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Rewriting the JW Implanted Belief List

Rewriting the JW Implanted Belief List

As a therapeutic exercise, I attempted to rewrite the list of possible EX-JW Dysfunctional Beliefs from Mindful Construct in terms of my own perspective. I meant this to be simple, but it didn’t work out that way. Some of it is rewritten, some of it is explanatory, some of it is questioning – but I’ll honor where this took me and not go back and make the form of the responses consistent.

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only ones who know God, he has shown them the truth about the world because they are honest and sincere and want to know truth. The Ultimate Deity, if there is one, could by definition be the only one who is and possesses Truth. Many believe that humans can participate in truth and love, but no-one can fully live or possess it. The God of Love shows authentic seekers the path of love within their own context. There are people who try their best to take the path of love in every religion, and outside religion. In every collective group, there are lovers and haters, there is faith and fear. And within each person, it is the same.
  2. Studying the Bible with the Witnesses is the only way to understand the full truth we need to know right now so that we can love and live forever. As a sacred collection of texts, the bible has been and can be a source of spiritual insights. There are many ways to read the texts, but taking small bits out of context is superficial and often misleading. The Witnesses’ interpretations are as flawed as those of any other group, and the claims to authority and transparency are arrogant rather than humble. People have created many methods to pursue truth. Most of them do not involve the shutdown of dialogue, caring, and freedom.
  3. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York are God’s channel of truth, like Moses was. They are full of love and truth. The spiritual status of the Governing Body is unknown, just as for any other group who claims to speak for God’s Will. What is known is that the Governing Body is very concerned with organization, legal protections, real estate deals, and authoritative control of membership. Jesus warned of false prophets, and to measure teachings by their accordance with his own. Teachings that inspire fear, self-righteousness and a fundamental dismissal of others are lacking in love and kindness. Judge by the fruits of the spirit (I still like that one).
  4. I am on an evil course in life because I have left the Witnesses and disassociated myself. It would have been a betrayal of my own spirituality and relationship with the cosmos/God to have stayed within the group. My own path required that I explore, inquire, and even celebrate. That my fundamental wellsprings of spirituality could be considered evil suggests that the Watchtower has made of itself an idol. Group membership at its best provides community, love, support, and inspiration –things that are sometimes profoundly lacking within the Witnesses.
  5. Everyone who is not a Witness is knowingly or unknowingly under the devil’s control. The line of good and evil runs down the center of each person’s heart. What we choose to do, how we choose to navigate situations, builds the type of character that we are becoming. If we cannot take responsibility for our shadow sides, we can’t integrate its strengths, and we tend to fall back into projecting evil onto the other. The issue of control that runs through much of this illustrates much in itself.
  6. I should not trust myself. I trust that there is an innermost quiet voice that already knows so much if I can learn to listen. I trust that I can more often than not tell when something is wrong. I trust that to hand your ethics over to someone else is an avoidance of spiritual responsibility and growth. I trust that I can learn to listen to the stories of others before making judgments. I trust that I have understood enough to know – basically at least – what is wrong and right for my path. However, I do not *blindly* trust myself or others. I trust that my understandings are always evolving and that I may make some turns along the way. No-one is completely transparent to themselves, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s easy to believe only what is convenient to believe, so a position of doubt helps to guard against hubris. It’s a matter of balance – to be self-confident and self-trusting, but not to stop listening and learning.
  7. Thinking independently from Jehovah/the Witnesses/the Bible is evil. There is no place to think completely independently – we are all influenced by our culture, our language, our relationships and groups, our education, and many other aspects of existence. However, even the Witnesses have said that it is wrong to put an organization between God and a person seeking/loving God – they just forgot to apply that to themselves. What they mean by thinking independently is to question or debate their interpretations and guidance, to study the bible outside their literature (even within the congregation), or to suggest that there are stronger and weaker interpretations of biblical texts. Even honest questioning – presented to the elders – can get you in a whole lot of trouble. They seek obedience to themselves and their interpretations, and they don’t want anyone shaking things up with actual debates. In this, they are profoundly anti-educational and anti-pastoral. Human beings have a capacity for questioning, for thought, for curiosity – these things can help us to grow and thrive.
  8. The devil is trying to mislead everyone into thinking independently and opposing the Witnesses so they will die when the end of the world comes soon. It seems to be taken for granted that thinking independently will as a matter of course lead to opposing the Witnesses. That’s amusing on a number of levels, so stop and smile here! The biblical devil was once an angel of light, but he became overly proud and lost a sense of his positionality within all things. It seems to be that Sa’tan represents the spirit of unfettered opposition – the principle of duality. He is also presented as God’s interlocutor, a sort of prosecuting attorney, in the case of Job. The sense of evil as something unclean and nonholy is here too, and also possession – being tormented by internal voices. So – in a sense, they are right that if you are possessed by all the internal voices to the extent that your life is centered on opposition to the Witnesses, you’ve missed something you needed for your spiritual path. However – the solution to that is (you guessed it) independent thinking! Why? Because if you are still trapped there, still trapped within these limiting beliefs, you are not independent at all – you’re just living on the flip side of the same mentality. Eventually, thinking, meditating, reading, having dialogue, and experiencing care and kindness will help you to move on from this stage.
  9. People like me who accurately understood the truth as taught by the Witnesses but rejected it are even worse than those who never knew. I am an apostate. People who understood the interpretations and rules of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society became very familiar – ad nauseum – with narratives that might hold some kinds of truth. There are levels and types of truths. However, to conflate this very limited kind of education with “the truth” can prevent you from continuing on your own life journey – the education that never stops. The word “apostate” has a specific demonized meaning within the JWs. I am not an apostate.
