I love watching tennis, especially Wimbledon, and I prefer men’s tennis to women’s…well, most of the time anyway, but I watched the women’s final all the same and after Serena Williams’ recent 2010 Wimbledon victory I was compelled to write something that’s been annoying me for some time.
I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, so I know in no small detail the tenets of the faith, the beliefs, and what it requires of its members. Now I am as strong an atheist as you could find, so I am careless for anyone bringing any religion into disrepute, and Williams’ achievements on the tennis court are nothing short of magnificent, but her behaviour and lifestyle are totally inconsistent with anybody professing belief in the Christian God, the teachings of Jesus, and most importantly, the behaviour demanded of members of the Jehovah’s Witness sect.
From as early as I can remember watching Williams, this didn’t sit right with me. After all, any Jehovah’s Witness can testify how strongly the need to witness is stressed. When does Serena Williams witness? When was the last time she went door to door? Who was the last person Serena had a bible study with? How many people has Serena converted to the faith? (This article states that Serena does go door to door, “when she has time.” Bear that in mind as we continue…)
From this official JW article:
“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses take those words very seriously.
Serena Williams obviously doesn’t.
More from that:
“In short, this world, like a foundering ship, is about to sink! In view of those facts, would it make sense for God to bless each of his servants with material riches, or would God have other priorities for us?” … “At this critical time in human history, God’s people have an urgent work to do”
Urgent work indeed! Like, say…buying into the Miama Dolphins group.
“The sisters saw a marketing opportunity, Kantarian said, but also a chance to extend their reach in the community.”
Which I guess is what Jesus intended when he said in John 18:36: “My kingdom is no part of this world.”
(As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, Serena will of course be familiar with the New World Translation, so I will use that for quoting purposes.)
Not content being the highest earning female athlete of all time, Serena actively looks for way to increase her brand and venture in other avenues of business, such as fashion, commercials, appearing in and writing her own TV shows, and massive sponsorship deals.
But didn’t Jesus say something like: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.” – Matt 6:19. Jesus was right about one thing: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Matt 5:21. And: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. YOU cannot slave for God and for Riches.” – Matt 6:24
Serena’s actions speak to themselves; she slaves for riches. Perhaps in all her years of worshipping her God Jehovah (her words) at the kingdom hall, she didn’t hear the story of the young man who kept asking Jesus what he needed to do to be saved: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower. When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions. But Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to YOU that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.” – Matt 19:21-23
Just how difficult is that, Jesus?
“Again I say to YOU, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” – Matt 19:24
Thanks for clearing that up. The point is not that she’s rich and therefore incredibly unlikely to be saved (albeit a damn good point), but that being more and more successful in her career and accumulating more and more material wealth and persistently looking for ways to market herself and increase her revenue is obviously her primary concern, and not the actions of someone who wants “to get into the kingdom of God”.
But doesn’t she, like every other Jehovah’s Witness, believe she is living in the last days of this world? Instead of hanging onto that World Number 1 rank, or writing her own TV Show, or bringing out her own brand of lip balm, or encouraging people to join her fan club, couldn’t she use her remarkable wealth and position to further the preaching work that JWs are famous for? Perhaps an announcement on her website, or some links to Witness eschatology material? I guess that wouldn’t sit right with her sponsors though…
I mean, if I really believed that very soon “…there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short”, (Matt 24: 21-22)… I would be doing my best to avoid it, and make sure other people knew about it too! Perhaps she just doesn’t “have the time”.
Perhaps Serena thinks it’s enough to just pay lip service to her faith, by throwing in her God amongst the list of supporting people at every tournament win; “I want to thank my god Jehovah” for example.
I guess her God might have a reaction similar to this: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” – Matt 7:21. It’s fortunate for Serena that her God is a figment of her imagination, albeit a very flimsy figment; perhaps the equivalent of a mental lucky charm. Except of course that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in superstition nonsense like lucky charms. Or do they…
“For the 27-year-old, these quirks include bringing her shower sandals to the court, tying her shoelaces a specific way and bouncing the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second. The three-time Wimbledon champ will even wear the same pair of socks during a tournament run. Williams is so set in her superstitions, she has chalked up major losses to not following her own routine correctly.”
Men’s Fitness ranked her the 7th most superstitious athlete of all time. Yet the Jehovah’s Witness official stance is that superstition comes from Satan. No practicing Witness would ever wear any “lucky” object, let alone ascribe any benefit to it.
One of the most un-JW things she’s ever done is tell a lineswoman: “I swear to God I’ll fucking take the ball and shove it down your fucking throat.” Anyone who knows anything about Witnesses knows that profanities are pretty much outlawed. When I watched the video of her outburst I couldn’t help but remember “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” – Matt 5:5.
But every time I watch Serena at tennis finals, played on weekends, I’m wondering why she isn’t at the nearest kingdom hall for the public talk and Watchtower study? Well it’s only a meeting every now and then you might say. Except I’ve been at meetings and huge conventions where Witnesses have been actively encouraged to forgo work and career for the sake of attending even one event.
I can’t comment on Williams’ personal life, since she refuses to be drawn on this issue as well. All we know is that she dates. Yet she is curiously silent on the issue of pre-marital sex. An interview from the article above:
“I ask her if she still subscribes to the idea of not having sex before marriage.
‘I’d definitely take the fifth!’ she says, laughing uncomfortably as she asserts her right to silence.
I ask her if she’s single.
‘I don’t know. I don’t think I’m single.’
You don’t think so?
You’re not sure?
‘I’m sure, but … I don’t like to talk about that.’ She smiles shyly, and looks away.
And then, a little later, she bursts into a fit of laughter she immediately regrets.”
Now, a little earlier in that interview it’s claimed that both Williams’ sisters remain “devoted to their faith.” So why is Serena skirting the issue and “taking the fifth” and giggling like a naughty girl who doesn’t want to be caught out? I’ll tell you why:
Because the official position of JWs is that pre-marital sex or any kind of fornication is strictly forbidden. The Oxford dictionary defines Fornication as ‘voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried couple.’
“Flee from fornication. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body” – 1 Cor 6:18
“For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of YOU, that YOU abstain from fornication!” – 1 Thes 4:3
This is how Serena’s god sees people who engage in pre-marital sex:
“Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10
Although not a JW source, this page has an exhaustive list of bible quotes regarding pre-marital sex.
So…why isn’t Serena proudly declaring her devotion to these beliefs and stating in no uncertain terms that she is staying a virgin until she gets married, since that is what her faith demands? What does she have to hide?
Serena Williams’ speech, actions, and lifestyle speak for themselves. To be a successful athlete and business person requires that one pursue one’s happiness and rational selfish values. In other words, if she wasn’t so blatantly two-faced, I would really respect and admire her. You see, everything about Serena just smacks of an ordinary person trying to make a good life for themselves; enjoying their talent; chasing glory and success. Which I think is admirable, and moral. Except it’s diametrically opposed to everything being a preaching self-effacing meek “poor” Jehovah’s Witness is all about. And that is why she is a hypocrite. She should do the honourable thing and reject all affiliation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, since she is the worst living example of one. But then, she might be disfellowshipped and lose her Witness friends and family. So, like all hypocrites, Serena wants to have her cake and eat it.