with the rules on the back of it… Being raised in it, it’s just kind of something you know.
Now, on the flip side, in the 18 years I have not attended, I’ve managed to learn a few things about religion… they all sort of have the same general “rules”. I would call those the “Official Rules”. Or, God would probably call them… oh… I dunno… The 10 Commandments.
Sounds intimidating, right? Eh… Not that scary. Lemme break it down for you in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid stepping foot onto any holy place in your life:
- Don’t worship other gods – basically, God is God. He’s the ONLY God he wants you to worship… So no Beelzebub, Satan, Money or the Mother God of Light and Starships from the planet Zultron.
- Don’t make idols – Um… I’ll just say this is why you don’t see crosses, or sculptures of Jesus in a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall (aka Church).
- Don’t you dare take his name in vain – Basically, don’t use “His” name in such a way that shows lack of respect. (does He know how HARD it is to NOT say OMG?!)
- Sunday is a holy day – Nooooo problemo here! In fact, why don’t we go ahead and add Friday and Saturday! I mean, you DID create everything after all…
- Honor your father and mother – Hmmm… Maybe I should make my kids write this one on their walls until they’re full!
- Don’t murder – It’s lame anyway… someone always dies in the end, so that sucks.
- Don’t cheat – This goes for ANYTHING! I see you over there, shifty eyes!
- Don’t steal – Unless its a kiss from your love!
- Don’t lie – Not sure if this goes for white ones too… but for the sake of your marriage, you might want to tell her she’s beautiful NO MATTER WHAT ALL THE TIME EVERY TIME! ← Saved a marriage just now… Killed your everlasting soul, but your marriage? Totally safe.
- And you better not covet shit!! – Yeah… you know what that means… the Joneses over there? The ones who have every freakin new doodad and gadget the hot SECOND it hits the market? Yeah… Don’t wish you had that! Or his wife either! 😉
Alright, so what about the other stuff you’ve obviously heard about? Here’s the thing, I’ve read plenty of articles about JW’s (for and against) and to be honest, my husband and I both felt like a lot of them were… not entirely accurate. Clearly experiences will vary from person to person, Kingdom Hall to Kingdom Hall, state to state and country to country… But if I’m truly thinking fairly: I wouldn’t say there are really “Rules”. They’re more like guidelines?? Guidelines that you HAVE to follow if you want to have privileges. Guidelines that you have to adhere to to be considered someone who is in good standing (trust me, you WANT to be in good standing if you’re attending regularly).
The easiest way to explain would be to paint a picture of someone who would be considered “strong in the truth”. These are across the board for males (Brothers) and females (Sisters).
- Is baptized.
- Is either married, or if single, is not engaged in any sexual activity.
- If single and not living at home, they do not live with an unmarried person(s) of the opposite sex (family members are ok).
- Attends every “Meeting” (which is twice weekly at the time of this writing). Rarely missing meetings.
- Goes door to door preaching every Saturday. Rarely missing.
- Contributes to the meetings by “Commenting”. There are bible studies in which the audience is invited to contribute by raising their hand, and making a comment on the subject being reviewed. Ideally this answer will be in your own words. This is your opportunity to share your thoughts on the matter, any insights you’ve found when researching any contributing sources to the paragraph, etc. This doesn’t have to be all the time, but if people see you raising your hand often, they assume you’ve studied the material and understand it.
- Does not smoke, do drugs or drink alcohol in excess.
- Does not acquire tattoos, or additional tattoos (if converted), or piercings that would be associated as “worldly” such as nose, lip, eyebrow, etc.
- Does not receive a blood transfusion, even if recommended by a Doctor.
- Does not spend time with people who are not of the same faith (other than when preaching)
- Does not engage in Homosexual behaviors, regardless of how they may be sexually inclined.
- Does not engage themselves in gossipping, meddling, or other such negative behaviors.
- Does not celebrate/participate in Birthday parties, holidays (these are considered Pagan in origin, and thus not appropriate to celebrate)
There are some things that vary between Brothers and Sisters in regard to being in good standing.
- Volunteers to assist in any way at Meeting (i.e. managing the microphones, walking the microphones to other members answering, giving talks (aka speeches), assisting other members to get any religious books they may want/need/ordered… there are many “privileges” along these lines.
- Does not have a beard, long hair or hairstyles that are not modest (i.e. mohawks)
- If married, is a stable provider for his family. Not necessarily financially, but “spiritually”. He should be having family bible studies at home during the week.
And for Sisters:
- Volunteers to assist in any way at Meeting (i.e. Cleaning/Tidying the facility after each meeting, Sitting at a “donation” post during a convention/assembly)
- Does not dress inappropriately (i.e. clothing should be modest, not too short, not too revealing, etc.)
- Makeup and hair are modest (i.e. no more blue glitter stripper eyeshadow, purple hair)
It’s hard to call some of these things “Rules”. Chances are if you’re just a regular person who comes to meeting on a regular basis, goes out in the door to door ministry and do the bare minimum you’re probably still considered in Good Standing. However the minute you roll up to meeting in your tightest leather club minidress, half shaved head and nose ring… You’ll probably end up having a nice chat with the Elders with the intention of trying to help improve/strengthen your spiritual strength to avoid whatever behaviors you are currently engaged in.
However, if you’re celebrating birthdays at home, or putting up a tree and going all out for Christmas, even though it’s not necessarily considered a “Rule”, the organization (or Society, as they call it) did go to great lengths to fully explain why they view things as they do, based off of interpretations of scriptures in their Bible (this publication is called Reasoning From The Scriptures and anyone can access the information) As well as a glossary on almost any subject you may wonder about, and no, they won’t ask for your email address, I checked, you’re welcome! LOL)
I’d say all in all, it sounds pretty easy, right? Overall, just be a good person, helpful, engaged, doing good unto others. For me, personally, it was much heavier than that. Maybe it’s because my parents were recently converted and took every “guideline” to the extreme? Maybe it’s because I tend to be the type of person who takes a lot of things to heart, and the weight of “being a good example” to younger ones who would mess-up left me feeling as if I had done something wrong when I hadn’t. Maybe it was seeing other kids whose parents were in very “good standing” and were considered “strong” doing things they knew they shouldn’t and wouldn’t really get in trouble for them, compared to a kid who’s single mom barely able to keep herself from poverty did the same thing… Maybe it was just the congregation I was raised in… maybe it was all of the above.
Like I said, I have nothing against the religion itself. I could sit here and call every one of those things rules and nag and moan about the experiences I had personally but the truth is, like I said before, those experiences were mine and mine alone. Not everyone has those experiences. It actually does good things for people who need it. Some people, like my parents, need the structure, the routine, the sense of community the religion seems to offer, and that’s great. A lot of religions/churches offer this.
So if you really wanna know what they believe, or what their “rules” are, or “guidelines” whatever you want to call them (and you’re antisocial like me) check out the links above for yourself (cause lord knows I won’t be doing it for you! I’ve done my time folks!). Or if you’re feeling particularly chatty, the next time they come a-knockin, don’t hide, just answer the door and ask them yourself. Or if you’re one of those balls-to-the-walls types, you could roll up to the local Kingdom Hall any day they list on the outside placard and actually GO to a meeting if you want (they LOVE those go-getter types).
Ultimately, nobody can or should ever make that choice for you.