In the Belly of Jehovah
New longform piece on Jehovah's Witnesses out in The Lifted Brow #22.
Last year, for reasons that are still somewhat mysterious to me, I set out to write a piece on Jehovah's Witnesses.
At the time, I knew very little about the Witnesses, save for the few things people tend to repeat about them: that they don't vote, that they refuse blood transfusions, that they believe only a small, specific number of them will go to heaven. A lot of cult-busting pieces have been written on the Jehovah's Witnesses, who have had their share of controversy over the years, but I wanted to look at how they saw themselves, and what attracted people to join a church that, from the outside at least, seemed to require its adherents to live quite an austere, set apart life, and face so much rejection.
I thought I'd spend some time with active Witnesses, ideally accompanying them preaching. That, unsurprisingly, was not possible—for quite understandable reasons, only baptised Witnesses can go on missionary rounds these days—but the more I began to research their church, the more intrigued I became.
After a few dead ends, I had a stroke of luck when two Witnesses appeared at my door one morning, not knowing I was writing about the church. They invited me to their Kingdom Hall, and I spent the next few months attending meetings and conventions and listening to Witnesses' stories. I also spoke with a few people who'd decided to leave the church. There were a lot of compelling stories, not least of which is the church's own history, which is fascinating and often strange. The piece eventually took on a life of its own, and I have to thank The Lifted Brow for giving me free reign to follow it where it needed to go, absent any real currency.
The piece, 'In the Belly of Jehovah', is out now in the current Lifted Brow, #22, which you can read in the print magazine or online. I also worked with The Lifted Brow to put together a companion piece, a collage of sorts of observations, facts and quotes from my research.