Oh wow, I just got back to this thread today and there is a lot to read!
Originally Posted by christianmomof3
So Jennica, if you don't mind my asking, it seems that the JWs fear the Lord's return because they think if they don't follow some JW rules, they will be forced to suffer through the great tribulation?
I don't know much about their beliefs, but it does sound like it was rather controlling and frightening to you. Are your parents and in-laws and family all JWs?
I understand how you say you miss the sense of community and a bit about how difficult it is to not be accepted by the people who were once your friends.
First, here is what JW's believe (to my understanding); Christ already returned, invisibly, in 1914. 1914 was identified by the JW's as the beginning of "the last days" mentioned in the bible. They used to say that the generation that saw 1914 ushered in would not die before the end came, but they changed that in the 90's sometime to saying the end would come in the 20th century, which of course they no longer mention anymore, but still say that the end is "very close at hand". They believe that any day now the great tribulation will begin, which will be marked by a declaration of peace on earth, the governments turning on "false religion" (any non-JW religion), and then the persecution of the "true christians" (JW's). The great tribulation will be immediately followed by Armageddon, which will usher in the paradise. Most JW's believe that only their group will survive, and this is what is strongly indicated by the religious leaders.
Now as far as the fear goes, most JW's are not afraid of the end coming. They believe that they are going to survive into the paradise, and most don't have much to do with non-JW's, so they don't feel much sympathy or sadness for those people, they usually feel that they "don't have the right heart condition" to accept "the truth". However, there is much room for fear in this religion, especially, if like myself, you have been raised into it. Believing that any day now the end of the world is coming, your school mates will all die, your grandparents may die, and everyone you know who is not a JW will die, is a scary thing to a child. Being shown images of the end of the world and told over and over again that it is really really really close, it could happen any day now, can put children into a hyper alert state that becomes part of their psyche. There is also the fear of the persecution that will supposedly take place and children are often told that they may be separated from their parents at this time, or threatened with death, but they must hold to their beliefs despite any bad things that may happen. There is a very interesting thesis written on this subject at this site
, which talks about religious trauma suffered in childhood and the affect that is has on the individual.
Anyway, for most JW's, fear is not generally held in the conscious mind. They may have small tinges of anxiety when they think about the end coming, but these are usually pushed back into the subconscious by focusing on thoughts of the paradise. For children raised in it, I think they would say that they are not afraid of the end coming, but they likely are. JW's are constantly told that "we don't need to fear the end because we will be saved" so this is the thought that would pop up when asked about fear, however, the hyper alertness has generally become so ingrained in the personality by this point that a child or even an adult wouldn't recognize this state of mind as fear. And I'm sure that some are genuinely not afraid, and think it absurd that anyone would suggest otherwise.
Some JW's are a lot more fearful because they are not following all the rules, attending church, or participating at church, or preaching. JW's are taught that "faith without works is dead" therefore, if you are not doing more in the work of the lord, then your salvation is not guaranteed. So the more you do in the religion, the less fearful you will be. If you start to become fearful, this is usually looked at as a cue the you need to do more.
I myself was not overly concerned or afraid of the end coming until my son was born and I had other emotional and anxiety issues come up. I think what happened was that I could no longer hold the fear at bay in the subconscious mind, and a lifetime of fears and worries came raging out into the conscious mind. So, for me, fear had a constant presence in my life, and led to a general state of anxiety and hyper alertness, but I was able to keep it at bay until my son was born.
Also, as for the question about family, my parents and one sibling left the religion before me. My other two siblings are still in it. Dh's sister is out, but his parents and grandparents and almost every other relative he has is in it. For him it is a really ingrained family cultural thing, and his family is not too happy with us for leaving it, but so far they still talk to us so that is good.