The deprivation of communication in the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a “loving measure” that destroys families. This is well depicted in the recent film “Apostasy”. The picture narrates the life of Jehovah’s Witnesses, telling the story from within. Director Daniel Kokotajlo was a Jehovah’s Witness for 10 years, handing out the Watchtower copies (a magazine published monthly by Jehovah’s Witnesses) in the streets, attend meetings in the Kingdom Hall, knocking on other people’s doors in an attempt to help them gain eternal life.
It is a story about a mother and two daughters.
The youngest daughter, Alex (Molly Wright), still feels guilty and ashamed that she was given a blood transfusion when she was a young child. Even though she would have died without it, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses regards such an act as “abuse” of the body.
The eldest daughter, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson), begins to question the system of beliefs imposed on her. When she becomes pregnant after a relationship with a non-Witness, she gets excluded from the group.
The mother, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) believes in the teachings of the organization to the extent that for the sake of her religious beliefs she is ready to neglect her relations with her daughters.
Not only did the director manage to reveal such important topics in the lives of the organization’s members like the ban on blood transfusion, the depreciation of the secular higher education and the attitude towards the relatives deprived from communication, but to convey the emotional experience of a common Witness: fear, guilt, disappointment, anger, and doubts whether the decisions made are the right ones.
Usually, when dealing with the Witnesses deprived of communication, the blame is primarily put on those who are in the organization and, following the orders of the elders, deprives one to communicate with relatives. But, in condemning the actions of a Jehovah’s Witness relative, one should consider the psychological pressure that a person is subjected to (it is clearly seen in the scene when the congregation elder reminds us that Jehovah God knows best how to act, “even better than a loving mother”). The inner struggle of the mother’s love and sense of responsibility before the Organization’s laws is in evidence. The eyes of the mother are full of emptiness, her vacant stare shows only a bit of doubt on the correctness of the Organization’s actions. So, after the “Law Committee,” the mother does her best to convince her daughter that the love of Jehovah God is conditional. And “one has to work really hard to earn that love.”
This is one of the most frequent issues I face in my practice of ex-cultists rehabilitation.
When a person is part of Jehovah’s Witness organization he feels guilty for:
- being not good enough for God;
- insufficiently executing the principles of the Organization (which often change);
- what he is doing behind closed doors, secretly from the elders of the congregation.
As for those who have ceased to be Jehovah’s Witness –
They feel even more guilty for:
- letting themselves be deceived by other people;
- having spent many years serving other people’s goals in the Organization,
- introducing people to the organization who are still a part of it, not being able to get their family members and friends out of the organization;
- the way they left the organization (wishing they could go back and do things differently).
They carry this guilt and rejection as a burden for many years after leaving the Organization.
When a daughter asks her mother, “Do you know what it’s like to think that the Almighty Jehovah is punishing you… constantly? Even when I truly repent?”
And the mother says, “You have to earn his love for it is conditional. It takes strength to live by his standards.”
Imagine what it would be like to have your parents, brothers, sisters, and relatives in this Organization since childhood. What does expulsion from the congregation mean to you? The loss of this family and all the friendly relations with those who still remain Jehovah’s Witness.
If you live outside the house and you may end up being forced to live outside the house, none of them will come to help you out. You will see them as less as possible.
And such kind of family destruction is presented as a standard of devotion to God.
How different it is from the daughter’s attitude, who could not rejoin the ranks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like many other former Jehovah’s Witnesses, she says to her mother, “I really don’t blame you. And I understand if you don’t want to talk to us anymore. BUT I will always be here if you need me.”