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Truth Be Told – in Atlanta Oct 29th

Truth Be Told – in Atlanta Oct 29th

Gregorio Smith has announced the Atlanta premiere of his controversial documentary film about growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, TRUTH BE TOLD. Due to the recent publicity of several child sex abuse cases against the religion, this film exploring the oppressive hold the Watchtower Society has on its members is particularly timely. TRUTH BE TOLD will be screened exclusively on Tuesday October 29, 2013 at AMC Phipps Plaza 14. Get your tickets now!

TRUTH BE TOLD – a new feature-length documentary – lifts the veil on the seemingly benign Jehovah’s Witnesses religion to expose a profit-driven, isolationist culture characterized by fear, totalitarian corporate leadership, intellectual & spiritual intimidation, suspension of critical thinking, failed prophecies, doctrinal inconsistency and improper handling of physical and sexual abuse allegations within the church.

See former Jehovah’s Witnesses candidly discuss growing up inside the religion. They reveal experiences including the effects of proselytizing door-to-door, shunning non-observant family and friends, suffering the discouragement of pursuing dreams like gaining a higher education, missing other societal holidays and customs. Ultimately the film reveals why Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religion with only 37% of those raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses continuing their affiliation with the religion.

This exposé – the title of which refers to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ perception that their beliefs are ‘the truth’ – is the first feature-film directed by Gregorio Smith.

Trailers, excerpts, production stills and other content are available on the official TRUTH BE TOLD website: www.hereliesthetruth.com
Direct link to trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4nqYtzDaGE
TRUTH BE TOLD on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hereliesthetruth
On Twitter: @TRUTHBETOLDDOC
About the Filmmaker
Gregorio Smith is an independent filmmaker and writer. His work has been featured in the Staten Island Film Festival, Anthology Film Archive, Dallas Video and Film Festival, Denver Underground Film Festival, Bowery Poetry Club and other forums. His work has also been covered by The New York Times, Boston Globe and other media outlets. He is a graduate of Baruch College and a member of the International Documentary Association.
Mr. Smith was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness. He describes TRUTH BE TOLD as ‘immersive, informational, expository and controversial …an honest glimpse into the culture of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion.” TRUTH BE TOLD is the director’s sixth film and first feature.

See details and trailer here (http://www.tugg.com/events/5867).

Truth Be Told

Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

I am overjoyed to see some traction on this issue at last.

The jury found that the elders who managed the Fremont congregation in the 1990s and who were under the supervision of Watchtower knew that Kendrick, a member, had recently been convicted of the sexual abuse of another child, but they kept his past record secret from the congregation, said Simons. Kendrick went on to molest the plaintiff, who was a Jehovah’s Witness member in Fremont, over a two-year period beginning when she was 9 years old, the lawsuit contended. Kendrick was eventually convicted in 2004 of the sexual abuse of another girl, and is now a registered sex offender in California, Simons said. He has not been criminally charged with abusing the plaintiff, but Simons said the case is under investigation by law enforcement.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity, is responsible for the entire punitive damages amount and 40 percent of the compensatory damages, said Rick Simons, attorney for the plaintiff. Sixty percent of the compensatory damages was assessed against Jonathan Kendrick, the man accused of abusing her.

Yes, the Watchtower Society (along with their other “arms,” aka the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”) have a policy of secrecy, as has been proven through the elder’s manual, “judicial” correspondence, the database of abusers that a Bethelite discovered, and numerous court cases that show that they neither notify the congregation nor even attempt to protect children when they are aware of sexual predators and violent abusers in their midst.

The key issue in the case, according to the victim’s attorney Rick Simons of Hayward, was the written policy of Watchtower New York, Inc., which instructed all Elders in Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations in the United States to keep reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses secret to avoid lawsuits. The case is believed to be the first in the nation to directly address the policy of secrecy, adopted in 1989, and still in force today.

Yes, they have a policy of requiring two witnesses to any act of abuse (any attempt by a victim of any kind of abuse to get help from the elders, even with support from someone else, is considered “slanderous.”) They have to twist a rather obscure bible verse out of context to support this doctrine. And – of course – they encourage spying and reporting for all kinds of other things, some of them rather trivial.

Yes, they have a history of discouraging members from seeking help from any “worldly authorities” such as police or therapists. Such “worldly authorities” are believed to be ruled by Satan and therefore cannot be trusted. This effectively cuts off all possibility of help for those who wish to remain “in good standing.”

Yes, they have a policy of lying in court, which they call “theocratic strategy.” They comply with the law only just as far as they have to, but prefer to be the only authority in their member’s lives. They hide their totalitarianism with “servant” language, but some people might have a better historical idea of what a “circuit overseer” or “district overseer” might really be.

They need to change these policies, and others (such as the demonizing and shunning – even by their families – of those who eventually choose a different path in the freedom of conscience that they freely claim when trying to convert others).

