Beware of Sparlock

It usually requires some time and research to determine the crazy/evil level of any particular cult, and most people don’t care enough to put in the effort. Fortunately, Jehovah’s Witnesses just made it a lot easier to assess their crazy/evil level with the release of two cheesy videos designed to indoctrinate their children.

They both feature Caleb, a kid who is tortured by his parents. They were  originally posted on YouTube, but the Watchtower, Bible &  Tract Society forced them to take it down.  However, you can now watch them on the JW’s own site.

In the first video, “Obey Your Parents,” Mommy does the housekeeping. Of course. And she does it on her hands and knees, probably because she can’t afford a mop. A little background info might be helpful here. JWs are strongly discouraged (almost forbidden) to seek higher education, because when someone grows a bullshit meter they leave the cult. As a result most of them have menial jobs. The most common businesses run by entrepreneurial JWs are window washing and commercial floor cleaning, which can be started cheaply and be run without much brain power.

Kids track dirt in the house. It’s part of being a kid. A good parent will hand the kid a mop and say “clean up your mess.” A bad parent, like Caleb’s dad, uses it as an opportunity to browbeat the kid and make him feel like crap. And yes, many JW women are so emotionally crippled that they will break down and cry at the slightest provocation.

When Dad says, “That was a lot of work, right?” Caleb should have said, “Gee dad, it would have been easier if you had used a sponge instead of your bare hands. Or if you’d saved up for a mop.” But no, Caleb just bows his head and gets more indoctrination. Poor kid, I know just how he felt. Been there, put up with that.

Next we see Caleb playing alone, again, which is sadly appropriate. (Anyone who is not a JW is considered “worldly” and a bad influence, so JW kids have very few friends.) Mom is obviously disgusted that her son is being a kid and calls him to “family worship” with a stern command to first pick up his toys. (When I was being raised in the cult it was called “Family Bible Study.” It consists of studying Witness propaganda in excruciating detail.) Then comes the most entertaining and informative part of the video. We learn that JW homes are so poorly built, and in such dangerously unstable neighborhoods, that an adult slipping on a toy can case an earthquake and destroy most of what’s in the house, including the stuffed bear made of incredibly flammable gun cotton. Perhaps if daddy had gone to college he could have afforded to get his family a nicer, safer place, stocked with less dangerous toys.

Caleb picks up his toys while mommy changes into a skirt for their “family worship.” (God forbid she should be comfortable in her own house.) Then she kisses him, not for doing his job, not for helping around the house, not for being considerate, but for obeying.

The primary rule in this or any other cult is “Obey!” Don’t think, don’t question, just “Obey!”

The second video, “Obey Jehovah,” reveals even more about the JW cult.

Is mom happy her lonely kid finally made a friend?  Hell no. She uses it as another opportunity to browbeat and indoctrinate him. If Caleb were older and more knowledgeable the conversation could have gone like this:

Mom: “Magic is bad. Jehovah hates it.”

Caleb: “I know Mom. Except for turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt and tunning Aaron’s rod into a snake and making it rain frogs and blood and parting the Red Sea and making a donkey speak and knocking down the walls of Jericho and stopping earth’s rotation and saving Daniel in the lion’s den and Jona in the belly of the fish and Jesus curing the blind and the lame and the lepers and turning water into wine and walking on water and raising Lazarus from the dead and then being resurrected himself then floating up to heaven, and a hundred other things I left out, Jehovah hates magic.”

Mom would have smacked him hard enough to break her own hand, but it would have been worth it.

If Mom wasn’t a complete bitch she could have at least let Caleb return the gift to his friend, but no, that wouldn’t be devastating enough – she makes him throw it away.

Posters and insta-memes of Sparlock are popping up all over Facebook, ex-JW forums and other ex-JW online communities. He even has his own Facebook fan page. We’ll have to wait to see if this spills over into the general public and becomes a true Internet meme. It is so bad, so completely appalling, that it just might.

Ex-cult members often warn people about the group they escaped from. Their stories can be interesting or tedious, but most folks have heard it all before so they pay scant attention. It’s far more effective when a cult does it themselves by inadvertently showing everyone just how awful it is to be sequestered in their group.