  10. Since I was the spiritual leader of the family, God will hold me responsible for stumbling them and leading them into apostasy. This is a tough one! It is tempting, even now, to accept this teaching and say that ministerial servants, congregational elders, and district or circuit overseers will be held responsible for leading the “sheep” astray. It feels right, but when I apply the method of self-doubt and self-acceptance and caring, I realize that I would only like this to be the case for the sake of all the people that have been damaged and hurt by the organization. There is a sense that retribution would be just. But this scripture was never about retribution; it was about responsibility. Those who are leaders have a special responsibility to care more deeply, to be careful about what they do and say, and to serve the congregations with love. If they are misled about that themselves, and have done their best to be true to the Spirit, one can only hope that the God of Love would judge them as we hope to be judged ourselves. I am opposed to the behaviors often evident, I am opposed to the often heartless judgments, but the path of love says that good must be the response to evil. Ultimately, I think that that those who attempt to use and control others have created their own hell, nor are they ever out of it. Oh, what they are missing!
  11. I am a special target of the devil, now that I have left the Witnesses he will trick me into opposing all that is good and will lead me into suffering and destruction. Projecting your choices onto a demonic creature has never been very helpful to me. The very threat of becoming a target of the devil and demons works to instill fear and a reluctance to leave. It can be a little bit of a self-fulfilling script, too. It’s a very common thing that the new ex-JW still accepts the definitions of all the things they aren’t supposed to do – and goes right out and does them! I’ve seen a parallel here with first-year college students, away from the home rules for the first time. Sometimes that first year is a little wild, and some do self-destruct. Just being able to break rules is not freedom yet. You’re still being defined by others. You can choose not to do that.
  12. Alternatively, the devil will bless me with abundance and prosperity, but it will only be temporary and deep down I will still be an evil traitor. This is a great way to cover all situations – hardship or blessing, anything outside the JWs is evil. There is no necessary correlation between hardship and goodness, or success and evil – or vice versa.
  13. If I practice hypnosis, evil spirit beings called demons will enter my mind and possess me. By doing so I am inviting great evil and harm into my life. Hypnosis is one technique to gain some distance from destructive habits of thought and replace them with more helpful thoughts. It may be a good “jumpstart” but should not replace careful meta-reasoning on your own. You should know and approve of the content in advance, and have established a relationship of mutual respect and trust. If you are very nervous, a recording of the session might ease your anxieties. Also, meditation and prayer can both establish similar states of awareness of the progression of your thoughts and feelings (if you know, or can learn, how to pay attention).
  14. Only someone evil like me would undergo hypnosis to purposefully transform their beliefs after knowing the one and only truth about reality that I’ve known. This kind of self-hatred programming can be very difficult to overcome. There are a whole slew of “if I do this, I must be evil and God hates me” kinds of suggestions to transcend. Some people just accept it and say – “Fine, I’m evil,” but the entry point here is to ask on what basis – really – someone is justified in thinking that they know the “one and only truth about reality” in the first place. An irony here – the methods used by leadership on their congregations sometimes come very close to hypnosis.
  15. My evilness must be even greater than most others because of the depth to which I understood the truth. I was a teacher of the light, now I am in deep shadow. Delving into the shadow-side is sometimes unavoidable and can be a very revelatory experience, but new ex-JWs are in no way prepared for this kind of thinking. I read a lot of Carl Jung before I could even process what he was talking about! So, how about this? In some ways, I was a teacher of light and in some ways I totally missed the light without knowing it. Now, I am more careful about claims of light and darkness, and of such wide-reaching dualistic judgment. Reality involves the blending of light and darkness (cf. Taoism) – think of the sun shining on the leaves, the interplay of light and shadow that creates beauty. Don’t confuse darkness with evil. Evil can appear (at first) as an angel of light, too.
  16. All spiritual or religious belief systems besides the Witnesses’ belief system are special tools that the devil uses to mislead people and invite demons. This is what some other fanatics say, too. The projection of demons onto other religions was a really cool tool for missionaries that tried to pull people away from their religions. It’s no coincidence that contemporary images of the devil look a lot like the Horned God of some more ancient religions – you can even see Pan there! Religions have tended to try to answer the current needs of the community, but if the only way to define membership is by who is not included then I think that is usurping God’s role. Many, many people disagree with me on that; it’s one reason why I have no church membership.
  17. Those who celebrate Christmas and other holidays are under the devil’s control, since it prevents them from understanding the truth about Jesus and Jehovah. Control, again. I actually think some of the ideas about holidays are interesting, but there’s a lot more to the story. Following the history of the transformation of holidays, across different countries, is fascinating. Usually the argument would be that they are of pagan or nationalistic origin. What tended to happen is that the old celebrations were assimilated and transformed into the newer ones, over and over and over again. There is a deeper truth hidden here by the presented either-or; it pretends that all the celebrations are static – they have an origin that is secure and for all time. That is not the case. What relationship holiday celebrations may have to preventing understanding is unknown, but at first glance, it seems reasonable to someone used to accepting what they are told.
  18. Jehovah is the Creator and source of all life. The only way to know truth is to know him. The only way to know him is through Jesus. The only way to know either of them is through the Bible and the Witnesses’ lives and teachings. Lots of people hold to some version of this belief, the central version of which for Christianity is that Jesus is the way and the life. But I think a more profound way to frame this is to think less about assent to beliefs as a measure – and to think more about commitment, caring, responsibility, kindness, openness, listening, and attune-ment. Jesus was one example – for me there are others as well. And, you know, pleasure and fun and creativity are ok – they help. Have you ever lost yourself in doing something you’re really good at? That’s a form of communion – dance, painting, building something…