In 2007, 17 victims shared a $13 million dollar settlement from church officials. It involved victims in three states California , Texas and Oregon and six Jehovah Witnesses perpetrators.

To those who have been making unfounded accusations about Candace Conti’s motives, please note that she requested 144,000 cents in punitive damages, and the jury instead granted 21 million (plus one!) dollars. I hope that his case – and the financial costs to Watchtower Society, including those of the many others who were silenced with settlements including gag orders – will force whatever section of the legal organization currently responsible for “new light” (changes in doctrine) to be less paranoid, misogynistic, and uncaring when they exercise their “guidance” as “God’s only channel.”


144000 cents requested, 21 million +1 awarded in punitive damages
Punitive Damages: 144,000 (!) cents Requested – 21 million plus 1 (!) dollars Awarded. Thanks to Steven Unthank at JWNews.net for the graphic.

“Until now, a jury has virtually never held the JW national headquarters responsible for repeated heinous child sex crimes and cover ups by church members or officials,” said William H. Bowen of Nashville, TN, who founded and heads a support group for those molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This is a ground-breaking case and a watershed award against an especially callous group of church bureaucrats.”

The Watchtower legal troops haven’t given up yet:

“We’ve got a long ways to go yet before this one is resolved,” he said of the planned appeal. Simons said Jehovah’s Witnesses has sufficient resources, including valuable real estate, to cover the judgment but an appeal could drag out for years.

Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in their humble claim that they alone possess “the TRUTH” or not (and personally speaking, I don’t believe theirs is a very spiritually mature view of the divinity), they have a responsibility under the law to be less destructive.

“Nothing can bring back my childhood,” Conti told the Oakland Tribune. “But through this (verdict) and through, hopefully, a change in their policy, we can make something good come out of it.”

More! Added 6/17/2012:

Grief for a View of the God-Character

Grief for a View of the God-Character

I remember the primal anguish that is born out of the belief that God is the source of both love and pain.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that the feeling toward the universe it engendered is very similar to that of a hostage, a victim of abuse, a prisoner. Instead of creating a subjectivity of love in freedom, of caritas and kindness, and peace, it seemed to create an obsessive and paradoxical longing and fear that felt so meaningful that it was difficult to release.

The first stage of exit was pure rage, in my case perhaps only because of some hard-wired sense of self-preservation. If I hadn’t become angry enough, I never would have left. Yes, I also wouldn’t have spent years in college, or racked up student loans, or seen my career path veer off into something I never expected, but I also wouldn’t have had anywhere to stand, wouldn’t have slowly reconstructed a space in which I could live.

I’ve been thinking about the pathological aspects of religion for many years now. Talking with others who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses has been very healing, and I’m so very happy that such discussions have been made available. I was alone, it seemed, at first. As much as our conversations mutually heal, there are still times when the raw feelings burst through. Yes, even now when it seems that early experience shouldn’t matter anymore, I look around at our cultural landscape and see all the similarities to the dynamics that I felt way back then. The stated arguments, then the cruelties beneath them. It’s part of the reason that I follow politics so closely.

When you’ve lived in a space where justice is proclaimed, but unkindness rules, you feel things. I’ve always been too sensitive to that difference, to the unfairness, and it’s only expanded into more understanding of structural, institutionalized unfairness. For that reason, I was never able to reach that enlightenment space that some highly-evolved religious people sometimes reach, where you’re in tune with the love of the cosmos and shine out in peace and love because of that.

I am amazed at people who first question God because of logical arguments – it’s why I was first interested in philosophy and theology. I never expected answers, I was just fascinated that anyone could ever manage to think clearly about an embedded belief system. For me, the questions just keep getting better and better.

But first, I had to step away from the thing that felt so inherent to my soul. It helped and hurt that I was a woman, and one gifted with both imagination and intelligence. I was rewriting stories all the time.

Throwback moments are still powerful because I still recognize them. If they ring true, they can almost call me back. Some versions of religion look nice, but they don’t address this hard-core total involvement of the person. The pathological edges of religion do – and this, I think is both their advantage and their biggest threat. They encourage power distortions – masochism and sadism, entwined, enthrallment and rebellion, entwined. Fanaticism has incredible payoffs. I understand.

When I saw the song below performed, I didn’t know the words. I didn’t have to know them, although they do fit (a bit strangely so).

What I saw was a priestess exorcising her demon. It was so powerful that I was shaken for the rest of the night.

Every time I hear it, like I accidentally did over my morning coffee, I feel it punch the solar plexus of my soul. I cry every time, and I always remember, I remember how it felt.

This was how I felt about God.

Although I haven’t been in that particular space for many years, it still has a power, and as much as I remind myself of the path of forgiveness and kindness and peace, as much as I am more lovingly attuned now, I still lack the total transformation that would make this song just a song like any other.

Music is a personal thing. Everyone projects onto music to some extent. This is not meant to be a song about God, but it resonates there for me.

