Brenda Lee DID it!

Brenda Lee DID it!

OH….my….GOD. Oh, sweet lord in heaven.. (string of expletives following, unsuitable for blog publication).

I can’t believe it. Brenda Lee has done what I’ve fantasized about doing since I was 12. I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying not to think about it, for fear that I might actually do it.

A mildly disrespectful, gum-snapping Brenda attended the Jehovah’s Witness Memorial Service (their annual memorial of the Last Supper, at which almost no-one partakes of the “emblems” of wine and bread) and she…PARTOOK!

SHE DID IT!

Excuse the capital letters, but my heart is still racing in empathy.

It’s so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one to think of doing it. Now that someone has done it, maybe it’s time to let go of that particular fantasy (don’t worry, I have others).

Of course, my fantasy continued after that point. I imagined that I would stand up and say that everyone there should partake of the bread and wine, that to refuse the communion made a mockery of the entire ceremony. It reinforced the idea that almost all Jehovah’s Witnesses were unworthy to share in the spirit – at the same time that they thought they would be the ones sheltered from their loving God’s wrath during the Last Days and through the Apocalypse. Yeah, I thought I’d get a chance to preach a little sermon of my own.

I’m in shock. If you haven’t had any involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it will be difficult for you to fully comprehend the transgressive nature of what she did. The only ones that are supposed to partake are of the 144,00 thousand destined to rule in heaven “as kings” with the Christ (Jesus / the Archangel Michael) after Armageddon. Among other things, they don’t mention any “queens.” I’ve never seen anybody partake. Not anybody.

I had recently ordered another copy of Brenda Lee’s book to send to a friend, but when I saw that she had inscribed the book with a message (Truth, love + light… Brenda Lee), I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. I sent my older copy instead.

After finishing my previous post, I clicked on the Technorati tag at the bottom of the post to check on how things were going with Brenda Lee. I came across the video that way. There is a decent (if a little flippant) introduction, and then – with the help of two accomplices – she filmed the whole thing. And here it is:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcoTE1Skw8A[/youtube]

I was screaming out to John. As much as I’ve tried to convey the effects of having been raised a Jehovah’s Witness, I think he still has a little trouble understanding. I don’t often feel obvious effects of it these days, partly because the work I do trying to help others is extremely healing to me. His own upbringing involved a kind of lukewarm semi-involvement in one of the major protestant denominations, and he’s in the agnostic/atheist camp now. Lately, watching what right-wing fanatics have done in this country, and seeing the daily slaughters over questions of religion in the news, he is even less likely to engage in discussions about spirituality. He smiled mildly at me (yelling “look at this! look at this! She’s doing it! She’s doing it!”) and… well… I guess it’s just one of those things. You had to have had certain kinds of experiences to fully understand. You had to be there…

I somehow thought that if I ever did that, lightning would strike in some way. I would be dragged out by a passel of elders. People would go berserk. Something. Man, she took her time munching that wafer down – very noisy – and gulped down three good swallows of the wine.

And nothing happened. It didn’t even look like anybody said anything to her.

The public is invited to the Memorial, so she was – technically – invited to be there. She wasn’t intruding on a private ritual. A lot more people attend the Memorial than go to the five weekly meetings, or go door-to-door. It’s a chance (as you can hear in the video) for them to preach to newbies, or to family members that aren’t yet JWs, or to the ones that drift in and out.

Of course, they would consider her an apostate for writing a book about her experiences as a JW, and if they had known who she was, they wouldn’t have let her enter. When they print those memorial statistics, just know that one of the memorial partakers is actually an “apostate.” I wonder if they’ll really count her?

I think in a way it was worse for her than for me, because her mother converted when she was a kid. She had already celebrated Christmas and birthdays and all – and then it was taken away. I think that would have been worse than never having known any other way.

I am not baptized according to the doctrine of any religious group. I did participate once in a christian communion – but the circumstances were very unique. At the time, I did feel very moved by the ritual. To me, it’s almost a kind of suggestion, a mind placebo. Or perhaps it’s a kind of witchcraft. I wrote a whole chapter in my dissertation comparing communion and vampirism. When you grow up as a Jehovah’s Witness, you can’t help but think about the symbolism of blood and spirit.