  19. The only way to know truth is also through the Holy Spirit. Only the Witnesses really have Holy Spirit, that is how they understand the Bible more fully. The Witnesses are alone, I think, in believing that the Spirit is God’s force of action. It’s a little bit like electricity. They are anti-trinitarian, so the relationships are those of separate entities. They believe that Jesus was filled with the Spirit. He was not God, but God’s son. To me, the Holy Spirit is a very interesting topic. Track it through the biblical texts sometime and all sorts of strange thoughts might occur to you. I keep thinking of extraterrestrials… Since it’s so very mysterious and strange, I tend to think of it as a form of love-possession, but it seems to have physical properties too (like a virus? Hmm?). It is the mirror of demonic possession. Very bizarre. There are many testimonials of being filled with the Spirit, and that it’s the only way to know the truth. But the Witnesses don’t believe that they are filled with the Spirit – they only believe that the Governing Body and the 144,000 chosen ones are – so they accept being part of the “great crowd” that gets to live on Paradise Earth after they clean up the bones and stuff. This is part of the way that the Watchtower Society is able to maintain control – because the rank and file are *not* filled with spirit, they have to trust the ones who are. There is no outward display of any of this, nor do they honor the ideas of calling or of spiritual gifts (especially for women!)
  20. I do not deserve to live because I am a sinner, that is why people die (they are too). Again, a common Christian thought, but the other side of this is the “new life” Christians are offered as an alternative. Myself, I don’t think anything deserves to become a living being. Life is not about being deserving. What would that even mean? JWs take it further. It’s not just that we’re all sinners because of events in a long-ago garden experiment, but it’s that there really isn’t any such thing as grace for them. They never use the word. Sometimes they say “loving-kindness” or “undeserved love” to express forgiveness of “imperfection” – but they are very focused on “keeping the congregation clean.” Their idea of service that matters to God is keeping track of how many hours a month people go door to door.
  21. I should not be living for this world but for the New System, when everything will be perfect on the earth. Only perfection is good enough for life to be worth living. I have no idea what perfect life on earth would be, but it still must have some kinks in it, because a bunch more people will be destroyed after the first thousand years. The New System, also called “God’s New World Order” is a kind of terminology that should give everyone pause (cf. Nazi belief-system, secret societies in general, Google “New World Order”). Outside of this truly creepy but undefined idea of the post-apocalyptic theocracy, one can ask whether only perfection is good enough for life to be worth living. I suppose it makes sense if there is an ideal balance of perfection and imperfection that becomes perfection again. After all, what would become of longing, wistfulness, and a million other emotions that require a bit of imperfection to make any sense? Life thrives only under a mix of order and chaos – it needs process and transformation. The New World Order sounds really… ordered. Guess I’ll miss out on that lion/lamb thing. My eyes are on a different sort of prize.
  22. God’s Kingdom, a heavenly government that will destroy all other governments soon, is the only solution to mankind’s problems. Very militaristic! The Messiah was originally supposed to be some sort of military leader, I think. I’m waiting for the day that someone will act out some specific prophecies to try to kick-start the thing. Or wait… maybe that’s already happening. I believe that the kingdom is within you. Even more than that, I believe that the kingship metaphor doesn’t really work for us anymore. The claim to heavenly government really foments a lot of hatred and violence (Google extremists, religious terrorism, witch trials, inquisition, Christian reconstructionists, etc.). I can make no truth claim on this one way or another – it depends on how the scriptures are interpreted, and it depends on the status of the scriptures in your belief system, and it depends on how many levels of thinking you can manage beyond literalism. For me, there are two options. First, no such literal event will happen – at least not beyond what has happened before and is happening and will happen again. Second, there really will be such an event, just as JWs believe, and I will then know beyond any doubt that the God they worship is not the God of Love.
  23. Efforts to make the world better or to change the world now are futile. The world outside the Witnesses is a dark and evil place controlled by Satan. Control again! Efforts to make the world better may or may not be futile – there are a lot of powers at work for both creation and destruction. Working together for good has benefits beyond the benefits to the world because it fosters cooperation, and even can help the economy. In addition, the biblical texts suggest that humans are responsible for the stewardship and maintenance of the planet. If you believe that, then allowing it to become a slash and burn zone may have some sort of repercussions. Last, I hope everyone’s noticed that there’s really no place else to go. What we do with the planet and each other creates the space within which we all must live.
  24. Non-Witnesses cannot be trusted, they will betray me, they have no real loyalty, they do not know real love. We are deep in the time of the end in a loveless world. Developing relationships of love and trust can happen anywhere. Betrayal and destructiveness can happen anywhere. If you expect that the world will be loveless, it probably will seem that way. And if you have few experiences of love and trust, it may be more difficult to trust and love. Do JWs foster trust and love among each other? Sometimes, sometimes not. Some of the policies are distinctly mistrustful, even paranoid, and the view of love is extremely truncated. However, there are also Witnesses who are capable of love and trust – it’s just that it’s more difficult for them to thrive. On the “time of the end” – I believe that every day includes aspects of Genesis and Apocalypse, birth and death, creation and destruction – around the world, and within yourself.
  25. The devil wants us to live for now instead of the New World that God will bring. Flip it. Does God want us to live for the New World, and not live now? If so, why all this urgency about placing literature? Seriously though, many religious traditions express some kind of caution about living *only* for today. Others say that that one *can* only live in the moment. The devil has expressed no opinion on the matter.
