02: Jehovah’s Witnesses: An End-Time Focused Religious Group

Emotionally, JWs are one example of a group-culture, where calmness is a feature (Beckford, 1975; Ringnes & Ulland, 2015). The founder of JWs, Charles T. Russell, defined the emotional ground tone, as he had “concentrated on the reasonableness of God’s plan for the world, and considerations of emotion or mystery were largely lacking. He, therefore, had nothing in common with the emotional, revivalistic preachers of his day” (Beckford, 1975, p. 104). Continuing today, JWs are cognitively oriented, and they define themselves as opposite to charismatic environments and strong activation of emotions (Ringnes & Ulland, 2015).

JWs have defined themselves with the metaphor not of this world and identify themselves as the only group today that successfully follows the Bible, internally termed “living in the truth” (Ringnes & Sødal, 2009, p. 24). The Bible is to be followed in a unitary way that does not allow for local doctrinal variations (Hegstad, 2009). JWs can be defined as a religious sect, having a clear-cut outsider-insider scheme combined with high demands on members (Repstad, 2009). The group is organized as to demand uniformity of beliefs from members (Beckford, 1975). Group members can be excluded from membership if they do not accept all parts of the doctrine, which includes being willing to sacrifice life through the refusal of medical blood transfusions (Ringnes & Hegstad, 2016).

End-time expectations are a central characteristic of JWs (Chryssides, 2010; Singelenberg, 1989; Zygmunt, 1970). Some religious groups are end-time focused, termed eschatological, being focused on a new future, different from the here and now, and apart from natural death. JWs’ eschatology is that Paradise will rise on planet earth in the near future in the aftermath of an Armageddon battle. People who survive, or are resurrected, can live forever after a 1000-year trial on this planet, which is considered a compelling future prospect. JWs uphold the expectation of living in the last days as well as the possibility of survival and escaping death through active membership, which includes to proselytize and “preach the good news” (Holden, 2002, p. 84). Throughout time, 144,000 Witnesses are said to have been chosen by Jehovah to rule in a future heavenly government with only a few places remaining today, while the larger group will survive on earth, which will gradually change to become Paradise (Holden, 2002). Today, these end-time expectations have an impact on the lives of around seven million JWs worldwide (Voas, 2008). In Norway, JWs have 12,000 members of a population of approximately five million (SSB, 2016).

Until now, the emotion regulation perspective has not been used in research on JWs. The approach seems relevant as well as based on earlier research on JWs that has identified themes related to feeling states or the need to change emotions. Earlier research has identified that new members have been in search of meaning and belongingness, and memberships are found to be connected to the motivation for change and the resolve of dissatisfaction, pessimism, or existential rumination (Beckford, 1975; Dobronravoff, 2007; Holden, 2002).

Comments are closed.