Few things are as satisfying as watching evil people shoot themselves in the foot. In public. With a shotgun.  Followed by a blowtorch.  I wonder if they have any idea how much damage they’ve caused themselves.  Damn, it’s fun to watch.

21 Comment(s)

  1. Lets get downright technical about JW dogma.

    Here goes on JW:

    A) They are at your door to recruit you for their watchtower society corporation,they will say that *we are just here to share a message from the Bible*… this is deception right off.

    B) Their *message* creed is a false Gospel that Jesus had his second coming in 1914.The problem with this is it’s not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim *..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple*.

    C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban against *whole blood* has killed thousands.

    D) once they recruit you they will *love bomb* you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off.

    My family was spiritually and financially swindled by the Watchtower society,
    3rd generation Jehovah’s Witness Danny Haszard
    *Tell the truth don’t be afraid*

    Danny Haszard | Jun 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. This is surely a great PR disaster for the WT. Shooting themselves in the foot. I spent some time wondering whether it was perhaps a parody. But how on earth can you parody this kind of idiocy?

    Rob Crompton | Jun 1, 2012 | Reply

  3. I could hardly belief these videos weren’t a spoof either. You did a great job of pointing out exactly why they are so disturbing, i.e. how deeply manipulative and unreasonable the parental “reasoning” is.

    Clair | Jun 1, 2012 | Reply

  4. I am not an ex JW and have never been in the cult. As an outsider I found this whole story hilarious, sad, disgusting, and almost unbelievable. It shows a form of psychological child abuse.

    I will be spreading it around my secular friends as I think they should know about this and I think it will change their attitude.

    A lot of my friends say “I respect religious people as long as they leave me alone; they are good people and harmless, if a bit irritating”.
    After seeing this video they will find it hard to respect JWs and will have just an inkling of the harm they cause.

    Alyssa | Jun 1, 2012 | Reply

  5. Notice too that Caleb’s Mom has a major camel toe in the video.

    bethel dumbass | Jun 2, 2012 | Reply

  6. Notice too that Caleb’s Mom has a major camel toe in the video

    bethel dumbass | Jun 2, 2012 | Reply

  7. I still can’t believe that the bOrg could be so stupid. This will be fodder for apostate satire for the next year or two.

    Waiting eagerly for their next brainwave.

    Aurelius | Jun 4, 2012 | Reply

  8. I really, really, really, really, really hope this meme grows beyond just the JW community. I doubt it, though. One thing I’ve learned is that the general public really doesn’t give a shit about Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether current or former. That said, I hope the cynical side of me is wrong, because it would be incredible to see something created by the Watchtower become an internet meme BEFORE MOST WITNESSES EVEN SEE IT. These DVDs haven’t even been released to most JWs yet, and you know how secretive the society is about upcoming releases (I’ve known of people who were kicked out of bethel for telling relatives about upcoming literature to be released).

    Brian | Jun 4, 2012 | Reply

  9. Brian,
    I understand where you are coming from about the attitude of the general public to JWs and exJWs, but as a non Witness myself,(see my post above), I have found that the indifference quickly disappears when you meet someone or hear about a person with whom you are personally aquainted whose life is being or has been damaged by the cult.

    What I learned about the JWs horrified me and I started telling all my other friends expecting them to be equally disturbed. I found they were interested up to a point and expressed disgust, but in a detached way and then moved on and forgot.

    But then when some of them actually met my ex JW friend and saw the pain on her face when she explained what had happened to her, they too became personally affronted and wanted to ‘do’ something. Now they have more information and a person to relate to it’s a different story and like me, they will do all they can to attack the religion.

    I think the problem is that many exJWs understandably feel very uncomfortable talking about their former beliefs to outsiders,(my friend is fearful of being labelled a religious nut-job), so the ‘world’ just continues to think about the cult in abstract terms and is not engaged emotionally.

    So to all exJWs out there, if you have the courage, tell people you know about your past life and help them really feel the agony rather than just thinking about it.
    As for me, I will always be on your side and am still learning, so that when JWs come to the door I am armed with facts,and if I have the opportunity to help any exJWs, I will.Meanwhile I am spreading the news far and wide about the Sparlock debacle!

