MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Of all major U.S. religious groups, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest rate of formal education - that according to a Pew study. And as Luke Vander Ploeg reports, that can have a real impact on people who choose to leave the religion.
LUKE VANDER PLOEG, BYLINE: Cracked leather couches and pictures from mission trips line the walls of a borrowed room at a church in Long Beach, Calif.
DEAN: My name is Dean. I was baptized in '93, left '95.
BECKY ALVAREZ: Becky Alvarez. I left in '94.
DAVE HAMPTON: My name's Dave Hampton. I'm married to an ex-Witness which is always fun.
VANDER PLOEG: This is a meeting of the ex-Jehovah's Witnesses of Los Angeles, a support group that gets together once a month. Today it's about 12 people strong. Zachary Linderer left the Witnesses about five months ago. He's new to the meetings.
ZACHARY LINDERER: Actually this one today was my first time.
VANDER PLOEG: How did you feel about it?
LINDERER: It was a little funny, a little uncomfortable, but I don't know. I still relate to them very strongly because of my background. So it's kind of a mixed feelings.
VANDER PLOEG: A main function of the support group is talking about that shared background. This week, the topic of discussion is how Witnesses treat higher education. It's something that's played a major role in Zachary's life.
LINDERER: I wanted to be a physicist or an oceanographer or something having to do with the sciences, but it was very clear that I wasn't going to be able to do that.
VANDER PLOEG: Zachary's dad had heard stories about college.
LINDERER: He told me that he knew people who were into science, and it drug them right out of the truth.
VANDER PLOEG: There was some secret dangerous piece of knowledge that universities taught.
LINDERER: I didn't know what that was, but it was just like a bogeyman. It's just there, and it's going to get you. And if you do it, it's going to ruin you.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ANTHONY MORRIS III: I have long said the better the university, the greater the danger.
VANDER PLOEG: That's Anthony Morris III, a member of the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Witness leadership declined to speak to NPR for this story. This is Morris in an online video.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MORRIS: One brother likened his experience in a university setting to being in a house that is on fire. Spiritually speaking, he said, even if you escape alive, your clothes still smell like smoke. It has an effect on you.
VANDER PLOEG: Corrupting influence is just one of the reasons Witnesses frown on higher education. They also believe the end of the world is imminent and time in college would be better spent going door to door winning converts. Zachary Linderer's family discouraged education so strongly that he never even finished high school. He did end up going back to get his GED and becoming an electrician, but he says that longing to study science never left him.
LINDERER: I think I had that feeling, that sense at 17 years old or so that that was like - that's what I wanted it to be. That's what I needed to be, and there's been this hole ever since then.
VANDER PLOEG: That's a sentiment I heard from nearly all of the 100 plus ex-Witnesses I talked to, that feeling of being robbed of something. It's not unheard of for Witnesses to graduate college, but it's very unlikely. Pew Research shows that only 9 percent of Jehovah's Witnesses get a bachelor's degree. That's well below the national average and the lowest of any faith group. The same study also shows that Witnesses have some of the lowest income of any major religion. Amber McGee falls in that category. She grew up a Witness in rural Texas. Her parents pulled her and her siblings out of school at a young age.
AMBER MCGEE: My mom herself who was supposed to be our homeschool teacher was not capable of doing it emotionally, mentally.
VANDER PLOEG: Amber's mother never finished high school.
MCGEE: She had three young children. She was by herself very far from family and even just grocery stores and that sort of thing.
VANDER PLOEG: Eventually, Amber's mother gave up teaching them. The girls had to do it themselves using workbooks.
MCGEE: I would do all the multiple choice and true and false, and they would write all the essays for all the subjects. So it was really bad. I literally barely graduated.
VANDER PLOEG: That's made life difficult for Amber. She's 34 years old and the most she's made in a year is about $14,000. Amber and her husband left the Witnesses a year ago. They're doing better now financially, but it's still far from what Amber had hoped for her life.
MCGEE: I was taught very, very young to stop dreaming, to not have dreams, that you'll never ever be a famous person or a doctor or nurse. It's not possible. So now as an adult, I'm learning to start dreaming again.
VANDER PLOEG: If not for her own future, then definitely for the futures of her kids. For NPR News, I'm Luke Vander Ploeg in Los Angeles.
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Jehovah's Witnesses Essay
1117 Words5 Pages
Many studies about Jehovah Witnesses state that they are the strictest religion out there. They have rules that should be followed or the person ends up condemned. They do not believe in other religions whatsoever, in any shape or form. Jehovah Witnesses God’s name to them is Jehovah. The sociological concepts discussed will be social class and norms, a function and a dysfunction of Jehovah Witness religion, a symbolic ritual, and an aspect of this religion that entails conflict.
According to dictionary.com (n.d.), Jehovah witnesses are a part of a Christian Sect. Henslin (2012) states that a sect is like a cult, but larger than the cult. Dictionary.com (n.d) states that Jehovah Witnesses were founded in the late nineteenth century,…show more content…
This data says is that Jehovah Witnesses barely go to college, which means they get the lower jobs and have to work the rest of their lives, barely going up in the job ladder of merit. Another sociological concept for Jehovah Witnesses is norms. Some norms for Jehovah Witnesses are no sex before marriage, no gambling, very little drinking, no abortion, and no war. Sex before marriage is a major sin in all religions, but Jehovah Witnesses see it as something that should not even be thought of before marriage in any form (religionfacts.com, n.d.). Gambling is a form of greed, and should not be done. A little drinking is allowed for the Jehovah Witnesses but if they end up drunk, it is considered a sin (religionfacts.com, n.d.). Jehovah Witnesses condemn people that abort their children (religionfacts.com, n.d.). Jehovah Witnesses also refuse to participate in wars because they are not in the Battle of Armageddon (religionfacts.com, n.d.). Most things that almost all Americans do nowadays are banned from the Jehovah Witness religion like drink, sex before marriage, and gamble. One function of a Jehovah Witness is emotional comfort. Religion brings and provides a meaning to life. Religion lets people know that they all have a purpose in life in any form, happiness and suffering. Most religions assure that others will care for them no matter what. One dysfunction of being a Jehovah Witness is witnessing. Many