I am still very spiritually driven – I think spiritual independence is one of the aspects of my freedom that I most value.

Still, I feel like whooping in laughter – yes, a kind of mildly wicked kind of whooping – imagining sitting there next to her, and – not being to overcome the expected behavior – whispering, “All right, all right, quit fidgeting! Do you have to chew the gum like that?!?!” and then realizing, and losing my composure, and laughing, laughing, laughing. I would probably have become somewhat hysterical. Even now, I’m not sure that the whole experience wouldn’t have been too traumatic for me to take.

The last time I went to a meeting, many years ago now in my home congregation in Massachusetts, I was hemmed in by older women, then confronted by an elder. And that was before I ever had a web site or anything like that. They just somehow had heard that I was in an MA program in religion. That was enough. I get a shiver even driving by a Kingdom Hall. It’s hard for others to understand. Somehow, at the door it’s different. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had multiple visits from JWs, and gradually I’ve gotten to the point where I have conversations, even somewhat enjoyable ones. But I don’t think I could sit through another one of those meetings ever again.

I can’t help wondering if the entire congregation was staring her down. The elders didn’t even corner her later?!?!

Yeah, I’m expecting some expressions of disapproval in the comments. It was a transgressive sort of thing, kind of like having sex on a church’s consecrated alter (Abelard and Heloise found it rather exciting), but she didn’t really disrupt anything in a major way. Heh-heh. She didn’t make a scene. Considering everything, she showed self-control.

I’m sorry, but on this one I have to laugh. I can only laugh. Oh……oh. On the way out, she advised some JW teens to hang in there – someday this would all be over. That congregation is going to be gossiping about this for a long time to come.

I don’t think I would be able to follow through on going to the Memorial and partaking, because I don’t think I’d be able to resist being a little more… theatrical. Knowing that I would have a hard time resisting the temptation to be very vocal and disruptive, I wouldn’t do it. So, no worries, dear rank and file JWs. You won’t be seeing me at the Memorial. You don’t want me to be there, and I don’t want to be there. It’s too traumatic for me. Even Brenda Lee showed some signs of anxiety and stress as the moment approached.

Of course, if hundreds of other people all over the world all decided to do it at once… hmmm.

My adrenaline levels are still high. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I think I’m going to go outside and giggle helplessly to myself.

Brenda, sweet girl, more details please! Swing by and comment, I beg of you! Send me your phone number immediately! We’ve got to talk!

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23 thoughts on “Brenda Lee DID it!

  1. Wow. Watching this made me vaguely uncomfortable although I have to admit I have wondered about doing this before. No matter how long I am gone from the organization, I don’t believe I could do that without feeling disrespectful.

  2. The Power of Love nibbling at the Love of Power. The Kingdom of God in Kingdom Hall, snapping the gum of Liberation.

    But does Brenda Lee realize that she has alway been invited to partake by God, if not by the Watchtower. In my church, all Christians are positively invited to partake, by the original One who served the “emblems,” Jesus Christ. “This is my body, given for you,” he said, and “Do this in rememberance of me.” Is that invitation edited out of the Watchtower translation?

    Turning the Eucharist into a ritual humiliation which you attend to show your unworthiness stands the Gospel on its head. Where I come from you partake of the Eucharist because it makes you worthy.

    Until now, I appreciated that the Watchtower had appointed itself to guard the border between God’s Kingdom and the Enemy. But only after reading about the Memorial Service and seeing the video, did it occur to me to wonder which side the Watchtower is on.

  3. Here are some comments I received (some obviously from JWs??) about my video (cuss words edited out). Be warned before reading them that some are far more disturbing than my video ever could be. And they call me disrespectful and hateful? Hmmmm:

    • “You f*g suck!!! So what if thats what they believe in, if you pulled this kind of sh*t with any other religious group you’d probably be dead by now,thousands of religions have crazier traditions than this, would you walk into a mosque and piss on their beliefs? No because they would pop a cap in your fat retarded a$$.”

