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World Religions Report

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World Religions Report
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Stephen Devon Hill Jr.
Axia College of the University of Phoenix
January 10, 2009

In modern society there are numerous forms of Christianity. Many may be familiar with Catholics, Baptist, or Protestants. One form of Christianity that has created mixed views since its start is that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some thoughts that may come to mind when people think of Jehovah’s Witnesses are cult activity, unusual Christian practices, and domineering individuals. This paper will take a look at the life as a Jehovah’s Witness. The paper will cover some of the common practices and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The paper will also try to clear up some of the misconceptions that others believe about Jehovah’s Witnesses. The author of this paper has taken the time to research the Jehovah Witness religion by visiting a local Kingdom Hall, conducting an in-person interview with an actual Jehovah Witness, and also conducting research on the internet, as well as the library.

Background Information The religion of the Jehovah’s Witness began in at the end of the 19th century. The religion was started a small group of Bible students close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1879 the students began publishing what is known as the Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. The group that was formerly known as International Bible Students became Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931. Membership of religion is marked by baptism. According to the Jehovah’s Witness website (2009),” Baptism symbolizes one’s dedication to God and is taken by those of responsible age who have made an informed decision. Baptism is by complete water immersion.—Matthew 28:19; Acts 18:9”. The organization of the Jehovah’s Witness According to the Jehovah’s Witness website (2009), is “Following the model of first-century Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no clergy-laity division. All baptized members are ordained ministers and share in the preaching and teaching work. Witnesses are organized into congregations of up to 200 members. Spiritually mature men in each congregation serve as elders. A body of elders supervises each congregation. About 20 congregations form a circuit, and about 10 circuits are grouped into a district. Congregations receive periodic visits from traveling elders. Guidance and instructions are provided by a multinational governing body made up of longtime Witnesses who currently serve at the international offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York.—Acts 15:23-29; 1 Timothy 3:1-7”.
This international brotherhood of people of all races is made up of about 7.3 million practicing members organized into more than 105,000 congregations in more than 230 lands.”
The Interview During the research process for this paper the author had the chance of interviewing an actual Jehovah’s Witness. Contacting one of the local Kingdom Halls, the author was able to set-up a meeting for one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to come to my home to talk with me. I explained to one of the Elders of the Kingdom Hall that I needed some information for a school project that I was working on. The Elder was very helpful, taking down my contact information. The following day I received a phone call from a woman by the name of Margo Williams. Margo stated that “she would be glad to meet with me the following Saturday at my home”. Margo arrived at my home that Saturday at 11:30am. Right away Margo made the interview process feel very comfortable. Margo told me not to be afraid to ask any question I felt the need to ask. During the interview the following questions were asked: 1.What are the important holidays and traditions of this religion? 2. How has religion shaped your life? 3. What are the challenges, if any, to practicing this particular religion? 4. I would ask if the religion has a special purpose for its followers. 5. I want to know when the religion was created. 6. I would ask some differences between this religion and another religion? 7. I want to know what roles due members of the congregation play? 8. I would ask how the religion views alcohol. 9. I want to know if the religion practices rituals. 10. I also would ask how the religion has changed overtime if it has According to (M. Williams, personal communication, December 12, 2009), the only day that is recognized as a holiday for Jehovah’s Witnesses is the Memorial of Christ’s Death, which usually takes place around the same time as Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover. Jehovah’s Witnesses accept this holiday because it was created by Christ himself. During this time the Lord’s Supper is observed. According to M. Williams (2009), Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any other holidays. Holidays such as Easter Christmas and Birthdays are viewed as praising idols. According to the Jehovah’s Witness website (2009), “We commemorate the Memorial of Christ’s death, the most important religious event of the year for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Throughout the year, we enjoy parties, picnics, and other events without feeling bound to obligations or to a fixed date. We may also celebrate special events such as weddings and anniversaries. However, we do not celebrate holidays that have non-Christian religious origins or those that promote nationalism. We are not opposed to celebrations in general or to the giving of gifts”. Additional traditions of Jehovah’s Witnesses according to M. Williams (2009) are completing a certain amount of hours per month witnessing. To witness is to spread the word of Jehovah. This can be done in what is called field service, which is the most common way. Field service is when the Jehovah’s Witnesses go door to door to try to arrange meetings with other individuals to discuss the religion, and to try to get the individual to attend one of their meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Margo explained to me that even if the individual may not be interested they like to at least leave them with the most current issue of the Watchtower. The Watchtower is the largest international religious magazine in the world. The Watchtower deals with modern topics such as money and greed, to childhood obesity. The Watchtower for some is used for that individual that may be lost or stuck on what to do on certain topics. The Watchtower serves as a guide of what the true Christian should do in certain situations. (M. Williams, 2009)
Jehovah’s Witnesses are also expected to attend services at the Kingdom Hall three times a week. These meetings usually occur on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Sunday is the most important of the days. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also expected to obey the Bible, however according to the Jehovah’s Witness website (2009), “While we have strong religious convictions, we are not fundamentalists in the sense that the term has come to be used. We do not believe that every passage in the Bible is to be interpreted literally. We do not pressure political leaders to promote a certain point of view, nor do we resort to demonstrations and violence against those who disagree with us. The Bible teaches Christians to be kind, good, mild, and reasonable—qualities that do not allow for the kind of fanaticism that is sometimes associated with fundamentalism.—James 3:17”. Many individuals think that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very strict when it comes to living your life exactly as the Bible state, this is not the case.