For you. In remembrance, in grief. To sing, to exorcise your demons, and perhaps to be able to voice some aspect of the experience that conversation can’t really ever address. But, lovelies, sing something sweet afterward… If you can grok it, this one takes strength to hear.

Alanis Morissette, “Sympathetic Character”

I was afraid you’d hit me if I’d spoken up
I was afraid of your physical strength
I was afraid you’d hit below the belt
I was afraid of your sucker punch
I was afraid of your reducing me
I was afraid of your alcohol breath
I was afraid of your complete disregard for me
I was afraid of your temper
I was afraid of handles being flown off of
I was afraid of holes being punched into walls
I was afraid of your testosterone

I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you

You were my best friend
You were my lover
You were my mentor
You were my brother
You were my partner
You were my teacher
You were my very own sympathetic character

I was afraid of verbal daggers
I was afraid of the calm before the storm
I was afraid for my own bones
I was afraid of your seduction
I was afraid of your coercion
I was afraid of your rejection
I was afraid of your intimidation
I was afraid of your punishment
I was afraid of your icy silences
I was afraid of your volume
I was afraid of your manipulation
I was afraid of your explosions
I have as much rage as you have
I have as much pain as you do
I’ve lived as much hell as you have
and I’ve kept mine bubbling under for you
(repeat 2 x)

You were my keeper
You were my anchor
You were my family
You were my saviour
and therein lay the issue
and therein lay the problem

In Response to Struggling ExJWs

In Response to Struggling ExJWs

Why call upon the anecdotes of men, living or dead, as appeals to authority on the status of God? Why continue arguing these dogmas?

There are sacred texts all around the world and across time and languages and cultures. To think that you can dictate to others what their relationship is to God is fairly arrogant. One might even call it hubris, the downfall of that most famous angel of light (Lucifer) in the biblical narrative.

Each person interprets their own experience, and one person’s interpretation of the unknown has no more weight than your own. Even if the majority disagree, there is no assurance that anyone is right or wrong. Direct apprehension of the divine is a mystical stance – one that I myself have felt – but each person’s path is their own, and the emotional feelings of dependence or awe or fascination or repulsion or indifference have absolutely nothing to do with truth value. Nor can you argue the extra-human with human logic. The fact is that all these are very mysterious, possibly mythological, possibly compensating for psychological desires.

You can’t, and I believe shouldn’t, push your interpretation on others. It is their own life task to ask their own questions and to find their own center of authenticity. No matter how good-hearted in intent, you can only move others astray from their own path when you argue about it. I prefer to plant a seed of compassion and kindness – the heart of all spiritual truths – and then really try to step aside.

The whole point of recovery is not hatred; it is the freedom to follow your own heart and mind (and your own calling) and not be so screwed up by the agendas of others in doing so.

Interesting Developments in the ex-Jehovah’s Witness Community

Interesting Developments in the ex-Jehovah’s Witness Community

I’m in regular contact with a number of other former Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. Now that an entire community has built up, there is a lot of support at peer level. If you’re looking for feedback and stories from others there are a lot more resources now than the ones on my original list. Facebook has some good, smart, creative people who moderate discussions in the various groups – do a search. A good place to start is Jehovah’s Witness Recovery. At the very least, it’s extremely comforting to know that you are not alone.

One danger of just talking with other former JWs is that we are *all* still navigating – sometimes that’s really helpful, but sometimes you might find it frustrating. A therapist or therapist-guided group is very important for your psychological thriving, especially since JWs are trained to use a particular kind of logic and often have some significant blind spots with regard to self-awareness.

There are also some faintly predatory (to me, they seem that way) “cult-deprogrammers” out there. I’m not going to name names on this, but I will say that your spiritual path is your own. It’s one of the primary benefits of getting out of a controlling group – don’t give it up! You are much better off exploring your own questions across a variety of communities than submitting to another authority.

With that warning in mind, there are some wonderful things that you can accomplish with a therapist who understands religious trauma, and there are support groups – formal and informal – with whom you will discover issues and solutions and a sense of camaraderie. I can recommend the group associated with JourneyFree.org, and if you’re in the San Francisco area you might be interested in a recovery retreat coming up July 29th to August 1st. I very much like what I see in Dr. Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. There is also an ongoing online support/therapy group with regular conference calls, as well as other support services. Check it out.

If you’re looking for a therapist in your own area, some good signs are a focus on religious trauma, some methodology that includes both cognitive and emotional therapy – and that “click” you might feel around a smart and compassionate person. You should be able to get quite a lot out of therapy right away, and you should collect any exercises that help you for when you might need to be reminded again of your choices.

I am also a big fan of reading other people’s stories. I think we learn best from stories. In addition to developing empathy and compassion, it allows you to set certain kinds of thoughts at one remove, and to start recognizing that certain patterns of thinking and writing are very familiar. The same sorts of issues emerge time and time again – family issues, self-esteem issues, doctrinal issues, and what I would call basic themes of unfairness, injustice, and lack of kindness.

