The thought of baptism has been on my mind a great deal recently. A young sister that is currently been forced to get baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness even though she doesn’t want to has reminded me very strongly about my own baptism way back in 2000 when I was 18 years old.
Flashback to a very cold day in August 2000 at the Eikenhof Assembly Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was so nervous that day, in fact to be very honest I was terrified. My panic was at 200%, the hours before the baptism talk I was shaking with nerves. All baptism candidates sit in the front of the Hall, and I sat there feeling so scared and just wanting this situation over with. I cannot remember what the baptism talk was even about, though I’m sure it was pretty generic. We then stood up and we said the required ‘Yes’s’ at the right time. We then filed out to the baptism pool outside. My anxiety was so high that I could barely feel myself walking down the aisle and outside, it was like I was hovering above myself and observing this all around me, like it wasn’t really happening to me. In the little changing room, I shakily got out of my clothes as I had my swimming costume underneath. I waited my turn at the door as we queued up and stepped down one by one to the brother in the pool ready to dunk us. The water was icy and I was shaking even more as I approached the brother and clumsily folded my arms, held my nose and then splash and out, it was all over. Cold to the bone I stumbled out to grab my towel. After getting dry and dressed there were the usual round of ‘congratulations’ and ‘well done’. Did I feel joyous? Not really, my overwhelming nerves has only just calmed, I felt exhausted. A huge scary thing was over, finally.
Should I have been that scared that day? In hind sight, yes – my emotional reaction was spot on regarding what I was getting myself into. I had no idea at the time! I was dedicating myself to an Organization. To backtrack a little more, before baptism you have to go through 100 questions in the ‘Organized To Do Jehovah’s Will’ book. There are three parts, and you go through all those questions in three sessions with three different elders. They will then decide if you are ready for baptism. If you are, an announcement is made at the next meeting, and you will be baptised at the next assembly or convention.
Getting baptised is becoming a fully fledged Jehovah’s Witness. Already having reached the age of 18 meant that most of the young Witnesses in the congregation were already baptised, being one that wasn’t made me stand out. Peer pressure at its best, but then I genuinely thought this was the right thing to do, even though I was so scared. My Bible study conductor brought up the subject first, once I had completed all the books it means the next step is field service and then baptism. Elders will also apply pressure, but then I have also noticed how harassed they look when they have too many baptism candidates that have to go through all the questions and the closest assembly is just days away. It all looks like WORK.
In comparison to this full on exam on their publications and then baptism that sort of feels like sheep being dipped quickly and smartly to join the rest of the slaves that are beholden completely to the Organization, there is the usual Christian baptism.
I am now looking forward to my new and proper baptism as a Christian. Guess what, there are no 100 questions and no pressure from anyone for me to do so. It is up to me, when I’m ready, that is all. The requirement is that I accept Jesus as my saviour. That’s it. I feel excitement, a touch of nervousness, but over all joy, that I going to get baptised. Very different from my first time round! – Edit – I didn’t get baptised again. My so-called proper Christian baptism didn’t happen as I am not Pentecostal material. I continue to live and learn, post Watchtower.
Even though my baptism should have brought me closer to God, it did no such thing. I felt no different. The baptism talk also warns you that now you will be in Satan’s cross hair’s even more than ever. I wonder now if Satan is actually just saying ‘hello’ to another one obligated to an organization and dragged further away from Jesus. (just my personal musing).
If you feel like you are being pressured, unduly influenced and strongly persuaded that you should get baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness, really think about where this pressure is coming from. Is it from a good place? People that only want the best for you? Perhaps its because you are the only one in the family that isn’t baptised yet and its making your parents look bad, or its making your Bible study conductor look bad. This decision is not up to them, and you shouldn’t be doing it to make other people happy. This is a serious decision that only you should make, without any undue influence muddying the waters.