Demon-haunted Pawtucket


I walked into Books on the Square intending to buy one book and walked out with another. The title grabbed me–‘I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed– tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing’, by Kyria Abrahams. The cover alone made me laugh out loud.

Abrahams grew up in Pawtucket in the ‘80’s, and her book is full of local references–fun reading for Rhode Islanders. Does she paint an accurate picture of the Witnesses? Her book won’t be on their recommended reading list.

Her chaotic childhood in JW might be the exception– particular to her own family and her personal experience of church. But much of it rings very true to me. I attended an Assemblies of God church for three years and many of the beliefs and practices are the same. For instance, a belief in demons….

“Mostly our literature and sermons stressed that true Christians must keep free of the lure of spiritism. Youngsters needed to learn that a game of Dungeons and Dragons will possess you within 14 seconds of the first dice roll and send you running off a cliff. Traditional folk-art hex signs from Pennsylvania Dutch country were made by witches and would bring demons into your home. Used books purchased at yard sales were once owned by devil worshipers.”p.38

I’d think she was making this stuff up if I hadn’t witnessed invocations and exorcisms both in the Catholic Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. She is not exaggerating. And then there’s the imminent end of the world–not much point in planning for the future. Everything is going to be demolished and afterward God will provide. Also, almost everyone you know is going to Hell. That’s the AG.– I think the JW’s believe in the total annihilation of the wicked. And God is very concerned with everything you do, and keeps count of every stain on your soul. That’s the Catholics.

My Pentecostal church tried to get me to witness, but at least I didn’t have to go door to door…

“Lisa interrupted, “So, would you like to get your Bible?”
“Lisea, one of the neighbas called the cops on my sistah yestaday. She went to the packie to get Camels and left the winda screen up. So the neighba seen her kid in the winda and called the cops. Jesus Christ, right? It’s not like the kid fell out or anything…”
This was the entire Bible study. p.161

Abraham’s book is very funny, and at the same time very sad. She keeps a light touch on heavy subjects. I am about 3/4 through and am struck by how her sometimes rough sense of humor covers an evenhanded compassion for her young self, her stressed and angry parents, her friends and co-religionists and her partner in a disastrous teenage marriage.

She’s outrageously honest without self-pity.

I once heard a talk by a distinguished witch and radio journalist, Margot Adler. She said that the challenge of our age is to learn how to balance the mystical and the rational. The challenge of our nation, too.

Abraham’s book gives a view of a world where people live as much in the spiritual realm as the physical. Where their actions and motivations come from prophetic scripture. Knowing that world helps us to understand our society better, and understand other societies where people make their plans based on an expectation of apocalypse in our time.

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