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Jehovah’s Witnesses: The Irony of Faith and Death

This is a complementary piece of our August 2017 Issue: Death

Jenny, 28, was diagnosed with leukemia seven months after discovering she was pregnant. Doctors advised that she could do two things that would save both her life and her baby. First, undergo a C-section and then chemotherapy, options she refused because of one thing. It required a blood transfusion. She died from giving birth.

Joshua, 15, got into a terrible car accident and was rushed to a hospital. He had abdominal and leg injuries, needing immediate medical attention but made it clear to the doctors that he would not accept blood transfusions. He died later that same day.

Dennis, 12, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. He had a 75% chance of living, but he had to go through a series of blood transfusions to prepare his body for chemotherapy. He refused to accept any blood. He died three weeks later.

The one obvious thing they have in common? They are all Jehovah’s Witnesses.

God’s Witnesses

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination which rejects the mainstream beliefs of Christianity, has a worldwide membership of 8.3 million. They are directed by a group of elders called the “Governing Body” which establishes all their doctrines based on their interpretations of the Bible. If there is a definitive characteristic that sets the Jehovah’s Witnesses apart from other religions, it is their strong stand against two things: military service and blood transfusions.

Command of the Bible

The religious stance of Jehovah’s Witnesses on blood transfusion is non-negotiable. They believe that those who respect life as God’s gift should not try to sustain it by taking in blood under any circumstances. This means that in addition to the prohibition of accepting blood, they are also proscribed from donating and storing it for transfusion.

The belief has its origin in the Bible, stating to not ingest blood in any form, whether offered as food or transfusion, in addition to the fact that it’s God’s command to abstain from blood in whatever way because it is the representation of something sacred. They believe that the only authorized use of blood after its removal from a body is for the atonement of sins. Following this belief is an expression of faith that only the blood of God can save and redeem people.

Interpreting the Scripture

One thing should be made clear though: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not refuse medical treatment. They accept medical treatments along with necessary medicine. What they do not accept is whole blood transfusions and its four main components: red cells, white cell, platelets, and plasma.

However, minor blood fractions like injections for infection prevention, additional elements in medication, and surgical sealant are considered exceptions in the limiting list of medical procedures where blood is involved.

A Good Example of Faith

In 2016, during a Jehovah’s Witnesses public convention, Tony Morris, a governing body member of the congregation, blustered about a “young fella” who died from refusing a blood transfusion and called him a good example of faith.

He received thundering applause in return. What is more interesting though is the fact that Morris called out the doctors who wished to speak with the boy in private on his deathbed, calling it “persecution.” How could a team of medical experts be labeled as persecutors when they just want to do what it takes to save a life? Perhaps the more pressing question is, how can parents watch their children die, knowing that they could have saved them?

Deadly Devotions

Before being diagnosed with cancer, Phil Dunne was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. After being told that he needed a blood transfusion to neutralize his internal bleedings caused by his stomach tumor, he said he would rather die than break the beliefs of his religion. Four days in the hospital and stubborn to change his stand against blood transfusion, the doctors opted to give him intense radiation to shrink the tumor and stop the bleeding. It worked, and after chemotherapy, he was cancer-free.

His commitment to the religion, however, faltered. Two years later, he left the Witnesses, his marriage was disintegrated, and he had to move away from where he was living. Although Dunne said that he had nothing against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he believes that its teachings can be harmful.

Leaving the Kingdom

Expressing doubts about your faith is not welcome at Jehovah’s Kingdom. They have a created a culture which terrifies members to voice out anything that contradicts their teachings. When a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses chooses to leave, the person is considered excommunicated, an apostate.

No one is allowed to talk to him because, in a nutshell, he is a mentally diseased person, in addition to choosing death over life.

What kind of Christian live day by day, preaching the word of God and condemning those who do not practice the same faith? What kind of faith applauds children who died proving their outrageous religious convictions? What kind of religion celebrates at the death of its faithfuls? You tell me.

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