After reading these first 2 parts (part 1 and part 2), I hope that by now you are looking at what your life was like growing up. How much space did your parents give you to grow personally? Did you find more often than not that you were allowed to make your own decisions in some matters?
As many who know me know, I was raised a Jehovah's Witness and was actively a member for over 20 years of my life. I started door-to-door or "field service" ministry work at age 3 doing a small tract presentation with a parent or another adult.
I was given a short presentation to learn over the week's time and I went out and did my thing on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. By age 4, I was reading short scriptures that had been added to my "presentations." I was already reading when I entered kindergarten and I seemed to stay ahead of the class in language arts and comprehension for several years following. When I was around 7, I gave my first talk/presentation in front of the congregation during the Theocratic School that was held on Thursday nights. It was a short presentation reenacting a conversation out in "field service" as I presented the new "My book of Bible Stories." Honestly, even at that time, I enjoyed the art in the book more than the false "truths" the book held as stories.
While reading, comprehension and my oral presentations seemed to be getting more focus in my daily life, it wasn't all I enjoyed doing and learning. I loved art, math and science even more so but they never seemed to get that much attention. We didn't have crayons, coloring books or paints at home - it was only at my grandparents' house that I can remember being able to use them before getting into school.
The next few years progressed much the same with more focus being on reading the religious publications almost daily. I gave 1-2 talks each month and even subbed or volunteered at last minutes notice a few over the years. When I entered junior high, I was forewarned about the many temptations I needed to prepare myself for.
"Don't get involved with other group activities; they will confuse you and try to turn you away from Jehovah."
These included all clubs and sports programs, hanging out after class to talk with classmates and so on. I even found myself purposely sitting alone or with other Witnesses in study hall for fear that any of the other Witnesses might see me talking to a non-Witness. This was very stressful at times as I had become popular being the "new kid in town" with sun bleached hair and an almost permanent tan. Most thought I was a "surfer kind" that had moved to a landlocked state and they were, of course, curious. Little did they know that it was from being out in the sun every weekend going door to door.
Once it was known that I was a Witness, the fame faded and was replaced with avoidance. Witnesses were loathed in this area as I found out the summer before 8th grade. I had just turned 13 and was out in field service going door-to-door in a small neighborhood inside the city limits. I mention those details because it was not where I expected the following to happen at all.
An excerpt from my upcoming book: "We approached the door as any other I had in the past 10 years. I made observations of the yard and the dog on the side porch that was leashed to the steps by a chain. I remember seeing the little wooden windmills in the yard that were for sale. I knocked on the door and took a half-step back so that both of us could be seen when the homeowner approached the half glass door. I heard the footsteps come at a quick pace the door unlocked and swung open. I no sooner turned my head towards the door to start my salutations and presentation when I focused rather quickly on the double-barrel shotgun that was pointed at my face. We kindly and quickly made our apologies for disturbing him and made our exit posthaste"
My heart speeds up just remembering that day. A day that could have ended much worse and a day that should have never happened to me or anyone else.We were told the stories about Witnesses being persecuted for their faith. There was even a video made about the "purple triangle" the symbol used to identify Jehovah's Witnesses who were captured and persecuted in concentration camps. I had also been taught to believe that I too would one day be hunted down and persecuted for my faith in my lifetime. After facing down the barrel of a gun, I began to weigh these things in my mind and debate if it was all worth being shot or killed over. This was the beginning of my doubt in religion - that much I know now.
So what would my life had been like had I been raised in a secular parenting model? As I stated before I might been able to avoid a crash course on life in real world.
Part 4 will wrap up this series and hopefully draw them all together.