  26. Going to college or making a lot of money is dangerous to my spiritual health. Lots of things can be dangerous to your spiritual health, including parochialism and cowardice and paranoia. Your ideas may be challenged in college, and if you don’t know how to debate in a civil way, you might become threatened and lose the chance to learn. If you are solely motivated by money and power, you may forget the essential humanity of others. There are risks and challenges to every aspect of life, including the refusal to think or to be kind, which can be very damaging to your spiritual health.
  27. Success in this world is dangerous to my spiritual health. The more I succeed in life outside the Witnesses, the more I am under the devil’s control. There is no correlation between success and control by demonic forces, assuming such exists. This is another control mechanism.
  28. Non-Witnesses are dangerous to my spiritual health. Being trained to be a non-questioning follower is dangerous when you might be following the wrong person or movement. Either a JW or a non-JW can mislead you into a situation that you might not be good for your spiritual or physical or emotional health. Anyone can be a teacher, but sometimes the lessons are difficult. On the other hand, there are amazing wonderful kind people who can inspire you and help you. Personally, I found more of the latter outside the Witnesses.
  29. Not going to Witness meetings or from door-to-door is dangerous to my spiritual health. God doesn’t care about hours or territory maps. God doesn’t require constant indoctrination from an organization. Or – if God does, such a God is not the God of Love.
  30. I am going to be responsible for the deaths of others when the world as we know it ends because I stopped preaching about the end of the world. I am heartless. It’s heartless to try to make someone feel responsible for the deaths of others just because they do not continue to promote your publishing company and your biblical interpretations. Each person’s path is their own.
  31. I have no future in this world because soon the world as we know it will end and I will die if I do not go back to the Witnesses. If the world ends, none of us will have a future. It’s possible. We might blow the place up or pollute it to death or any number of other things. However, being a JW will not protect me from these things if they happen.
  32. The sincere Witnesses will live happily forever in the paradise without me. If JWs, including my closest friends and family, can imagine living happily forever in paradise without me and without other loved ones, they have lost something very essential. I can only grieve for their loss, and hope that they will someday have access to a view of others that makes them a little less disposable.
  33. Loving people do not leave the Witnesses. Only crazy and/or evil-minded people like me do. Loving people sometimes have to leave the Witnesses. Crazy, evil-minded people sometimes have to stay in the Witnesses.
  34. Jehovah (God) will forgive me if I go back to the Witnesses. Then, and only then, will I be happy and truly satisfied in life. Godd(ess) will forgive me for my mistakes because that is the nature of love. There is no covenant for happiness – happiness is momentary, it sneaks up on you, and maybe you’re most happy when you’re not pursuing the idea but just being-there.
  35. The demons can drive people crazy when they leave the truth. Indoctrinated control mechanisms can make it very difficult for some people to leave everything and everyone they know, but there are methods to prepare yourself and find your way.
  36. The only other explanation for my leaving the Witnesses, if I am not evil, is that I am crazy. The JWs have all of the ingredients to psychologically damage people. People leave the Witnesses for many different kinds of reasons. Higher principles, search for acceptance and love, wanting to marry a non-JW, becoming involved in a self-destructive activity like drugs to escape or rebel, caving under the pressure of maintaining a theocratic outer self under the knowledge of one’s own faults and desires, refusing to shun a friend or family member, witnessing acts of cruelty. The list goes on, the high road, the low road, the middle road, etc. Not a binary.
  37. It is better for me to be locked in a mental institution and be crazy or die than to live successfully as a non-Witness. Then maybe I wouldn’t be evil after all. It would be easier for JWs to scapegoat you in your absence if you would oblige them with an example of why people mustn’t leave.
  38. I am a liar because I dedicated my life to do Jehovah’s will and work and now am purposefully not doing it. Maybe. Depends. To what extent are you convinced that what you were doing, how you were thinking, and what you were feeling were in any accordance with the fruits of the spirit? How about now? Then, there is also the possibility that at age – what, 16? – you might not have fully understood what your dedication would mean. Even if you were an adult convert, there is probably even less chance that you fully understood. It might be helpful to articulate what you are committed to and dedicated to now – and update rather than overturn. Look around – If God exists, it follows that God would understand growth and transformation.
  39. I have taken the evil side. There are only two sides, Satan’s and Jehovah’s. Satan has convinced me to decide for myself what is right and wrong. All this focus on Satan! Could it be that Satan is more powerful than God in their eyes? I believe that I cannot completely decide for myself what is right and wrong, but I have a pretty good idea. In addition to my own insights and feelings, I rely on the narratives of the people involved to round out a contextual point of view. I rely on the thoughts and experiences and examples of people I admire, too. But I don’t rely on any one organization’s interpretation of what non-humans might want or not want from me.
  40. I am like Satan. All those like me who know of but reject Jehovah’s Universal Sovereignty and try to decide for themselves what is right and wrong are not loving. Love is the entry point into starting to understand ethics, but ethics reinforces love. One cannot force empathy or caring – one cannot be told to care as a matter of obedience. I am like Satan, in that I will be “the devil’s advocate” to push a debate to its limits and find its boundaries. I am like Jesus in caring about those who have been hurt or abandoned or not allowed to speak. I leave God to being God. Or Goddess to being Goddess. Or whatever that Ultimate Deity might be that we love to project gender upon. All I know is that love is at once the most humble and the most powerful force in the universe.
  41. I am a betrayer, just like Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. I am betraying the loving God and his Son and all those who love them. Therefore I will be betrayed. It is worth remembering that there would have been no religion of Christianity without the kiss of Judas. Does anyone pray for his forgiveness? Betrayal is an action, not an identity. If karma is real, maybe betrayal comes back around. However, leaving a controlling group – even if it’s very difficult – may not be a betrayal at all. Maybe it’s opening your eyes.
