Is Jehovah the Father

Berlin dropouts : Why a Young Father Left Jehovah's Witnesses

On a Friday evening at the end of March, he visits the service again. Sitting next to his wife in the penultimate row. They read from the Bible, Jeremiah 13, they sing, a video is shown in which believers from all over the world explain in perfectly lit living rooms how weekly Bible lessons at home have changed their lives. Says one girl, “Through family study, I realized how happy I can be that Jehovah is my God.” A little boy says, “Family study helped me stop being with worldly friends.” A Father says, "Even when I am tired, it is important that family studies always take place."

Oliver Wolschke finds it difficult to follow the video. This meeting in the south of Berlin, in the Kingdom Hall of Steglitz, an old villa near the Lichterfelde-Ost train station, is said to be the last for him and his wife. As soon as their departure is announced, the other Jehovah's Witnesses will cut off contact with them, and that means: all friends and acquaintances, as well as all people with whom they have spent time.

The Principle of "Loving Provision"

Former people shouldn't even be greeted on the street, because every greeting could be the beginning of a conversation. Witnesses call this isolation "Loving Provision". This makes it easier for dropouts to return to the community of Witnesses.

Oliver Wolschke imagines how he can say goodbye to as many people as possible in the room right after the service is over and not say that it is forever. Maybe he can still hug some of them without being noticed.

Oliver Wolschke, 32, grew up with Jehovah's Witnesses. His parents separated when he was five, and his mother took him to the new apartment in Lankwitz. She soon met Jehovah's Witnesses and later married one. And he learned that most people will be brutally wiped out in the battle of Armageddon, the end of the wicked world, and that he himself must follow strict rules if he is spared and wants to experience the longed-for millennial reign of Christ.

Wolschke's story is one of the rare opportunities to take a look at a group that seals itself off from the outside - and lets little out of it from within.

After various legal proceedings, the Jehovah's Witnesses are considered a public corporation in Germany. Sect officials warn that the organization has features of a totalitarian coercion system. Children are denied higher education, contacts with the outside world are minimized.

The one with the "watchtower" in hand

For most Germans, Jehovah's Witnesses are just the strange people who stand on the street corner with the “watchtower” in their hand - and who ring strangers because they want to talk about God. Wolschke started doing this at the age of nine and was baptized at 16. Missioning is important if one is to survive Armageddon. Witnesses record the number of hours per month in reports that are then presented to the elders, the heads of a regional group. Anyone who takes on an office in the community must be above average.

In private, Jehovah's Witnesses usually stay among themselves and should only marry among themselves. As a rule, points of contact with people of different faiths only exist in professional life. Wolschke works as a search engine expert at Tagesspiegel-Verlag, the colleagues in his department know why he never congratulates him on his birthday and why he is absent from Christmas parties.

There are more than eight million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, 165,000 of them live in Germany. At the top of a strict hierarchy is the “governing body”: seven men who reside in the world headquarters in the US state of New York. It is said that they are guided by God. When exactly Armageddon threatens, they do not tell their members. In the past, Witnesses and their forerunners, the "Serious Bible Students", mentioned specific dates several times: 1874, 1914, 1925, 1975. They no longer make this mistake.

False prophecies of the past are not discussed in the services. And information from non-Witnesses will be ignored anyway. Wolschke says Jehovah's Witnesses are very good at not taking outsiders seriously. Their arguments are considered to be "coming from Satan the Devil". The “apostates”, the former fellow believers who broke away from the community, are particularly despised. “It's like a firewall,” says Wolschke. "An extremely strong one that only lets information from the organization through."

He says not to misunderstand him. Jehovah's Witnesses are not monsters. But people who only want the best for themselves and their families: survive Armageddon. Wolschke is certain that one can also have a good life as a Jehovah's Witness. The fact that he cannot do it himself has to do with his children.

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