Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses

Today is an age of religious extremism. As Americans, we’re surrounded by religious conflict, both in the media and in our daily lives, blatant and underlying. Living in this sort of culture, it’s easy to become disillusioned with the sometimes fanatical implications of being a religious person. However, there are countless dimensions to being religious, and many of them encourage personal growth. Junior Aaron Larpenter is a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and says that his faith has helped him live with high moral standards and a strong sense of love. “The most identifiable mark of being a Witness is the respect and love we have for one another,” Larpenter said. Larpenter’s enthusiasm for his faith is apparent, but less clear is precisely what it means to be a Jehovah’s Witness. The Denomination began in the 1870’s with Bible studies in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. It grew due to adherents’ favoring of a literal biblical interpretation, seeing the Bible as the source of all truth. The beliefs that Witnesses hold today have their origins solely in the Bible. “The type of Christianity that we practice is similar to what you would see in the 1st century. We don’t follow many of the traditions that other Christian bodies do, because they are not outlined in the Bible,” Larpenter said. This difference becomes very clear when looking at holidays. Witnesses recognize only the death of Christ as a holiday, not Christmas or any other Christian celebrations. Larpenter admitted that this is one of the largest differences between himself and many other followers of Christian faiths. “We don’t celebrate Christmas because of its origins. Dec. 25 was originally a pagan Roman holiday celebrating the return of the sun, which Christians picked for the birth of Christ to gain converts. The Bible suggests that the birth actually took place closer to October,” he said. Jehovah’s witnesses also stray from mainstream Christianity in their views on paradise. “According to Revelations 14:3, there are only 144,000 who are chosen for paradise, or anointed. The rest of the faithful are destined to live a life of paradise on earth,” Larpenter said. This delving from most Christian theology can cause confusion for those not familiar with the religion. However, The Witnesses are still Christians who recognize Christ as their savior. The occasional notion that they worship a different God is also a cause of confusion. Jehovah is simply a different name for the same Almighty whom is written about in the Bible, Torah, and Koran. “Jehovah is the true name of God,” Larpenter said. “Unfortunately, some Bibles have taken the name out of it and replaced it with just ‘Lord’.” A final identifying characteristic of Jehovah’s witnesses, and perhaps what they are most widely recognized for, is their door-to door ministry. Larpenter notes that to date, Witnesses have put in a total of 1,333,966,199 hours of this service. While popular opinion about this practice may be mixed, it is an important part of the Witnesses’ system of beliefs. Larpenter cites Matthew 24:11 as a scripture passage in which believers are given an obligation to profess their faith. Lack of holiday celebration notwithstanding, Larpenter does not consider himself dramatically different from other students at AHS, religious or nonreligious. He said that he tries to live every day like Jesus and act with high moral values. These are the primary ways that his religion affects his daily life, and they sound very applicable to other denominations as well. While there is no easy solution to religious intolerance, education about other faiths is a wonderful way to start. Many will find that being a religious person can mean a lot of things, but to a surprising amount of people, it’s just another way of being themselves.