  42. Only an unloving person like me would forsake the sacrifice Jehovah made through Jesus by opposing Jehovah’s work being done by Witnesses. The constant association of love with membership is absurd. The work done by Witnesses is to spread a certain theology that emerged at a particular place and time and has its own very specific history. The way to be a loving person is to cultivate kindness and caring and empathy for others just as much as you can.
  43. In a marriage, a man is the head of the household. Some cultures have worked out a division of responsibilities in which the male makes certain kinds of decisions. This is not universal, and may even have developed as a response to an earlier matriarchy. Even within the Witnesses, headship is service and the method is to follow Jesus – for the husband to care for and protect the wife and the household in deep respect and responsibility. Like the stewardship of the planet. It is not an excuse to replicate the controlling aspects of the Watchtower Society within the household. Some will disagree with me, I know, but I also happen to think that each marriage is a team effort, and those who don’t need to rely on certain kinds of roles within the marriage can divide up the responsibilities in whatever ways work out best for them. It’s a task of marriage to do so with mutual respect and fairness.
  44. It is wrong to have sex with anyone, even if you love the person, unless you have a legal certificate of marriage. Marriage is an institution designed to protect assets and the welfare of children. Ideally, a married couple is committed to and deeply in love with one another. They respect each other, they work together, they are honest about their needs and desires, including sexual ones, and through the feedback loops involved in living, they enjoy periods of intense and wonderful sex. Marriage also involves challenges, and there are periods in which things are more tense or withdrawn. On the other side, it is possible to express loving in a sexual way in other situations besides the bond of marriage. That is the decision of the two people involved. There are many kinds of relationships in the bible, but marriage is about family. So, am I saying that all sexuality is ok? Actually, no. It is wrong to have sex with anyone if you view that person as a commodity, or as a tool for addressing your own desires. When your sexual partner is really just a walking doll for your gratification, you’ve not learned anything about either love or sexuality (and it’s obvious, by the way). If you’re having sex only to address some insecurity about yourself, or because you think that’s the only way someone will like you, or because you’re using sex as an escape addition or a power trip – then you’re missing out on the magic. And the magic is what it’s all about.
  45. Any sexuality of any kind outside of a legally recognized marriage, including masturbation, deserves the punishment of death for the unrepentant. The sin of Onan was in disobedience, taking pleasure without responsibility. He was to take his dead brother’s wife to bed as a surrogate so that his brother’s line (and assets) would continue. Instead, he used the “withdrawal method.” Technically speaking, that’s not even masturbation. There is a lot of same-sex love in the bible – David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and his apostles. Whether these were sexual relationships too, I don’t know. There are prohibitions on homosexual behavior, but then again these were very close tied (by vocabulary choices) to people who sold themselves to others. If you’re going to rely on Leviticus in any case, read around in the same section about how to treat your slaves and things like that. No – I come back to the same ideas of kindness and caring and respect. If those things are absent, a marriage won’t solve the problem. People love who they love – and where there is love, the spirit is there, too.
  46. I deserve to die just by being born sinful and for overstepping the law of God after knowing the truth. The only way for me and other sinful humans to receive forgiveness and be happy forever is to pray to Jehovah through Jesus. Oh, this list is so long! Ok. There’s nothing you can do to deserve forgiveness, but you can start with being accurate about what mistakes have actually been made. When you can admit that you’ve made mistakes and are trying to rectify them and to learn from them, then the process of forgiveness has already started. If all it takes is an incantation, that’s not very authentic….
  47. I will die at Armageddon because I have stopped praying for Jehovah’s forgiveness of my sins through Jesus. He is the only way to life and truth. Many Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to life and truth. There is some wisdom in that, because Jesus oftentimes illustrated and incarnated that way, and that way is the only way – at least, it’s a really, really, really good way. I will probably not even get to see Armageddon, after all that build-up!
  48. Even if I seem happy for a while living as a non-Witness, eventually if I am a loving person I will realize the truth that the Witnesses were right all along. This one and the next one are very tenacious. There is this feeling that you’ll always see eventually, that you need to come back. Some do! I see no correlation between that and loving, unless it’s that your family have blackmailed you with this and have shunned you meanwhile, so if you want to feel loved and worthwhile, you might feel you have to go back.
  49. Deep down I know the truth — the Witnesses are always right on the main points. I’ve been programmed deep down that the Witnesses might not always be perfect but have always been right on the “main points.” This is so deeply ingrained that it comes up in almost every conversation on this topic. It’s something that even those who have been out for a long time sometimes wrestle with. I had to study for a lot of years before I could shake it, but I feel confident that the Witnesses have some occasional insights, but they are not, and have not, always been right on the main points. Their policies are more destructive than constructive, and more anti-agapic and controlling than loving and pastoral.
  50. I will never really be happy living as a non-Witness. I would have no chance at all for happiness if I was living as a Jehovah’s Witness. In my case, I would also not be living, since I would have refused the blood transfusion that saved my life. I would be intellectually dead because I would have to kill off my talents for inquiry, stop asking questions, stop reading, etc. I would be emotionally dead because I would have to play along with the various petty congregational intrigues and fascades. I would be sexually dead because I’d be trapped in a loveless marriage with a likely abusive JW husband. I would be spiritually dead because I would have to deny years of exploration, insights, mystical communion, and ethics. If I had to live as a Jehovah’s Witness, I could not even work toward becoming the one me in the universe that God might mean for me to become, or be able to accept the me that God somehow loves already. I couldn’t be any me at all without making these things a matter of my deep committment, faith, and life of concern and authentic questioning. I would only be a saleperson, a puppet, a robot.

