Since August of 2011, I, Jeff Steck, have been planning an art exhibition with an artist who is a former Jehovah’s Witness. Artist Jess Black, who abandoned the JW religion when he was 17, wanted to do a collection based on what he believes are manipulations, oppression, and inconsistencies within the JW religion. After careful consideration Jess decided to call the collection, Leather Bound in Black or Red. He explained, “Every time we were issued new bibles we were asked if we wanted them leather bound in black or red.”
Personally, I thought this would be an interesting direction for his career. I had no idea this collection would receive international attention and produce fear in those who are both practicing and those who have left the Jehovah’s Witness religion. This is not like rebeling against Catholicism. You abandon the Jehovah’s Witnesses and they will ruin you.
Alright, many of you will believe that last sentence is an exaggeration. Let’s explore. If you decide to abandon or reject the JW faith (usually something that develops over years) you will experience the common practice of shunning. Big deal you think, so people in the church will not talk to me, who cares? What needs to be understood is that for a follower’s entire life he has only associated with people within the church. A Jehovah’s Witness is not permitted to have casual association within anyone outside the religion and this includes family. So, if you want to leave you must be prepared to lose everybody. You will lose your entire support system. Parents, siblings, and best friends will all shun you. Many find a parent abandoning her child unlikely, but they do because their fear is stronger than their family bonds. The belief is that by shunning the deserter he or she will eventually return. We have received countless emails from people who have told us that their mothers and siblings will no longer speak with them and that they do not have a home. At the age of 30 it is as if they have just been born. They are lonely and scared.
Jess Black is releasing an entire collection of art on January 18, 2012, that explores his relationship with the Jehovah’s Witness religion. While some of his experiences were positive, overall he believes the religion is cultish and uses fear and manipulation to keep its followers. He is releasing this collection without fear. It is not only cathartic for him, but he also wants to demonstrate to others how life can become wonderful once you leave the dogma behind. This collection will debut at 5:00pm pst on January 18, 2012 and remain live through January 31, 2012, at http://www.boundinblack.com.
He encourage emails from those of you who need support. We have found quite a few websites and Facebook pages dedicated to helping disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses. Simply by doing a web search “Jess+Black+Jehovah’s+Witness” you will find all types of information about Black’s forthcoming collection.
For more information on Jess Black please visit his website at www.jessblackart.com