The Jehovah's Witnesses came around for an hour or more yesterday, having previously chatted with me last week.
I had been to a talk last Monday given by an ex JW, and so I was prepared with some questions.
I learned that the door-to-door ministry that JWs engage in is called "Field Service".
Aaron, the ex JW, had talked about his journey away from the church and how that involved reading about the evidence for evolution. I chatted with the JWs about their views on evolution, and was unsurprised to hear a lot of misunderstanding about the science.
I asked Aaron a question about whether, if JWs are "in the world but not of the world", they do charity work like other religious groups. Aaron responded that the standard answer to that question is that the JWs say that they help with disaster relief after earthquakes, etc and that their primary task is to help members of the church. When I asked the JWs who visited me yesterday that question, I received, almost word for word, the same answer! It seems like a lot of what JWs say to you may be scripted, or at least repeated enough within the church that they become a rote response.
When Aaron had left the church, a lot of his family "disconnected" from him - having no more contact with him. This has obviously affected Aaron personally, and he was visibly upset about how the church has treated him. I brought this up in my chat yesterday, and was told that the policy of disconnecting has two purposes.
The first purpose is an attempt to discipline someone and bring them back to the church. The thought here is that it is a very hurtful thing to have the whole of one's family disown you, and that, for some people, it is better to re-join the church and submit to their requirements than to end up losing your family.
The second reason for a disconnect is that a person may be deemed to be "dangerous" to church members. This seemed to be related to becoming "of the world", and so people who start drinking or gambling would require a disconnect. In Aaron's case, I suspect that part of the reason his family has disconnected is that he has spent many hours reading and learning about science, and that this knowledge is seen as both false and dangerous - that if other members of his family start to accept the scientific concepts that Aaron has come to terms with, maybe they will also start to doubt their beliefs.
I pointed out that this policy of disconnect is akin to another church which is well known for being dangerous - Scientology. Many smaller cults also employ this tactic in order to have more control over their members. It is sad to see a modern day church use such an inhumane policy to break up families.
I talked to Aaron today about how it was strange the answers I was given were so close to what he'd said in his talk. He explained that there are weekly training sessions for church members, including the memorisation of set answers to questions, acting out scenarios and grading of responses.
"The religion is very intense and requires regular active participation. You're guilted into making it the number 1 priority in your life. They discourage higher education."