“It delivers people who have no tolerance for ambiguity from having to make moral choices. It allows self-loathers to project their hatred onto the world. It translates the allure of the world into Satanic temptation, so that those who fear its enticements are armed against seduction. It provides ego balm for the lowly, an identification with the The Chosen. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe as little in psychology as they do in philosophy, it tames or numbs the wilderness of the heart by closing valves of inquiry.” – Barbara G. Harrison

Roundup of JWs in the News

Roundup of JWs in the News

Recent conversations in the comments have reminded me that I haven’t done my posting of recent news related to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The purpose in doing this is simply to highlight, over time, the kinds of issues that the JW mindset and set of demands can create or intensify in some. It is meant to encourage more compassionate and ethical policies and behaviors within the Watchtower organization and to help former JWs understand some of the clusters of danger that may be worthwhile to (even further) transcend.

Ex-JWs: Use What You’ve Got

First off, there is a very humorous treatment of growing up as a JW in a new book by Kyria Abrahams called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. It’s on my wishlist, and I’ll let you know what I think of it once I’ve had the chance to read it. It looks promising as a bit of comic relief.

Given that Abrahams is now a stand-up comic and spoken-word poet, it makes perfect sense to begin her very funny memoir with her performance debut at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Kingdom Hall, at age 8 (her presentation was about freedom from demon possession). She describes the children’s books she read as a child as a cross between “Dr. Seuss rhymes and tales of how sinners would scream and gnash their teeth at Armageddon.” In her world, Smurfs were “little blue demons” and yard sales were enticements from Satan. As a bored teenager with OCD, she didn’t know what to do with herself or how to make sense of the world. On the verge of 18, she married a 24-year-old part-time college math teacher because, even if his interest in her was, at best, halfhearted, she wanted a boyfriend and didn’t know any other Jehovah’s Witnesses who liked her. Anyway, she reasons, “this is what adults did, and I was an adult.” It wasn’t long before she longed to be out of the marriage.

Author Lisa Foad writes in a fractured, variable, and somewhat surreal style – trying to say the unsayable takes you on some funky roads sometimes. She thinks her approach to writing might be a side effect of her Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.