    • “Lady your a sick F#@!er,you should be right along side crazy a** shirley phelps.You know your opposing the truth and you WILL DIE!!!!!!!!! You are both proudly doing the works of the DEVIL!!!!!!!ARMAGEDDON will be here faster than you think lady!!I would come back if i were you!”

    • “YOU ARE A DISGRACE!
    You looked just like a Jezebel, or a “WHORE” of Babylon, as depicted by the society…… your nothing but a stain that will be “washed white” with our saviour jesus christ. I WANT TO KNOW….what went wrong? was it sex? drugs? booze? i was a vile person but i found no comfort in the world, just heartache and a need that could not be fulfilled. i have returned to meetings, no “sh*t’… yes, i used the word sh*t, so what??? jehovah knows my HEART. ”

    • “YOU ARE MASTURBATING AT THE thought of making others hurt or angry. Well, as you know, most Jehovahs Witnesses don’t look at Apostate literature or otherwise. How does that classify me, perhaps STUPID but I’m carrying on from here. I won’t pray for you because you are not a fair person and GOD MY LUV will see to it that the end will come and WHOEVER should live shall live, right? Are you in agreement with AT LEAST THAT! Ha, you make me laugh indeed because you know that God will be the judge and aren’t you the least bit afraid. After all, if what they say is right you’re a true gonner….And who is the one who is hateful. Saying all those things about the “old men” and whatever, you’re a hateful C-nt!…I forgot to mention that you’re not just the fowl names I could call anyone, JUST LIKE ROSIE ODONNEL you’re ugly and fat.”

    —————————————————————

    I find it interesting that the very people who are critical of me won’t tolerate me being critical of Watchtower policies. Seems like a double standard to me.

    Brenda Lee, “Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman’s Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult” http://www.outofthecocoon.net

  4. Heidi, wow. I never fully understood this religion. Being raised a catholic, I think I somewhat comprehend the “violation”! I remember when I was 7 and made my First Communion. We were told how sacred the Host was and never EVER touch it! Only the Priest was “good enough”. Then a few years later, after some health scare, we started getting communion in our hands and we put it into our own mouths. At first it was weird, but we got used to it. I still consider myself catholic, but do not go to church. It is the Catholic Church I have my problems with, but I do consider myself a “spiritual” person. I do feel better when I do attend church and find a peace. But as I get older I wonder, is it a religious experience, or am I finding comfort in old traditions that for me, church brings warm and happy memories of family. I applaud Brenda Lee, she is like the Rosa Parks of Watchtower! LOL I concur that they should have a mass “attack” – everyone go and partake at once! That would be awesome. I would even help! on a sidenote, we had a Jevohvah come to my front door the other day, my youngest son had never seen this before! (we live in a very rural area, this is only the 2nd visit in almost 17 years!) He was disturbed by it. He could not wrap his head around the idea that someone else of a different religion would come to OUR house and try to tell us that OUR religion was no good and they had the only one! (he is 13 – guess I have sheltered him too much?)

  5. Way to go Brenda!! All Christians are free to be part of Christ’s sacrifice. If the Watchtower is really celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice as they claim, there should be no problem with partaking. They really show their true colors with their criticisms.

  6. Hey Brenda, well, after my experience with these superbly two faced individuals – these nasty, vile comments do not suprise me. What are they doing looking at this stuff on the internet, anyway? Hypocrites!!!!! Makes my blood boil, they are so self righteous. I tell you what – it took guts to do what you did. I mean, there may have been some aspects of it that were disrespectful, but the purpose of it was made and that congregation will now have a few more exciting things to discuss among themselves as they walk from door to door this hot summer! They should be thanking you. Do you realize how this will spread throughout this organization….I mean these people are the biggest gossipers ever, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it has reached clear down to Keywest by now. Good for you!

  7. To me this took guts to do, not only because its not “appropriate” to do while you are not one of the “chosen ones”, but because it took the stigma out of it. I feel proud to know this lady and her guts to be chewing gum, saying amen so late, eating the bread and GULPING down the wine…i laughed so hard!!