I recently read companion pieces that touched me very deeply. The first is published letter of disassociation, written in response to a news article in 2008. It’s long, but worth the read.

The second was an essay meant as a response to the *response* that the published letter received. This was someone who examined his own beliefs, trusted in his own observations, and communicated them in a way that is often very difficult to do. While much of his concern had to do with doctrinal matters, you can see the way that his heart and mind opened up to what he had already always known about the basics of human caring, even as the essay itself will ring a familiar tone and pattern to the knowledgeable. Thank you, Vinny (Hawaiian Photos) for giving me permission to publish this on the blog. It illustrates the effects of being in the organization – any former JW knows exactly why you would write in this style and structure. It also illuminates some of the pivot-points at which one might find the deep courage to leave (even at great loss), rather than continue to participate. You’re not done! Keep going on your path, dear! <3

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses The True Religion? Are they Truly Directed By God?

I was continuously taught at meeting after meeting, and fully believed — as has every Jehovah’s Witness that I have ever met and known — that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (also known as the Faithful and Discreet slave and Watchtower Society) are God’s Specifically Chosen Channel on the earth today, and that he uses them exclusively to direct his will on the earth and to direct his specially chosen people, the Jehovah’s Witness Religious Institution and its members.

The Watchtower Magazine and other Witness literature is believed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be just how God communicates his will on earth today through that Governing Body, God’s supposed Instrument of communication. This harmonizes with what the Watchtower Magazine itself has said throughout the years about itself.

1919 “Is not the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society the one and only channel which the Lord has used in dispensing his truth continually since the beginning of the harvest period?” {WT Apr 1 1919 6414}

1933 “To feed or teach his people the Lord has used the Watch Tower publications.. No man is given any credit for the wonderful truths which the Lord has revealed to his people through the Watch Tower publications.” {WT Dec 1 1933 263}

1939 “It should be expected that the Lord would have a means of communicating to his people on the earth, and he has clearly shown that the magazine called The Watchtower is used for that purpose.” {YEAR 1939 85}

1942 “The Watchtower does not consist of men’s opinions” {WT Jan 1 1942 5}

1957 “Jehovah has established a very definite channel of communication through which he deals with his people .. It is vital that we appreciate this fact and respond to the directions of the ‘slave’ as we would to the voice of God.” {WT Jun 15 1957 370}

1969 “Jehovah’s organization as directed by his ‘faithful and discreet slave’ class should influence our every decision also. {WT March 15, 1969 172}

1973 “Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book.” (Watchtower; July 1, 1973, pp. 402.)

1979 [Of those living at the time of Armageddon, only Jehovah’s Witnesses will be saved] {WT Feb 15 1979 30}

1993 “But if we were to draw away from Jehovah’s organization, there would be NO PLACE ELSE TO GO FOR SALVATION”… Watchtower 9/15/93 page 22 :

SEPTEMBER 1996 Kingdom Ministry (Page 1 paragraph 3) Article titled, Walk by Faith: “We must also be firmly persuaded that Jehovah is leading us by means of his visible organization under the direction of ‘the faithful and discreet slave.”

SEPTEMBER 2002 Kingdom Ministry (Page 8 paragraph 5)
Article Titled, Avoid the Pursuit of Valueless Things: “Bear in mind that our heavenly Father has an appointed channel of communication,’the faithful and discreet slave.’ That “slave’ has the responsibility to determine what information is made available to the household of faith, as well as ‘the proper time’ for it to be dispensed. This spiritual food is available only through the theocratic organization. We should always look to God’s appointed channel for reliable information’ Matt. 24:45.”

Clearly then, anybody can see that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach the belief that God has chosen only the Watchtower leaders as his “Channel of Communication”, and that Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves are admonished to follow all of these specific teachings that are published in their literature as if it was coming from God Himself. And as already mentioned, as a 15 year member and elder, this is exactly what I believed as do all Jehovah’s Witnesses that I have ever known.

So then, the question remains, are these claim TRUE? Has God chosen The Watchtower as his specific and only religion on the earth?

For me, after a thorough examination of the full range of facts as they truly and honestly are, the answer has become a very clear and resounding NO. If I had known back then in 1990, when I was baptized as a Witness, what I know now today in Nov 2010, I would have never been baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. But back then, when I was studying the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses there was no internet to use to gain valuable information and to examine the Witness faith as well as its history like there is today. I basically took their word for it when it came to information they presented to me, as well as what they present to all potential Jehovah’s Witness Bible studies, namely –their version and their side–.

So then what caused this change in my position and belief that God chose the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses as his channel and people?