“After an assembly where they were talking about the folly of music,” Foad recalls from her early childhood, “I went home and broke records with my dad. We broke Led Zeppelin, Cream. But I had this Wham! record I really liked. I didn’t want to break my Wham! record but then he reminded me that in the paradise I would have a pet tiger, a pet lion. What are you going to do? It was a trade I was willing to make. There’s so much fodder in that.”

Check out her book: The Night Is a Mouth

In other, depressing but illuminating JW book news, get a child’s eye perspective on Jehovah’s Witnesses by reading William Coburn’s The Spanking Room: A Child’s Eye View of the Jehovah Witnesses.

I had stopped vomiting, but still shook and sobbed. Mom returned to the room to sit on the edge of my bed. Again she asked, “Billy what’s wrong?” “That was my bus route,” I whispered when I could get words out. “What if someone I knew came to the door?” “So?” “They’d find out I was a Jehovah’s Witness.” Mom’s hand met the side of my head in a flash of brilliant white light and an explosion of pain. I collapsed onto the mattress while she flailed at me, her rage-clenched fists thudding into my eight-year-old body. “How dare you?” she shrieked. “You awful, rotten child! How dare you be ashamed of Jehovah? I hate you! I hate you!”

The Spanking Room is the true story of a young boy’s upbringing, and how the unorthodox doctrines of the Watchtower Society encourage violence against its most helpless members–the children.

Artist Lindsay O’Leary’s piece “Pedaling Backwards, Moving Forward: How to Lose 100 pounds in 365 days” is part of an exhibit in the opening of “Gestures 13” at the Mattress Factory. She has created a scaled model of her childhood home that is controlled by a stationary bicycle to represent her “old self and old habits.”

“Inside my childhood home, there’s a silhouette of me praying,” O’Leary says. “All of the silhouettes of me (except the biking one in the garage) are of me when I was obese. I was a Jehovah’s Witness from birth to (age) 21. We had to pray every day and attended five ‘meetings’ at the Kingdom Hall each week.

“It’s a really strict religion, so, to say that it has had a huge impact on who I am today would be an understatement,” she says. “From not being able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance throughout elementary school to not celebrating birthdays to being forbidden from participating in any competitive sport, again, the imprint it has had on my life was/is massive.”

O’Leary says the real irony is in where she has found her new home. The Mexican War Streets is where Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the precursor to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, lived and preached.

Media Talk

Katherine Jackson has been taking Michael Jackson’s three children to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall (of Jehovah’s Witnesses) to “help them deal with the death of their famous father.”

Michael stopped being a Jehovah’s Witness 1985 but reportedly resumed attending the Church’s meetings throughout his child molestation trial. Katherine and the eldest child Rebbie are the only two remaining Jehovah’s Witnesses in the family.

I would prefer to remember Michael for his music and performances, and his work to help fight AIDS. I wish I’d gone to talk with him as I felt called to do.

Oh, and this season of Big Brother features a former JW, Kevin.

He is a 30 year old graphic designer who was excommunicated at 21 from his Jehovah’s Witness raising. Therefore has lost contact with his family and friends. However, he has chosen to work through it instead of letting it tear him down. He is of Japanese/ African-American heritage. Adversity is something he is used to overcoming so the prediction is he will do well in the house.

Murder

The most horrific story in the news right now has to be about the Texan JW Otty Sanchez, 33, who decapitated, dismembered, and partially cannibalized her 3-1/2-week-old baby, Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez. She claims the devil told her to do it. She told him Scott W. Buchholz, the infant’s father, that she was schizophrenic a week before the slaying. She was diagnosed, however, with depression. Buchholz, who said he is schizophrenic, has announced that she said that she was going to leave him, and he wants her to receive the death penalty.

McManus, who appeared uncomfortable as he addressed reporters, said Sanchez apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts. She also decapitated the infant, tore off his face and chewed off three of his toes before stabbing herself.

In Bielefeld, Germany, an 82-year-old man who blames the Jehovah’s Witnesses for making him lose contact with his daughter, stormed a gathering of some 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was wearing a mask and was armed with a machine gun. No-one was injured; the gun didn’t fire. He was seized by two congregation members as he headed back to the car. Officers also found a samurai sword, three clips of bullets and a knife in the man’s car, parked nearby.

In the tiny hamlet of Porth Kea, near Truro in England, Jonathan Cock – a 24-year-old RAF veteran from Moor Vue Fram, Penzanze – murdered his girlfriend’s Jehovah’s Witness father (41-year-old Adam Hustler) and shot her mother (Amanda Hustler) in the back in revenge for ending the couple’s “forbidden” love affair. Ex-girlfriend Danielle Hustler, 20, (are they for real with these names?) had a minor injury in the arm from a bullet graze. Mr. Cock was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jonathan Cock blamed Jehovah’s Witnesses Adam and Amanda Hustler for thwarting his romance with their daughter Danielle because the religion bars relationships with outsiders…. The court heard Cock and Danielle fell in love while working for her dad’s drain clearing firm. He converted to her religion, but she later split with “controlling” Cock. He carried out the killing three weeks later.