  8. BrendaLee, you warm the coquelles of my heart. Way to go girl. It is every Christians right to partake of the Wine and Bread and you did it.
    I just love how much of that disgusting wafer you gobbled down and drank three quarters of the wine. Why not, no one else was going to partake so you just really enjoyed that yummy treat.
    Of course never to minimize the holy sacrements of bread and wine, I feel that your approach was to prove a point to the JW’s . Gee I bet that speaker was pissing his pants. And all the other witnesses sitting near to you.
    I think that your courage was wonderful.
    Yes those disgusting comments you recieved from JW.s who call themselves Christians proved by their choice of words, that they are no better than anyone else in any other religion.
    I think you got lots of chuzpah and congratulations for proving to the JWs they don’t have exclusive rights to the memorial celebration or last supper. Christ invited all those wanting to partake of emblems may do so freely.
    I think I might try this next year. As resently being in the hospital an elder showed up at my bed side and we got to talking and I told him out flat, that it has been eight years I haven’t been a witness yet according to the instructions from the FDS you are to call at all ex witnesses homes prior to the memorial and invite them and not one of the elders in those eight years ever showed up at my door to make me that offer. If by chance they offer for next year, I will go and I will partake much to the chagrin of the elders and those GB guys in Brooklyn.
    Go Brendalee you go girl. Love ya much.
    Terry aka Orangefatcat
    Brenda

  9. BrendaLee – I’m still in amazement…
    I was named after a fine wine, although my husband says I’m aging like “milk” – thanks for sharing.

    It seems the JW’s are on top of the charts for Advertising and it seems like they get an “A”. When
    I first came in contact with the Witnesses; they told me they were listed in the directory as a business and remarkably they have an abundance of free Advertizers such as yourself!

    If I remember this correctly~
    The former President, JFK said it best “There is no such thing as bad advertising”
    The Witness slogan “Advertise Advertise Advertise” seems to be climbing the charts thanks to you.

  10. Its very sad that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not realize that The Watchtower Bible and tract Society and its world wide headquarters, are nothnig but terrorist of the worse kind. In that they destroy peoples lives using fear, mind manipulation, and destructive psyhcology to ruin lives throughout the world, and they can’t even defend their actions without lying as have in court in past times!

    You got guts Brenda!!!!!!

  11. Brenda,
    Watching you during the memorial tickled me. I have a ridiculously over-active instinct to obey the rules, even when the rules are ridiculous. Thank you for your courage and good humor.
    I used to make the memorial bread when my husband was an elder. Afterwards we all chowed down on the bread and the wine. It all seems so silly and pseudo-sacrosanct now.
    I always did wonder why the numbers of partakers never really declined like it was supposed to??? No doubt there will be some new light to explain that phenomenon.
    Heidi and Brenda, thanks for providing a sane resource for recovering witnesses.

  12. My mother said that she studied with the JW’s many years ago. They invited her to their Kingdom Hall and when the bread and wine went around she was confused as to why no one was partaking in Jesus’s last supper, so she asked. They told her that only the 144,000 could. She responded with “How do you know that?!” This pretty much ended it right there. These days she’s having her accounts tossed on Christian message boards by the JW’s. It seems they’ve got a vile hatred towards her. She told them that she used to study with them and soon didn’t want anything to do with them when she caught onto their not so very true to the Christian faith and is absolutely loathed by them. She said that from their words it sounds like if the WT had told them that they have a “New Light” and it’s okay to kill her, they’d do it in a heart beat, and they call themselves Christian. I’m agnostic and I wouldn’t treat anyone with even half the disrespect they show other Christians.

  13. What a great disrespect of the ceromony I studied with JW a great deal of my life and even though I do not agree with many of their teachings I would never go to their meetings and be disrespectcful someone should have told her she was not to partake in the emblems before the ceromony.And,if you you can’t go somewhere in public and follow “rules”then stay at home

  14. Partaking in the bread and wine is taught in almost every Christian religion. The whole idea surrounding this elusive “sole” 144,000 going to heaven is rediculous.