For me it was a combination of learning about Mistake after mistake having been made (throughout the entire 100-plus year existence of the Watchtower Society); A back and forth Flip-flopping again and again on numerous doctrinal positions; Several well publicized end of the world predictions that Never Came True; Terrible Watchtower Society positions against often LIFE-SAVING medical procedures such as vaccinations, organ transplants and blood transfusions that have literally caused thousands of people to die unnecessarily; the arrogant belief that only Jehovah’s Witnesses are true Christians while all others religions and people of those religions will be destroyed unless becoming a Jehovah’s Witness;… all this along with a host other strange, inconsistent and even embarrassing teachings and beliefs for over a century now. I have concluded that God would never be behind an organization (that claims he has chosen only them), that has gotten so many things wrong for so long and made so many mistakes, all in verifiable writing, throughout its entire existence on this earth.

This is a link showing just how many mistakes there have been over the years: http://home.tiscali.nl/t661020/wtcitaten/part1.htm

If God were to literally choose just one faith on the earth to represent him and his interests, along with using this same one group to publish his own thoughts, on a variety of subjects and issues, wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that God would do better than what the Watchtower has done with all of these mistakes posted above?

And while some of these policies have been dropped, reversed, adjusted, never came true etc etc; while they were in effect, Jehovah’s Witnesses simply had no choice but to adhere to them, had no choice but to teach them to other people even if they themselves disagreed with them or if they were later proven to be wrong or bad policies. If any Jehovah’s Witness did not support whatever policy was in place at that time they would have to face organizational counsel and discipline, which if not properly accepted, would then lead to being disfellowshipped (ex-communicated) followed by extreme shunning and the losing everybody you know including your very own family members. One cannot disagree with any JW current teachings without facing the severest of punishment in times past as well as today.

Which is exactly what happened to me. One simply cannot disagree with any current WT policies without facing the severest of penalties through extreme shunning by all Jehovah’s Witnesses. For any Jehovah’s Witness that does not comply with these shunning policies, they in turn will face discipline and if not accepting the counsel, they too will then be disfellowshipped and shunned.

I have lost my step son and our first grandchild (now four years old), my brother in law, several business partners, my good name and reputation, I am judged and labeled as some wicked apostate godless man and am shunned by all Jehovah’s Witnesses today.

Why so much severe punishment as this? What is my crime to face such consequences? I simply disagreed with the JW blood policy. I did not take blood. I did not tell others to take blood. I simply DISAGREED with this JW policy and now I am shunned, labeled and judged for the rest of my life along with losing some of the very family I raised. Is this loving, fair or Christian? I have done nothing wrong. After concluding, through enormous efforts, that the Watchtower Blood policy is wrong (just like their no vaccinations and no organ transplants policies were wrong before, I simply could no longer with a clear conscience make other people in my territory accept this policy, which is a mandatory requirement if one wishes to become a Jehovah’s Witness. And because of this I was going to be disfellowshipped. So instead I disassociated at that very same time.

JW’s would like for people to chalk up all those numerous mistakes from the Watchtower Society throughout their entire existence to mere human imperfection. They then often try to compare such Watchtower failures to the mistakes of biblical figures such as King David and the Apostles of the first century. What JWs fails to recognize is that people, as individuals, have always and will always make personal mistakes throughout their lives as imperfect humans. David, Moses, Peter, Paul and many others made mistakes. All Christians today do as well. Even the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves make mistakes as imperfect men.

But as clearly posted above, the Watchtower’s Governing Body is said to be “anointed and directed by God Himself.” It’s in clear print for anybody to read.

But here is the problem: These men of the Governing Body get together as a collective group, they pray for holy spirit to guide them as a collective group, they then make decisions based on being directed by God’s spirit as a collective group, they then publish those decisions in their Watchtower magazines made as a collective group and then force those decisions on all Jehovah’s Witnesses and expect them to live by those decisions at risk of losing God’s favor and threat of disfellowshipping and extreme shunning.

But then when we find out that those decisions had to be dropped altogether, reversed, adjusted, changed and even apologized for, we can clearly see that God was never behind them to begin with. They were wrong the first minute they came off of the presses. God was definitely never behind these many erroneous Watchtower policies despite claims to the contrary.

What JWs fail to differentiate is that Human beings, individually, are allowed to and do make mistakes on a daily basis; including Moses and Jesus own hand-picked apostles. The very Writings (which are claimed to be from God –2Tim 3:16,17 and 2Peter 1:20,21 and Acts 3:21), of these same bible writers however are without mistakes anywhere. When the apostles mistakenly thought the Kingdom was being established at that time, they asked Jesus for clarification. (Matthew 24:1-3). They did not PUBLISH those erroneous thoughts. That’s why the bible is what it is today. Many truly believe it is inspired. Otherwise, if the bible writers had the same kind of track record of mistakes as does the Watchtower Society, the bible would be considered as nothing more than some “good book” and that is it. But to most people it is viewed as the infallible word of God. To most people it gets everything correct.

On the other hand, the very writings of the Watchtower Society (which also claims to be “food from God”, his “mouthpiece” today, “God’s Channel” etc), are filled with mistake after mistake and numerous inconsistencies and eventual embarrasments. Yet JW’s usually want to conveniently just chalk it up to “human imperfection”.