When Margo was asked about how the religion has shaped her life, and what are some of the challenges that an individual may face practicing this religion? Margo stated that” the religion has helped her to stay focused. The religion has also helped her in understanding the differences in other individuals. The religion has given her a sense of self-identity”. Margo also said that “there are not many challenges that she faces while practices the religion. Some of the common challenges that newcomers face is temptation to do the wrong things. Self control is a big part of their religion”. Members that commit immoral acts in the eyes of the Elders can be subject to dis-fellowshiped. When a member is dis-fellowshiped they are considered bad association to the other members of the congregation. Members are allowed to talk with this person as long as the person is taking the necessary steps to gain repentance. This does not mean that the individual can not attend services; however they are not allowed to speak during services.
Margo was then asked when the religion was created and by whom. Margo was also asked if the religion had a special purpose for its followers. Margo stated that “she follows Jehovah’s word because she will live for eternity if not in heaven then as a follower here on earth." Margo said that the religion was started by a small Bible study group in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
Margo told me that she did not really know much about other religions. She stated that her focus is on her religion and living her life by Jehovah. She added that she does not have anything against other religions. Margo was then asked about the roles in the congregation. Margo stated that” her congregation is run by a group of Elders. The Elders are older male individuals that are considered to be spiritually mature.

As the interview closed up Margo went on to tell me that Jehovah’s Witnesses due not view alcohol as bad. The problem is that people sometimes overindulge in drinking. Jehovah’s Witnesses view overindulging in anything as not following the word of Jehovah. This could be food, work, sex, etc. Margo also said that “if I considered doing field service, attending weekly meetings, and obeying Jehovah’s words as rituals, then those are the only ones they practice. Margo thinks that the religion has not made any major changes over time. She believes that this is due to the higher Elders that oversee the many congregations worldwide. Margo and I wrapped up the meeting with her giving me the address of the Kingdom Hall that she attends and a copy of the most current Watchtower.
Worship Service When I arrived at the Kingdom Hall East Congregation located at 4200 Nazareth Rd Kalamazoo Michigan, 49009, I was surprised to see that the building that we were about to enter did not resemble anything of the common Christian Church. The building was modest, but very nice. I was greeted by a woman who announced her name and shook my hand with all smiles. Margo led me to one of the pews in the middle section. Like other Christian churches this Kingdom Hall had pews; however there were not crosses, no choir, and no priest. As the service was coming to a start I was greeted in every direction. It was like everyone knew that I was a newcomer. The service began with a song from the book of Sing Praises to Jehovah. There were copies for everyone that did not have one. Margo told me that if I was not comfortable standing and singing the song with everyone else I could remain seated if I wanted. I did stand up and try to sing along. The whole congregation was involved in the singing. After the song Several Elders took turns preaching and going over several passages from the Bible. Members of the congregation were able to ask questions. Instead of the usual sermon this process seemed more like a discussion. The service ended with another song form the book of Sing Praises to Jehovah. After the service Margo and I stayed for about another 20 minutes talking to other members of the congregation. I must say that all that greeted me were very kind and friendly. Margo thanked me for allowing her to share some of Jehovah’s words with me, and told me that I was welcome to come back to the Kingdom Hall anytime. I left with Margo’s phone number and I promised to give her a call if I had anymore questions.
Jehovah’s Witness VS. Islam When comparing Jehovah's witnesses and Islam there are clearly some difference but there are some common beliefs. Islam originated in Saudi Arabia, (Fisher, 2005, chap. 10) Jehovah's witnesses originated in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. Watch Tower (2009) Islam follows the Quran While Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the Bible. Both Islam and Jehovah's witnesses believe in one God. Islam refers to God as Allah, and Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to God as Jehovah. Jehovah's Witness agree with other Christian religions in the belief that Jesus did die, while Islam insists Jesus did not die. Both of these religions have a specific place for women to be homemakers. Another difference is while Islam accepts multiple marriages to more than one person at a time, Jehovah's witnesses accept only one marriage with no divorce unless due to adultery. There are many more interesting facts and topics about Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a topic that a person could spend hours talking about. Throughout this process I have had the chance to gain so much knowledge about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before completing this report there were many misconceptions that I believed to be true. The misconception that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult, that they are domineering, and that they practice unusual Christian practices was just that, a misconception in my experience. I felt the members of the congregation to be welcoming and very friendly. Everyone was able to present opinions and I did not feel as if there was a certain leader in the group. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the same practices as traditional Christians, the religion is not that far off from the traditional Christian. The goal in both religions is to walk in the footsteps of God.

References
Fisher, M. P. (2005). Living Religions (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, The Jehovah’s Witness Official Website, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2009 from: http://www.jw-media.org/aboutjw/beliefs.htm Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Watch Tower The Jehovah’s Witness Official Website, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2009 from: http://www.watchtower.org/…...

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