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:
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!