That simply does not work for most thinking people. The Watchtower cannot get a free pass here on all those past and current mistakes and bad policies while claiming God has anointed them and is directing them and them only. Many JW’s try to minimize the mistakes made by the Watchtower Society, as did I for many years. At least the ones I did know about. But you just can’t get away with this that easy. How many people DIED solely due to those bad medical policies which eventually had to be dropped altogether? That’s how bad they were, most had to be dropped, discarded, dumped because they were just that bad. Was God behind them?

Did Jehovah say No Vaccinations for 23 years and then change his mind and say vaccinations are now okay to have? All the while vaccinations were stomping out polio, smallpox and so much more. Did (((GOD))) get it wrong?

Did Jehovah say Organ Transplants are the same as “Cannibalism” and forbid them for 13 years, only to then change his mind and eventually say Organ Transplants are now okay to have? Did God Himself direct those bad policies only to have to drop them later on? And what about the Jehovah’s Witnesses that died by following these policies? Only to have them reversed later. I have read some of these accounts. It breaks your heart to read them.

How many people listened to all of the false end of the world specific dates, published in writing, missed predictions? 1914, 1925, 1975, before the end of the 20th century, before the generation of 1914 dies out and several more than this. Predictions which proved what? Every single one proved False. No hyperbole, all of them. Lives were ruined following the WT leadership with those as well. People gave up families, plans to have children, enjoyable careers… all for what ? For a message that proved untrue over and over again. How “faithful and discreet” is this? What does this say about the WT Society Organization to most people then? What does that say about ANY an organization? And wouldn’t it be reasonable for thinking persons to expect more from a religion that makes the claims of God’s Only True Channel Today?

Is it a lack of faith on the part of intelligent people that reject the Watchtower Society based on so many bad policies and mistakes over the years along with numerous current bad policies? Or would it be irresponsible to just look the other way? Truth can stand up to any challenge. It can hold up to vigorous cross-examination. Yet the average JW knows very little of this past, and just goes along with whatever they are told. So did I. Do people such as myself and many others leave the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses because we have now been blinded and have a wicked heart? Or did we leave because they WERE blinded and NOW have all of the important information to make a better, more educated and complete decision?

How does anybody just go from all these mistakes for the past 100 years made by the Watchtower Society, to the Watchtower Society is the “One True Faith”? The reason is simple; most Witnesses have no idea about these many things I have posted here, just like I never knew about them for 15 years as an active Witness.

And when mistakes are eventually realized by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and new information or a new direction has to replace the old mistaken information or direction by the Watchtower Society, then the Watchtower likes to conveniently call it, “New Light”. As if God has somehow revealed something miraculous again. This works and even gets people excited for most Witnesses readily accept this information since they already believe God has chosen them alone to begin with. But one clear look at the reality would show most thinking people that “new light” has not been revealed at all; but rather, more bad information, mistaken policies, false predictions and wrong beliefs simply need to be replaced due to the realization that these old policies and beliefs are simply proven to not be true.

The generation of 1914 never dying off for example. They had no choice BUT to drop that and find something to replace it with. And then changed it again. The recent change that the 144,000 has not been sealed but is still open. (After all the number of those partaking has only been going up.) Organ Transplants not ever being the same as cannibalism and allowing tens of thousands of people today the added opportunity to live life. On and on we could go filling pages worth of examples that prove new light never happened.

The fact is that new light could more accurately be called blinking light. New light is usually the realization that the Governing Body was simply wrong to begin with.

There are good people from all religions today. This is truly a fact. All religious organizations do make mistakes as well. The WT Society is actually worse than most however. So how can people say this is the one true religion today? How can anybody back such lofty claims as those up, with such a poor track record? I have yet to see that happen anywhere.

If the bible is true Moses parted the Red Sea, manna fell from the sky, prophecies came true. Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, fed thousands, raised the dead and so much more. But the Watchtower Society has an entire history of mistaken policies that have been and still are forced on all Witnesses at the very real threat of disfellowshipping and being shunned for non-compliance. They also boastfully claim “one true faith’, while condemning all other religions and people of those religions to destruction if not becoming JW’s.

For me today and most people that see all the facts there is nothing there to support such lofty and inflated claims as the Watchtower being chosen by God for anything at all. The WT Society certainly is not dispensing food from God from what the record clearly shows. Because it is quite obvious that God would never be behind all those mistakes again and again along with numerous current unscriptural policies.

Otherwise I would have never left the religion and have to suffer such steep consequences.

All the best,
Vinny

Words for Lee

Words for Lee

I miss my friend Lee. Although I continue to grieve, the worst of it has passed and I think it’s time to write for him. I hope that someday his daughter might find this post, and find some comfort here.