    Alyssa | Jun 5, 2012 | Reply

  10. In the video where Caleb gets footprints on the floor his mother just cleaned, the video starts out with Caleb playng with a WAR PLANE. It appears to be an F4U Corsair.
    In the Sparlock video, if the parents don’t want him to have the toy, why didn’t they have Caleb return it to the schoolmate? Caleb could have explained to the schoolmate WHY it would be wrong for him to have it…and that could have led to a witness the to schoolmate and his parents. But instead, here’s how things went the next day at school:

    Schoolmate: where’s the toy I gave you?
    Caleb: My mom made me throw it away. Let’s read the tract I gave you yesterday.
    Schoolmate: My mother made me throw the tract away.

    a pilot | Jun 5, 2012 | Reply

  11. I’ve got a different take on it Alyssa.

    Leaving the JWs is an incredibly stressful experience. You have to deal with several things on the road to getting normal.

    If you were born-in (as opposed to converting as an adult) you have no social skills. You’ve been trained to view anyone who thinks differently as “worldly” and the only reason to pursue any kind of friendship is to convert them. They are wrong about everything, you are right about everything, and diversity of opinion is evil. You are awkward in nearly every social situation, and extremely awkward with the opposite sex. It’s as if you’re a 13 year old in an adult body.

    You also need to deprogram, to get the theology out of your head and grow a functional bullshit meter. When you’ve had nonsense poured into your skull for decades you can’t flush it out in a day or a week or a year. Even when you know, rationally, that Armageddon isn’t coming tomorrow, you’ll have emotional reactions to earthquakes, crime sprees, and the like. It can take quite a while to get reason to overcome your emotions instead of the other way around.

    When you leave the JWs, you have no support system – no friends, often no family, not even a collection of acquaintances. Your social awkwardness makes this even more difficult to overcome.

    So with all of that, an ex-JW has a lot to deal with. Telling people that you are an ex-JW can make things worse, not better, because they do think of you as a freak. (And, until you clear your head out and become a real person, they’re right.) It’s best to keep your past to yourself in most situations. It’s no one else’s business.

    First, you’re a JW. Then you’re an ex-JW. Ex-JWs always have something in the back of their mind saying “that’s what I used to be. I must overcome it.” The final goal, the one hardest to reach, is to become an EX-ex-JW, where it’s a part of your past but it doesn’t matter anymore. You stop thinking of yourself as an ex and start thinking of yourself as a person. Once someone gets to that point they may, occasionally, want to reveal their past to people they know well. Until they reach that point, though, they’re better off saving that for ex-jw forums and get togethers, and keeping it out of the real world they’re building for themselves.

    Dave Hitt | Jun 6, 2012 | Reply

  12. Dave, I completely agree.

    Talking about your life in the cult is like alcohol. It’s a fun thing to do with your friends every once in a while. But do it too much and it ends up ruling every aspect of your life. You become this bitter, single-minded person and nobody wants to be around you anymore.

    If all you do is sit around and rehash your life as a JW, refusing to move on, then you end up one of those sad, stereotypical apostates, spamming blogs with irrelevant and unsolicited background information, or completely making shit up to pimp your 12-hour-long weekly conference call, or being that scary guy outside the kingdom hall who pickets the Memorial, or thinking you and your 5 internet buddies will some day convince the Watchtower to just close up shop because you threw a big enough tantrum.

    Exiting a cult is a great thing, but it’s a means, not an end. The exiting process shouldn’t control you as much as the cult did.

    When I first called an ex-Witness cousin of mind to inform him I had chosen to leave the JWs as well, he told me “don’t let leaving rule your life.” It was one of the best pieces of advice I’d ever gotten.

    P.S. Looks like Pharyngula picked up the story.

    Brian | Jun 6, 2012 | Reply

  13. Hi Dave and Brian,

    Thank you both for your well written accounts of how it feels to be an exJW.

    Sorry I didn’t mean to imply that you ought to be going around telling everyone of your past life and I definitely don’t judge you in any way for keeping it quiet. In fact although I can’t claim to have personal experience, I do understand very well and agree that it is not a good thing to talk about previous beliefs or lifestyle with worldly people, and I know that it can be highly damaging for any religious person but particularly exJWs.

