A Former Jehovah Witness’ Fight for Salvation Beyond God
Laredo Sun author Alejandra Cantu posted a story on the recent sex abuse allegations within the congregation by a former Jehovah Witness. This article posted on March 13, 2015 (http://laredosun.us/?p=12325), focuses on the story of one individual named Candace Conti who is fighting to unveil the truth and bring awareness about the church’s policy of silence on child abusers. Conti at the age of 9 would partake in the traditional door-to-door evangelizing that is rooted within the Jehovah Witnesses mission, with a man named Jonathan Kendrick. Jonathan was a well-liked and trusted member of the congregation and during one of their missions he took Conti home and molested her. This had occurred multiple times and Candace had finally testified about the incidents in against the church years later where she felt she was brave enough to face her abuser. However, Candace did not take any further action until she came across Kendrick’s name on a sex offender registry list and had decided to leave the congregation. Despite not wanting to relive the memories of her traumatizing experience, Candace wanted to come forward with her case to the Church elders, because Jonathan Kendrick was a threat to their community, as it was revealed that he had served seven months in prison for sexually abusing his wife’s seven-year-old daughter.
Candace had struggled very much to be heard and for the issue to be taken seriously by the church elders, however because she did not have two witnesses in order to prove the sexual abuse she had experience, his crime could not be punishable and therefore they had dismissed her claim. It wasn’t until Conti decided to go to the police and sue the church that an investigation into these allegations had seriously begun, in which sadly more aggravating factors about Jonathan Kendrick had been discovered. It had been disclosed by Church elders that while holding a leadership position in the congregation, Kendrick had pursued sexual relations with minors. Conti and her attorney had been shocked to learn about the church’s awareness and their lack of urgency to put an end to such behaviour within their sacred congregation The church’s only defense within this matter was made by the Watchtower Society (i.e. the religious organizations headquarters) who stated that staying silent about was crucial for the spiritual well-being and conservation of the congregation, and that the problem was being handled privately. Despite Candace Conti being successful in her lawsuit, the Church still feels they have been accused wrongly and have appealed the case on the grounds that the abuse that Conti had suffered did not take place on Church property and nor is it their full responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse.
As discussed in class, millenarianism is a theme or belief by religious movements of the second coming of Christ and the establishment of a Kingdom of God, in which all the present troubles of the world will vanish and peace will prevail. Therefore, a crucial role of a Jehovah Witness is to preach Gods true teachings and to spread the belief of salvation, which is only attained through being part of the Jehovah’s organization and serving Jehovah. Due to the strong belief by the Jehovah Witness of rejecting universal salvation, they emphasize that only the true faithful servants of God will survive and live in heaven with God. Thus, the Jehovah Witness congregation is a very isolated group, where members are reinforced to socialize only within the assembly because other members are seen as influenced by Satan and are a threat to the purity of the community. In my opinion these types of ideas that promotes exclusivity within a religious movement is toxic towards its own members because you are instilling a negative attitude towards those that don’t belong and in the case of Conti this had affected her terribly. Due to Conti experiencing sexual abuse from a trusted member of her religious community, she felt isolated and could not seek help for what she had experienced from people outside the religious community. This kind of isolation led for Conti to keep her secret within and face the traumatizing consequences and feelings by herself. Without leaving the congregation she may have never been able to get the justice that she deserves and even further to ensure that some sort of action is taken towards the offender, Jonathan Kendrick. It is scary to realize that such incidents can occur within a cohesive religious community, however as we become aware of the story of on individual, I cant help but wonder how many more are struggling to be heard and continue to be silenced by this mass religious organization.