This is a difficult post to write for a number of reasons, but the trickiest part is to walk a careful line where I can be authentic and honest without compromising privacy. Lee confided in me; I know so much about his history, his issues and challenges, his hopes and dreams. It would be very therapeutic for me to finally bring out into the open some events and issues that made (and make) me very angry. I would, too, I really would – except that during the last long conversation that we had, the major topic was forgiveness.

He was in his 40s, and his inability to let go of the hurt in his past had been so damaging to himself and others for so long. We talked a lot about his daughter. She was the bright star in his life – he loved her so much – and we talked a lot about how his healing was tied to his ability to care for her, and to be the kind of father he wanted to be for her. One thing that really seemed to help was for him to imagine that the things he experienced were happening to her. Once the situation was transferred to someone he loved, he could finally see that someone who would behave hurtfully toward a child has deep problems of their own. He could even start to empathize – enough to stop blaming himself for everything that happened.

There was a lot of hurt and anger in Lee, but I am comforted by the thought that I really do think he was able to start authentically forgiving. More than that, I think he was even able to feel compassion, and to see the cycle, and even to disrupt it. He was capable of insight and of meta-thought and of imagination, but he was so hurt – so deeply and emotionally bone-tired and hurt – that it was only later in life that he even could bear to talk about it. A true friend is sometimes almost as good as a therapist. The safe place to talk – was with me. I’m honored that he trusted me that much.

But I’m starting at the end of the story. Once again, from the beginning this time…

Burnam Lee McCoubrey III (everyone called him Lee) and I were part of a Kingdom Hall community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I first tried to write this post, it veered off into remembering things that affected both of us just because of that, but I’ll try to keep to issues that are important only to our friendship this time. It was just as we were hitting adolescence that I remember him appearing as a figure in my life. At that time, my father was no longer an elder, and my parents had divorced and remarried. His father was an elder, one of the few that I trusted because he had a sense of humor and a loving heart. His mother – well, she always seemed to dislike me, for whatever reason, but she was a pillar of the community and not to be trifled with.

Lee McCoubrey
Lee McCoubrey
Lee himself was withdrawn, quiet. He was very pale in complexion, and when he was miserable it was transparently obvious. Still, there was something about Lee. If there was only a single ray of sunshine, he would seek it out. He had a core of innocence that never went away. Often he reminded me of Opie – not so much the later Ron Howard – but really Opie Taylor. I wished that he could have had that Mayberry world.

Once, his father was seriously injured. The men and older boys were playing some sort of game, perhaps touch football, and he fell and hit his head on a rock. It appeared that he probably had a concussion. Everyone panicked, and they were loosening his belt (I still don’t know why they do that), and trying to get him to respond. He was taken to the hospital.

Meanwhile, no-one seemed to remember Lee. He looked terrified. He’d gone ghost-white, and was sitting by himself, dazed. I went and sat down next to him. He often talked about that day, and how much it helped that I just sat there with him, not saying much, just being near. Somehow it made him feel that everything was going to be all right. I wish now that I would have hugged him, but at the time it was really unthinkable to do that.

We were still too young to date – even among other JWs – when we decided that we had a mutual crush going on. Basically, this meant that there was something to look forward to at those endless meetings – we could say shy hellos and give each other bashful smiles.

After a while, we got permission to talk with one another on the telephone. He was so so sooo shy. For the first few conversations, he had no idea what to say to me. So he read aloud the text from the back of Beach Boys record albums. He loved the Beach Boys. Eventually, we started to really talk. It was much easier on the telephone than in person, especially with everyone in the congregation monitoring us all the time. We would tell each other about bugs and rocks and plants, and how comforting and safe it felt to be among trees. He always told me that I was beautiful and kind and funny – especially funny. At a time when I was very insecure and very often sad myself, we cheered each other up.

Well, things move on. Sadly, I dumped him. Unceremoniously. With the fickleness of youth, I had a crush on another boy, and the year of Lee and Heidi was over. He was mad at me, and hurt of course, and it took a while to admit that we actually still liked each other and could be friends. I knew he still liked me “that way” though, and a couple of years later, I did give him a kiss. It was in jest, almost a dare (I was in a time of some confusion). I didn’t know until about a year ago that it had been his first kiss. We never held hands, or went out alone on a date, or anything like that. Just the one kiss – but it was a good one (smile).

Lee was third generation. Not only his father, but also his grandfather, were Jehovah’s Witness elders. In high school, I started to hear that Burnam was saying bad things about me, and I was shocked. I felt so betrayed! My lack of understanding on how or why that could possibly be the case gave me unaccustomed courage and I confronted him with what I had been told. His face fell, and he searched my eyes – something no other elder had done. “But I didn’t, Heidi,” he said – his voice breaking. Later I discovered that it was Lee’s grandfather – someone I’d only met briefly, occasionally – who was the one who had somehow developed a very bad impression of my “dangerousness” – not Lee’s dad at all. I went to him at the next meeting, and apologized profusely. Presumably, he investigated the thing – I don’t know, we never spoke of it again. Lee wouldn’t talk about it. But it wasn’t long after that when I was accused of many things that didn’t actually happen. Ahh, the rumor mill of malicious gossip.

