The one area where detractors have some validity is in saying that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses did not make the same choice as did their parents. The parents searched, sometimes for decades. They weighed both paths carefully before choosing the pathway of serving God over the pathway of pursuing the common goals of the world. Their children have never made this search—they were ‘born into the truth’—something we portray as a great asset, and yet something that contains the same drawbacks as being born into wealth. We probably are naive to think that ‘born into the truth’ does not make one vulnerable in some respects.
The first generation makes the wealth and is thereafter grounded in life. The second generation inherits it, and deprived of that values-forming experience, becomes insufferable, unappreciative, profligate, isolated from the common people—some combination of the foregoing. It doesn’t have to work that way, but it does often enough for the pattern to become a stereotype.
What’s a wealthy person to do? Cast his son out to live in the refrigerator box until he earns his own wealth? Obviously not. Better to be born into wealth than into poverty. Better to be born into a spiritual paradise than into a spiritual dessert. But the wealthy parent that has any sense makes his son experience what he did himself to the degree possible—makes the kid start on the factory floor as a regular worker, for example—makes the kid earn privileges, doesn’t just hand him things—makes him work his way into his inheritance.
The Witness parent who simply expects the offspring to ‘make the truth your own’ without allowing him a glimpse into the other side—well, couldn’t that be likened to the wealthy parent who expects his offspring to ‘make the family wealth your own’ without allowing the character-building and adversity-overcoming experiences that were instrumental in his own formation?
It is a matter of degree as to how that is done—I would not suggest that nobody is doing it—and each family must find its own way. Since the beginning of time, parents have endeavored to bring their children up in principles they have convinced themselves are true. Since the Industrial Age at least, general society has tried to pull those children away into its own chosen paths. There certainly is no educational reason that children should be schooled away from their parents at ages as young as 4. It is for societal reasons that compulsory public schooling began. Children ought be separated from the pernicious influence and prejudices of their parents, the thinking went, to make them more compliant to the greater aims of the greater world.
So Witnesses are going to train their children in godly principles—that is only to be expected. It is not the case that if you leave children untrained, they will grow up free, unencumbered, and when of age, with choose their own values from the rich cornucopia of life’s offerings. No. All it means is that someone else will train them. The anti-JW activists are only bellyaching because they want to themselves be those trainers—they do not raise the same protest with regard to the children of anyone else.