Experience From a Former Deaf Witness
Another Experience From a Former Witness
As with any small-group situation the deaf are no exception. Very few of the interpreters are of professional standard, as they mostly learn their skills within the group where all sorts of disagreements abound, especially if the proficient interpreter is female….as is often the case. A huge amount of harm is done where elders with egos extending beyond the bounds of ability try to render control in ways which are not suitable or justifiable in relation to people with special needs. Unfortunately, the people themselves are not consulted, as they are ‘uninformed’ and in need of ‘help.’ The insular attitude of many elders/brothers pertaining to minority cultures and the acquisition of specialized knowledge ensures the continuation of misjudgment and ineffective interaction. Some of these groups survive within their own bubble of discontent, while others thrive.
Watch Tower not only religion to recruit the deaf
Just as the Watch Tower Society leaders recognized over twenty years ago that video could aid in evangelizing the deaf, so also have other religious groups recognized the advantages of video to teach their religion to the deaf.
Christianity Today reported that “The deaf are virtually an ‘unreached people group,’ but an Illinois ministry is remedying that one video at a time.”[foot]Christianity Today, January 5, 2011, Do You Hear What I Hear? by Jeremy Weber http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/march/30.46.html [/foot] In the Christianity Today article, Associate Editor of News, Jeremy Weber, pointed out that Deaf Video Communications (DVC), a Christian ministry to the deaf based in the Chicago suburb of Carol Stream, makes videos for deaf of all ages. Started in 1983, the ministry has “a broadcast-quality production studio, a conference center, and $300,000 worth of video equipment. With the help of volunteer deaf actors and paid, mostly hearing production professionals, DVC has produced almost 500 videos of Bible stories, sermons, dramas, marriage counseling sessions, and children’s programs—all in American Sign Language.
A free lending library sends out hundreds of copies of videos by mail each week. In 27 years, DVC has fulfilled 55,000 requests for videos from deaf churches, schools, and individuals worldwide. Donations from supporting churches, foundations [grants], and individuals cover shipping costs and the rest of the $300,000 budget of the organization, approved by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
DVC knows its videos are meeting a need long unmet. Many groups have requested—and watched—every single video in the catalogue. Hundreds of deaf Christians have approached the Steccas [owners of DVC] at deaf conferences over the years, many crying with thanks for how DVC introduced them to God through its videos.
Why bring into this report what other evangelizing ministries are doing for the deaf? It is because Jehovah’s Witnesses stridently proclaim the significance of their efforts to reach the deaf with their message as if they were the only ones doing it and their message was the most important one on this earth. Actually the DVC videos are quite good. Nevertheless, it is remarkable how similar some of their videos are to the Watch Tower’s videos. Looking at the date of DVC videos, it seems they started to produce videos first before the Watch Tower organization did. This wouldn’t be the first time the Society copied ideas and took all the credit – and since Witnesses would never look at another religion’s material – they don’t know this. Reportedly, the Watch Tower’s video of the Bible into deaf languages is of better quality, but the deaf are learning what is in the Bible from the New World Translation which is alleged to have been translated to accommodate Jehovah’s Witnesses dogma.
Incidentally, when a 12-year-old in Texas says in an e-mail to DVC that “I was really giving up hope, because I am the only deaf girl in my area and no one knows how to talk to me but my parents. I was wondering … whether God really loved me. If he does, why am I deaf and on one else here is deaf like me? But you guys help me out a lot. Thank you. Now I am living a happy life and studying the Bible again”—is this any different than the emotions a young deaf Jehovah’s Witness expressed for her religion’s efforts to teach the deaf their religious beliefs? Note the following newspaper interview:
Jael Espinal still remembers what went through her mind three years ago, when she was baptized as a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘A lot of things went through my mind,’ Espinal said. ‘The main thing was ‘yay! I’m baptized!’ Espinal’s journey to full membership in the Jehovah’s Witnesses has required more than the typical Bible study and ‘preaching work,’ which is the lifelong practice of taking the message of the faith into the community, going door to door.
Espinal also has had to learn American Sign Language to better serve her peers in a congregation of the deaf.
Espinal was born and raised in Dallas as a Jehovah’s Witness. She was born with hearing loss, and by the time she turned 13, she had been diagnosed with Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a disease that causes loss of vision.
‘I wanted to be a part of something like this,’ she said. ‘This is a worldwide organization. We back up the Bible 100 percent. That’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses do. We take everything we do from the Bible. That’s important to me. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself.’
Espinal said she doesn’t have a problem correcting misconceptions that persist about her religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses are mysterious to many nonmembers, who often call the denomination a cult. ‘With me, it mostly like, if you have a question, I’ll answer it. It’s a 24-7 job—sharing Jehovah’s love,’ she said.
In talking about her faith, Espinal said her religion holds a promise that is special to her. ‘As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we don’t believe in heaven,’ she said. ‘We believe that the dead are asleep, and that when we come to the heavenly kingdom, we will be healed. For me, that means I will see and I will hear.’[foot]Denton Record Chronicle, August 8, 2010, Convention draws more than 1,000 deaf church members to Denton area, by Lucinda Breeding[/foot]
The quote above is a prime example of what this article has been emphasizing throughout. Jehovah’s Witnesses, in fact, DO believe in heaven but only for a select few. The majority of true believers are thought to have a future on a paradise earth where they will be blessed with perfect health, but NOT in a heavenly kingdom, Unfortunately, either Ms. Espinal hasn’t been clearly taught the doctrines of her Jehovah’s Witness religion, or her interpreter has inadequately and inaccurately reported her statements to the reporter. Regardless of the cause of her confusion, it is further clear evidence of the communication gap that exists among deaf Witnesses, despite all the time and resources being spent by members their local congregations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are certainly preaching to a vulnerable community. In most places the deaf suffer from a lack of communication and interaction with the world around them. Many are eager for connection to anyone who pays them some attention. This isolation can make deaf people particularly vulnerable to the Watch Tower recruitment techniques which emphasize love bombing, phobia indoctrination, and conformity pressures.
On the other hand most deaf homes now have the Internet and access to information has increased immeasurably for those deaf who have strong English reading comprehension. Deaf Witnesses now have nearly as much access to information as anyone else, though there remains a dearth of signed videos educating them about the other side of the Watch Tower religion. However, as more of the Watch Tower organization is exposed online via sign language, over time, the question arises: Will deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses take advantage of it?