A Former Witness Writes

A Former Witness Writes

I don’t know if you remember me but I had wrote you an email about how much I enjoyed your web site. Have you ever seen that video Witnesses of Jehovah? I ordered it. It had a lot of good information but I didn’t like the propaganda style making of the video. The music, the horror stories and them dramatizing the the little girl crying and sitting while saluting the flag (sitting during a flag salute is against Witness doctrine anyways). I grew up a Witness kid and it wasn’t that bad. I did love that animation Jesus story! Watch out Disney!!!! lol All they really had to do is present the facts in a fair balanced way, which they did with exception of those few things I mentioned. Keep in touch and keep up the fair and balanced work you are doing. The truth is there it’s just so hard to get through to them, it is a tremendous amount of mind control they are under. I feel for them because I was there once. Please continue on your crusade and if there is anything I can do to help please let me know.
Respectfully,
Ruben

Hi Ruben! Yeah, there were a lot of things that didn’t ring true in the video for me, but at least it’s a start. I actually enjoyed explaining why I didn’t salute the flag when I was a kid – actually, I still don’t salute the flag. There is something so creepy and nationalistic to me about it.

I feel for most of the people who write to me, but I’ve gotten some serious hate mail too. I seem to really hit a chord with some of them that makes them explode with anger. My idea is simply to try to model simple acceptance and compassion – which I do sometimes better than others – but just to show that there might be other options for their lives than to be the “evil exJW” or to become a fanatic of some other religious outlook. By the way, there are some excellent resources out there now. There is an “Out of the Cocoon” newsletter on my links page put together by a terrific woman named Brenda Lee (she gets little anecdotes and stories from other exJWs that are interesting), and there is a wonderful guy named Richard Francis who runs the Love Ministries (He has some thought-provoking books for download – “Jehovah lives in Brooklyn” was the book that first impressed me) and a blog at http://www.loveministries.blogspot.com/.
I’ve been keeping up on JWs in the news through Silent Lambs (what IS it with religion and pedophilia?) and the Watchtower Information service. I’ve put together everything I can find on my links page. Some of the links have things I don’t particularly agree with, but I figure that each person has to sift through things themselves to the extent that they feel called to do so.

I pretty much steer clear of the biblical interpretation and doctrinal argument sites. Having studied religion academically for many years, I have only become convinced that it’s pretty useless to make arguments without an understanding of the culture of the time and an even deeper understanding of Hebrew and Greek. I have my own ideas, of course, but this is the area where people get really irrational and bizarre. And since we’ve pretty much lost the gift of dialogue and debate and communication in a spirit of caring, it doesn’t seem worth it to me to get much involved with that. This is all the more the case when I consider how late in the game came the idea of “inspiration from God,” especially with regard to the text, which was taken through a selection process responsible for things like the burning of libraries. Once you had to basically agree to a loyalty oath to get a government job, once there were defined contours of acceptable christianity that were inline with power and circumscribed by “heresies”, then all the joy and variety of the early christians was pretty much lost. And in the US, it’s obvious more than ever that JWs aren’t the only ones who have completely gotten off track with regard to the central messages. It seems to me that all gifts are necessary when they show the “gifts of the spirit” – and the flip side of that of course is that when they bear “fruit” that it destructive and anti-love, it’s time to reassess.

My feeling is that one first has to absorb the milk of loving kindness, forgiveness, compassion, love, empathy – and it is more the practice of these that leads to deeper wisdom than anything else. When you then return to the text, it just reads differently from an entirely new perspective. Or as the JWs say – you are ready for more substantial “food” and see through the glass less darkly. To me, this is a lifetime journey required of all of us, not the responsibility of a handful of men in Brooklyn (or Washington…or).

So I guess what I’m trying to say in this roundabout fashion is that I’m not at all on a crusade. Some people can find a right path for them in the center of the JWs – there are those with the “spirit” who are JWs, as there are in any religion, all religions. But I think JWS are left stranded in ways that those in other religions may not be – and at least I can offer some alternate ways to think about themselves, some practical nuggets to survive and thrive, point to some other resources, and reframe things enough that perhaps it is a little bridge to the next stage. That’s all I can really hope for – it’s little enough in the scheme of things. I had some wonderful teachers that collectively helped me just to take that couple of steps, to give myself permission to find a more authentic way of being that was actually truer to what I felt to be a calling, a reorientation (an attunement that is at the same time an atonement). If I can show someone that there is a bridge, that they are not alone in placing the next stepping stone in front of their feet, then I feel that I have done as I could do, with honor and ethics and care. We all need a reminder that our choice is less between God and the World (or Evil) than between love and nothing. I need that reminder too, and this also helps me to remember – to repent in the old sense of “turn again” – turning again to that principle, reorienting again to the direction of love.

What can you do to help – nothing that I can think of for me, but probably lots and lots and lots for yourself and others. Caring and kindness sure go an awfully long way!

R: I believe you misunderstood me when I said you were on a “crusade”. With what I’ve read on your website I know you are not out there to bash on Witnesses but to help those who need it, like you mentioned in your response. I do feel that your intentions are good and you are trying to help others. Keep up the good work.

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