  15. I grew up in a Presbyterian church where taking communion was a normal practice for any professing Christian. The church I attend now, is non-denominational, but again communion is taken by all believers.
    Until reading this post, I had no idea that JWs didn’t take communion. Considering that it is clear that the early church did take communion, I don’t understand why JWs think you shouldn’t. Is there some Biblical passage that is the basis, or is it just the watchtower publications that are the used?

  16. During the yearly memorial they pass around bread and wine, but hardly anyone ever partakes of them. They believe that only the 144,000 are part of Christ’s body and spirit. The rest are only the “great crowd.” JWs do not seem to realize what this is really saying about them.

    Still, they believe that the great crowd will live forever on paradise earth. Most of them would rather do that anyone than rule with Christ in heaven.

  17. So was the early church somehow different? Or do they believe that the early church wasn’t supposed to be taking communion either? I believe Paul even referred to it being taken in one of his letters. Though in that case he was telling them that they were doing it wrong.

  18. I think we are all forgetting the big picture.There are so many religions and faiths that it is ridiculous to single out one and their beliefs I hear alot of jokes and people saying things about JWs’ that it concerns me if we all visitited a different church they all have different ways of doing things.sometimes you can go to a church of the same denomination and find it different than the other.I believe that we should all practice the golden rule when speaking to to others and about others.Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  19. The fact that Brenda saw it as her right to partake did not bother me, what I found most upsetting was the way in which she partook.There seemed to be a complete lack of respect for the occasion itself,regardless of what she thinks of Jehovah’s Witnesses the fact remains that they were celebrating Christ’s Memorial as they see fit to do so.To go to a Kingdom Hall and show such distain for Christ’s death as you did left me feeling only sadness.Your aim was obviously to shock those who would have observed you partake,if this was not so you would not have continually drawn attention to yourself by your loud “amen’s” gulping down the wine,open mouth gum chewing,and the other antics that you used during the clip.If we put aside for a momment all your gripes about not being able to partake when you were a jw and how you felt controlled while you were a member of this “soo called cult,” but rather just for a momment reflect on how your actions would have been viewed by your Heavenly Father and His beloved Son, the one who died for “your” sins.
    It then becomes obvious that your actions go way beyond a so called right to protest against a religion that you feel has treated you unjustly.
    To sully a celebration of Christ’s death in such a way surpasses the divide between religious beliefs and personal injustices,it regretfully attacks and makes a mockery of the precious blood that was spilt for all sinners,including yours Brenda.I’m deeply offended that soo many comments have so far made light of this.

  20. Some time has passed. When I reread the post and the comments, I realized that I had left something important unsaid – or maybe not so much unsaid as not said in a way that would be understood by a wider spectrum of readers.

    I agree that the mockery aspect of this is disrespectful and I would normally disapprove of injecting that attitude into any faith community. I would not normally sanction doing anything like this for another group or another other ritual (although I suspect that some groups and some rituals would not be objected to in the way that some have commented). Bear in mind that the whole point of the ritual is to reinforce that you’re _not_ part of the sector of humanity that could be part of grace. Brenda’s actions were not directed at God/Jesus/Spirit but rather they were directed toward the arrogance of the governing body of the corporation that claims to be God’s voice on this earth and who have used their pseudo-ceremony to reinforce a false “second-class” citizen.

    I couldn’t do it, but I am glad someone did it. I think that it was a very important moment for Brenda, and her action was empowering and healing to me, too. In my fantasies, I just thought about what it would be like to actually partake of the emblems, without ever thinking about why they were called emblems and why they never say the words “communion” or “grace.” Even that was so transgressive that I felt a lot of shame for even thinking it.

    Unless you had experienced the mockery made of communion in the first place, it is very difficult to convey why I found this to be so hilarious in its transgressive power. Yes, there were antics… but it was a very powerful psychological moment and a little overkill is both understandable and forgivable because there also had to be some distancing lest it feel like she was approving the JW understanding and thus _really_ participating in the spiritual sense.

    I’m not sure there would be many, if any, Christians that would say that was a true communion or that God/Jesus/Spirit would approve of using a celebration of grace into a tool of segregation and domination. I could be wrong… nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

    Remember, JWs themselves say that they are no part of Christendom.

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