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I was raised Jehovah's witness, my parents are Jehovah's Witness and many of my extended family members are Jehovah's Witness. The Jehovah Witness lifestyle and philosophy leave a lot to be desired and there views on gender and sexual orientation are particularly deplorable and retrograde, but Jehovah's witnesses are not right wing.

Yes, they are fundamentalist Christians. They interpret the bible veryliterally: God created man a little over 6 thousand years ago; God literally created Adam from dust and Eve from one of Adam's Ribs; God literally forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Eve was literally tempted by a speaking serpent (actually, Satan speaking through a serpent) to eat the fruit of the tree and Eve, in turn, tempted Adam to do the same; after angels literally came to earth and took human brides, God literally destroyed all of mankind save Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives with a global flood, etc., etc. on through Jesus turning water into wine, feeding a multitude with a few fishes and loaves of bread, raising Lazarus from the dead, and returning from the dead himself. All of this Jehovah's Witnesses believe to be literally true.

Jehovah's Witnesses also firmly enforce rules of conduct on their membership in line with many traditional conservative Christian sects: sexual relations outside of wedlock strictly forbidden, masturbation strictly forbidden, homosexuality strictly forbidden, abortion strictly forbidden, drunkeness strictly forbidden, smoking strictly forbidden, illegal drug use strictly forbidden.

But referring to Jehovah's Witnesses as right wing, really misses the mark. Jehovah's Witnesses practice strict political neutrality. They do not vote, serve in public office, or attempt to influence public policy beyond occassionally defending their rights in court. Jehovah's witnesses are pacifists. They will not serve in the military and do not even believe in taking another human life in self-defense.

I think the political neutrality is a key distinguishing characteristic between Jehovah's Witnesses and right wing evangelical Christians. To a Jehovah's Witness, the United States is just another country with a system of government that is no better and no worse than any other earthly government. Jehovah's witnesses have no interest in reforming the government to more closesly reflect their values. They take to heart Jesus' admonitions that his "kingdom is not of this world" and that his followers are to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God was is God's." It seems to me that many American evangelicals have God and flag all wrapped up together. Jehovah's witness refuse to salute the flag.

Jehovah's witnesses really do not get involved in issues of public policy. In the comments  to vetwife's diary Lawrence Lewis said that Jehovah's witnesses are anti-abortion but not pro-life. I think that puts it nicely. Jehovah's Witnesses do not advocate for laws banning abortion and do not engage in activism targeting abortion clinics. Jehovah's Witnesses believe homosexuality is a sin. But they would never promote laws punishing homosexuality or advocate for laws banning gay marriage or against laws legalizing gay marriage.

Jehovah's witnesses believe that Christianity as practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses is the one true faith. They feel that everyone should convert to being a Jehovah's Witness (they would refer to such a conversion as "joining the truth." However, they have absolutely no expectation that most people will join the truth until after Armageddon (which they believe is imminent).

Jehovah's Witnesses tend to be very working class, blue collar type workers. When I was still affiliated with them, they actively discouraged post-highschool education. I understand that in the 20+ years that have passed since them they have liberalized on that subject. Jehovah's Witnesses are generally very anti-materialism. They take very seriously Jesus paragbles about "the widow's mite" and "the good Samaritan." They put a lot of emphasis on the Jesus admonition "inasmuch as you have done it to the least of one of these my brothers, you have done it to me." They do not encourage or respect the accumulation of wealth, believing that it is "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Jehovah's Witnesses do not actively engage in charity. But my experience has been that they are personally generous with their time and resources.

From a doctrinal standpoint, they do not believe that everyone else is going to burn in Hell. In fact, they don't believe in Hell. They believe that the ultimate punishment for the wicked is that they will entirely cease to exist, which is very similar to what most atheists and most of us agnostics believe is probably in store for everyone.

Jehovah's Witnesses also do not believe that Heaven is what is in store for the vast majority of people - including the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, they believe that there are only 144,000 people (people who will have been selected between the time Jesus ascended to heaven and the time that armageddon comes) who will go to heaven. They believe that most everyone else will be given an opportunity to live forever on a paradise earth. (There is a whole lot of convoluted explanation about this that I do not care to go into.)

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Christianity as practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses is the one true faith. They do not believe in the legitimacy of any other faith - Christian or non-Christian. They believe in trying to conver everyone of all faiths. But they really have no expectation of being more than a small minority religion - at least not until after Armageddon.

Having said all that, I know that it can be annoying to be awakened on a Saturday by a JW. I remember once, a year or two after I quit the "truth" and started college, I had a big party at my apartment where I drank a lot and passed out. I was awakened by a knock at the door. I had a pounding headache and was laying on the beanbag in the middle of our living room. I got up and shuffled to the door to find a middle aged woman and a teenage boy in unattractive "dress" clothes.

"Good morning," the woman greeted me with a warm smile. "We're going door to door today sharing a message from the Bible. Have you ever wondered if this life is all there is?"

I wanted to terminate the conversation quickly but politely, so I said: "I'm in school now, and I really don't have tme to think about that sort of thing. I'm much to busy with my studies."

The woman smiled and said she understood and told me to have a nice day. On turning around, I noticed the condition of the apartment for the first time. There was a gigantic stack fo beer cans on the coffee table (actually it was two milk crates with the door to one of our closets laid across it) and the air was hazy with smoke.

Then I went into the bathroom and discovered that my hair and face were completely smeared with toothpaste.

So, I know how much it sucks to have your  privacy disrupted by the JW's.

Here are my recommendations for dealing with them. If you know who it is just don't answer your door or call out "not interested!" If you don't know who it is and answer the door but don't want to speak, say "I'm not interested, please mark me down as 'do not call.'"

If you are interested in talking with them and want to challenge them from a progressive standpoint you might raise the following with them:

1. I don't agree with your views on women. I would not want to belong to a religious organization that does not allow women to serve in the highest positions of authority.

2. I don't agree with your views on homosexuality. I believe that gay people are born that way and their right to love whomever they want should be completely respected.

3. I don't believe in the literal truth fo the Bible.

4. I don't believe in the possibility of God reveal the absolute truth to any one religion.

5. I don't believe in the existence of God.

But please do not yell at them for being hypocrites or "wingers" because they just are not. They are a very sincere religious minority that, by choice, has absolutely no political influence.

Originally posted to seanwright on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anglican Kossacks and Street Prophets .

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