What I remembered, though, was that Lee’s father was the only elder who treated me as a full person. He talked to me honestly and respectfully. I think it was the death of Lee’s dad that prompted Lee to find me again. He needed to talk, and to remember.

I couldn’t believe that he had forgotten the best and funniest thing that had ever happened, the day that Bernie got a little creative.

He was giving a talk on what it means, scripturally, to be a righteous man, and he had an idea for how to set it up. So we’re sitting at the Kingdom Hall meeting, and suddenly through the speakers – “Body, body, wanna feel my body, body” – the opening for “Macho Man” (video) by the Village People!

First of all, I can’t begin to explain the shock. It’s the only time I ever heard any other music than canned recordings of the “Kingdom songs” at the Hall. Then – OBVIOUSLY he had NO IDEA that the Village People were gay. None. None at all, or it would have been an entirely different sort of talk.

And then – Bernie comes strutting up to the podium, flexing his biceps and bouncing to the music. I thought I was going to pee my pants. It was one of the very few times that I remember where almost everyone was roaring with laughter.

“Is that what it means to be a man – being ‘macho'”?

Wow – it was hard to settle down to the scriptures after that. It did make the point, and it was perfect, but… well, someone must have enlightened the parental units. Lee was made to destroy much of his album collection that day. When we talked about it, we got almost hysterical with laughter, until he remembered the aftermath.

“But Lee, dear – you decide – was it worth it?” He thought about it for a couple of heartbeats, then started laughing again. “Yes. Yes, Heidi. It really was. Thank you. That’s one of the best memories of my Dad – that was so cool. It was worth it.”

Lee had lots of hard times, and sometimes it was as a result of bad choices, but I knew Lee really well – he had reasons to want and even need his escape vectors. Like most JWs, he never got to go to college, and he seriously injured his back some years back. He got addicted to the painkillers and had to go through a lot to get off of them, finally. He had financial troubles, too – he didn’t manage his meager funds very well. His love life was always a disaster area – I might have been the only woman that he really trusted.

His daughter – oh! Molly was the sun and the moon to him. He was so proud of her. He wouldn’t have wanted to abandon her, but to love and protect her always.

Lee and Molly
Lee and Molly

Lee was so hungry for caring and love and joy and laughter. Whenever he could be with a group of people, it made him so happy. He would open up. And when he opened up – oh, what magic! As he got older, the Opie side of him never quite went away but more and more he reminded me of Dan Akyroyd (especially as the character Joe Friday in the 1987 movie Dragnet). There was a slight physical resemblance, but more that that – the combination of abruptness, dry humor, and – yes, even then – a slightly naive kind of openness and innocence. I would have loved to have seen Lee decked out like a Blues Brother – just once.

Lee
Lee
Dan Akyroyd
Dan Akyroyd

Recently, he had attended a JW assembly with this mother. It meant a lot to her that he go to the thing. He said that he was still able to get something from it – he still believed in God – and that it meant so much to her that he couldn’t refuse her. I thought it was a very giving thing. <3 We talked about the JWs a lot. Over and above the doctrines and all, the thing that had most bothered both of us – going way back – was the way that legalism was more important than kindness. I hope that if any Jehovah's Witnesses read this, that you might try – just try – to be a little kinder and less petty and judgmental with your brothers and sisters. Follow the way of love and compassion, even “loving-kindness” – and especially, please be kind to the children. You’re already asking a lot from them. Be kind. Be loving. Be true. It matters. They – and you – don’t have to be perfect, don’t need to be perfect, can’t possibly be perfect. Do the best you can, and trust in love. Be kind to one another. As an adult, Lee was only very nominally part of the JW community, primarily to avoid being cut off from his mother. His memory is not authentically honored by contributing to the community that so often treated him badly. Even at the funeral, I’m told that there was one older man who, bible in hand, intimated that Lee had brought his death upon himself. I didn't go to the funeral. It would have been very difficult to travel there in time - as a former JW, I strongly suspect I wouldn't have been welcome anyway. Lee was gone, and I didn't think I could get - or offer - much comfort there. Lee died from complications of a preventable hospital staph infection. These deadly infections have affected the lives of several people that I know, and Lee is the second death among my close family and friends. In both cases, children were left fatherless. Lee worked for many years caring for others in a hospital setting, and it seems appropriate to me to honor his own real service and to work against this type of preventable death.

So while the official family request “in lieu of flowers” was for contributions to the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, I would ask you to consider contributing to (or taking action for) a higher standard of hospital care. Please visit some of these sites and/or doing something to support this cause:

Finally – to respond to Lee’s last text message to me (and how I wish I had called him back immediately): I love you, too, and I always have. You are in my thoughts and daily meditations and, if there is an afterlife, I hope that you have – at last – found your endless summer. <3

This one’s for you:

“Catch a Wave” – The Beach Boys

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