    In fact Dave, your post could have been written precisely word for word by one of my two exJW friends who is now after several years making good progress to becoming an ex – exJW, although its sometimes two steps forward, one back. I know he will never be totally free of the serious effects on his life which sound uncannily identical to your experiences.

    I was just making the comment in my first post that from what I have seen, this unfortunate but unavoidable situation (ie that few of you can talk about your experiences in public) is one of the reasons why the general public aren’t engaged with the issues and just assume the JWs are a benign sect.

    However, that’s where I feel I can be useful in helping your cause….
    Although I have never set foot in a Kingdom Hall, I have learnt a lot from the exJW forums and from my two exJW friends and call myself an “honorary apostate”!

    I have a wide social group of friends and aquaintances and am fairly well known and respected in my local community, so becasue I have no direct connections with JWs I can bring the subject up in conversation in an abstract way and drip feed information such as this Sparlock video to people.

    It’s easy for me to do and people don’t look at me as being odd as I have no obvious bias. In fact they are usually interested to hear more.

    I don’t mention my exJW friends in person out of respect for their privacy unless they give me specific permission to do so.

    But as I said, worldy people usually only show an academic interest in the topic, however with those who have heard my friends’ stories and met them, it’s entirely different. They are happy to sign online petitions to take away tax breaks for the Watch Tower or spread the word of the Sparlock video.

    One of my exJW friends was told by an elder that if she had lived in Jesus’ day, she would have been stoned for what she did, and even though she was unbaptised, she was shunned for a week by her study conductor and made to feel alone and unsupported at a vulnerable emotional time. When wordly people hear stories like this, it gets them angry and they lose the image of the religion being benign and harmless.

    Half of me wants to say … hey do either of you live in the south of the UK as if so I would love to meet up with you for a chat, but the other half takes note of Brian’s comments and maybe for you, talking about your past would not be a good thing!

    Good luck in your progress to freeing your minds and living fulfilled lives.


    Alyssa | Jun 7, 2012 | Reply

  14. Just want to say that ‘a pilot’s post is almost exactly my experience becoming an ex-JW .. .then an ex-ex–JW.

    It’s been 25 years since I left. Although I’ve been lucky enough to create a great life, I still see myself as separate from the rest of humanity and find all humans threatening at a very primal level of my brain where reason and experience don’t have much influence.

    Zef | Jun 7, 2012 | Reply

  15. What struck me about the mom was how tired/upset she seemed to be most of the time. Reminded me of how tired/upset most of the women in the org. are.

    I don’t understand why Bethel is choosing to go this route, taking poetic license with the Bible (the snake dangling Sparlock as a temptation). “The Prince of Egypt” movie (DreamWorks, 1998) was highly criticized by JW’s for taking poetic license with the Bible, yet here the Governing Body is sanctioning the same kind of thing. I would much prefer it if the organization would stick to what the Bible really teaches, instead of crossing the line and brow-beating people into their way of thinking. They would be more successful as a whole if they taught people to train their conscience using the Bible, instead of drilling it into their heads, “You must obey whatever is published by the Governing Body.”

    MK | Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

  16. dam. i knew there was a reason i hide under my desk when i see them through the window and knocking on my door.

    Jay | Jun 13, 2012 | Reply

  17. A little philological aside: Why is Caleb called “Caleb”?

    The name is Hebrew, meaning “dog”. One is sorely tempted to read some deeper meaning into this. The kid needs to be trained to OBEY, like any another little puppy.

    “Sit, Caleb, sit! The Governing Body says so!”

    H.K. Fauskanger | Sep 5, 2012 | Reply

  18. The video no longer exists :(

    Awkward Camel Toe | Jan 5, 2013 | Reply

  19. No surprise, they try to get them yanked down as soon as possible. Here’s a rather fuzzy copy they haven’t found yet:

    Searching on “Sparlock” will usually let you find one, somewhere.

    Dave Hitt | Jan 5, 2013 | Reply

  20. The videos are here – on the JW’s official website! :-) I see they seem to have disappeared from youtube …

    MFH | Feb 12, 2013 | Reply

  21. Thanks, MFH. I’ll edit the article to put the link there.

    Dave Hitt | Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

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