I worked with a woman who is a jehovas witness for 8 years, during that time we had many discussions butbi always found her to be incredubly shallow. ...she would take xmas gift s if not wrapped, she attended the xmas do as long as it wasn't called an xmas do....she was perfectly groomed, false nails, designer clothes, jimmy choo shoes. I left this workplace about 5 years ago, but I have other friends who are witnesses (and are lovely). I hsve just found out that the reasi this woman could live her lavish life style was she is a thief. she was stealing large amounts if cash. she admitted it and was dismissed. her dp is a church elder. what will happen to her within the church? so far.they seem to be protecting her. making excuses for her. no one knows whats happened and they are using a cover story to explain her absence. I had begun a bible study, but stopped. it . I would never have become a witness, but for me, that seals it. how can you sit in a church meeting twice a week and study the bible while stealing massive amounts of cash from your employer? how is that being Christian, or, better than me? my son had a bloid transfusion when he was very ill with meningitis. ....am I the sinner or is she?
It seems to me that the only definition of being a Christian is that you identify as such. The range of beliefs of people who call themselves Christian is so broad that it becomes impossible to define. For all you know this woman might (believe she) fully repents and is granted forgiveness every time she 'sins' so is perfectly entitled to call herself Christian.
The reason that Christians and people of other faiths do things that by general consensus seem abhorrent is because a Religious belief is no different from a secular belief. We each have our own moral code that we follow to a greater or lesser extent, and just saying that it comes from a higher power does not make it more special or better than a moral code that does not have such a claim. Our beliefs and moral codes are each entirely our own.
Hanging your moral beliefs and behaviour on one particular superstition does not insulate you from behaving in an anti social way.
First off. Jehovah's witnesses are not considered to be Christians. Not because other Christians are being mean, but because Christian groups all adhere to a basic set of doctrines which define orthodoxy (Nicene creed) which was agreed upon in the 4th Century so not a new thing. So whilst lots of church groups and Christians disagree with each other, they all acknowledge these basic tenets of the faith like the divinity of Christ, his bodily resurrection and the existence of the Trinity. JWs are not in agreement with these basic Christian beliefs.
In terms of sin etc. from a Christian point of view everybody sins. Not just in big and obvious ways like stealing money, but in small ways like putting other people down, lying, putting your own wants above other peoples needs etc. We all do bad stuff. Being a Christian does not make you a good person. Being a Christian is having faith in God that you are loved, your sins are forgiven (so that we don't need to be burdened by the bad things we have done and asked forgiveness for) and that through having a relationship with God (praying, reading the Bible etc.) we can grow to become more like the person we were made to be. It's a process of allowing God to change you. So Christians aren't better than you. They are just different in that they are seeking to live out a relationship with God.
So the in the case of a Christian sinning the right thing to do would be to confess, apologise, seek to make amends (give the money back?) and to ask for forgiveness from the people you have hurt and God. If the lady didn't want to do any of that then I think it would still be ok for her to come to church services (they aren't exclusive) but not to have any leadership/membership responsibilities.
I think there can be a tendency for cover up in the type of organisation where leadership rule on who is in and who is out which is the case with the JWs. There was a sad thread around recently of a lady who had to resign from the JWs after uncovering a big cover up about the leadership.
Vicar, I'm sorry that you find yourself in this position and that the whole episode has upset you.
What will happen to her within her church? If she has "repented" and convinced the elders of that, then nothing will happen to her. Years ago, when I was a JW, I had a friend whose husband was a violent alcoholic. He abused her terribly. Each time, he "repented", until the next time, so he was never even disciplined. She on the other hand was pushed further and further towards to edges of the congregation because she was unhappy and was having a hard time "waiting on Jehovah" and accepting her wifely role. Eventually he was found guilty of child sex offences and spent time in prison. He rejoined the congregation on release on the same standing as when he was convicted, because he had "repented" fully. My friend was pushed out and ostracised because she had divorced him while he was in jail and she wasn't "repentant.
JWs idea of keeping the congregation clean can be very confusing from the outside, but somehow it seems to make perfect sense when you are inside. If this woman has fully repented and no longer pursues this kind of behaviour, then she will have gained forgiveness and her slate will be clean. However, she will know that, on the Day of Judgement, she will have to stand before the throne of God and justify her choices and actions to Jesus, acting as Jehovah Judge.
As for how she could sit in church while breaking a basic commandment - many, many Christians are hypocrites, just like non-Christians. There is a scripture that says "we are all sinners and all have fallen short of the glory of God". I think that people use that to convince themselves that there is nothing unusual or terribly bad in what they do.
JWs consider themselves to be Christians, even though most other Christians think they're not. But I don't think this sort of behaviour is specific to them. I've seen this sort of cognitive dissonance before in my mis-spent youth - people cheerfully saying 'God is still working on us' when they'd done something wrong by any ethical standards.
I've come to the conclusion that one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity - that of God's forgiveness - is actually quite unhealthy. It can lead to a lack of taking personal responsibility for one's own actions, repeating misdeeds (a toxic cycle of guilt/'forgiveness'/'repentence'/repetition) and not always being overly concerned about the victim (I'm thinking of the many child abuse cases which have afflicted many different denominations).
You're right Errol. It is really sad how forgiveness is abused and treated 'cheaply'. I think decent church leadership should deal with that idea but I know often church leaders can be part of the problem too.
I don't think forgiveness understood properly is unhealthy. The full ramifications of what you have done wrong need to be reflected on and understood before forgiveness becomes meaningful. Finding a way to do right by the victim is part of the process. In a Christian sense forgiveness should mean you can eventually walk free of the consequences in the sense that having been a thief does not mean you are condemned to be a thief for life or that God and others will label you as that. The cycle can be broken. That is a good and positive message.
If you believe in God and in the Christian view of repentance, you have to take full responsibility for your actions You can't just say you're sorry and that's it over with. As fizz said, you have to admit the wrong doing, regret the wrong doing, try to make it right, ask forgiveness and then not repeat the action. That's what repentance actually involves. Just saying sorry doesn't really cut it, especially if you continue in your wrong behaviour.
God will help you change if you sincerely want to and ask for his help, but you still have to take responsibility for that change. It's not like waiving some kind of magic wand. You have to work really hard at changing, it's just that God can give you the support and strength that you need to do so.