Estranged JW husband Michael Smith, 37, is on trial for first-degree murder of Eugena Smith. Eugena had written a letter of disassociation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying that her decision was final. The letter, which was read aloud to a trial jury, was found by investigators “lying among a pile of clothing on the floor of Eugena Smith’s bedroom, shortly after the 33-year-old St. Thomas woman was found murdered.”

The Crown argued in an opening statement Tuesday that Eugena Smith was trying to leave both her husband, and her church, just days before she died on June 7, 2007. Michael Smith, the Crown says, thought she was having an affair.

After JW William Redman murdered his 12-year-old daughter, he told a 911 operator that she was dead because that was “…the way Jehovah does things.” Evidently he “fell on her” with a knife.

Police arrived at the Roadrunner RV park to find the father covered in blood in front of the home, the mother, Rosemary Redman, screaming, “What did you do to my baby?” Inside, their daughter was lying in a pool of blood, a knife lying under her chest and her neck deeply gashed.

Sexual Violence / Pedophilia

New Hampshire resident JW, Robert Matheson, pleaded guilty repin Salem Superior Court to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14. He had been planning to run away to Plum Island with a girl he had been molesting at his beach house for the last three years. The JWs alerted authorities (this must be a state where it’s required to do so).

Matheson told police that he began molesting the girl during a time when he was struggling with unemployment and disconnected from his faith, and said he was “persuaded” by Internet pornography. The sentencing was pushed to Friday in order for Matheson to face sexual assault charges on a “compatible case” in New Hampshire.

Wigan Today reports that Daniel Simonetti, a 31-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, let himself into the home of an 89-year-old woman and brutally assaulted her. He denied rape, which was dropped, but admitted assault by penetration. Jailing Simonetti indefinitely, Judge John Roberts branded him “dangerous to vulnerable females.” Simonetti had previously assaulted a 4-year-old girl, for which he was never prosecuted.

Francis Gandhi a Jehovah’s Witness elder/ministerial servant (the article says “pastor”) was detained at the Kailahun Police Station for the alleged rape of an 11-year old student of the SLMB Mission in Kailahun.

On 4th of April 2009, she said that they came home from work and discovered that the girl has not returned home and immediately they contacted her grandmother who told them that the young girl had left for her home around 5pm. “We went in search of her moving from one place to place, relatives to relatives we could not find her and we returned home as it was getting close to 10pm” she said while in bed somebody knocked on her window and when asked she heard the voice of her daughter. “I jumped out of my bed and enquired from her where she was coming from only to tell me that she was in the room with a man of God.”

Robert Edward Bill, 54, a former teacher, businessman and “senior Jehovah’s Witness” attempted to abduct a five-year-old and was sentenced to six years in prison.

He has been found guilty at separate trials of the attempted abduction of the girl in Holywell two years ago, of indecently assaulting a seven-year-old 10 years ago, and of possessing 730 pornographic images of children. … Mr Medland said Bill of The Roe, St Asaph, Denbighshire, had been driving slowly around areas where he was likely to come into contact with children that same day. He’d claimed that he was trying to fix a mechanical problem with his car.

His wife and son were also sentenced:

Jacqueline Bill, his 51-year-old wife, received a suspended six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to trying to pervert the course of justice by destroying a laptop hard drive, and must do 250 hours unpaid work. Bill’s son David, 24, of Mount Road, St Asaph, must do 150 hours unpaid work after also admitting that he tried to pervert the course of justice.

Thirty-five-year-old JW Shane Thomas Thorne had a child pornography collection of more than a thousand images, many of which involved children as young as five years old. He was sentenced to two years, but is due to be released on November 16, 2010.

Evidence was heard that Thorne grew up in a violent family environment and was sexually abused as a teenager. …”There is nothing to indicate that he has acknowledged the injury caused by his actions,” Mr Johnson said. “There is no realisation expressed or reported of any acknowledgement of the harm done to children in child pornography.” He told Thorne that a sentence must be imposed that would reflect the community horror and the disgust for the use of children for sexual gratification.

Selective Clampdown on Freedom of Religion, or “The Persecution Justification for Claims of JW Righteousness”

Novoshakhtinsk prosecutors from the Rostov region in Russian have sent case files to an investigative body to consider a criminal prosecution local members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization for preaching in public places, propagating the exclusivity and supremacy of the Jehovah’s religious doctrine above all others and promoting refusal from civil duty, voting at elections and serving in the army. The regional prosecutor also asked the Rostov regional court to order the closure of the organization in Taganrog for extremist activities, including the incitement of religious hatred and human rights violations. This situation is heating up…

The deportations of four lawyers since March strike at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ already pressed defence against attempts to ban their literature as extremist, one of those deported, Mario Moreno, has told Forum 18 News Service. The lawyers – two Americans and two Canadians – were defending in four out of seven simultaneous local extremism cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. A recent police detention allegedly involving torture and a raid on a Sunday service – after which one worshipper had a miscarriage and another was sent to a children’s shelter – suggest the law enforcement agencies continue to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as religious extremists even without a ban.

In Israel, the Human Rights Report for 2008 shows that police needed to be reminded (again) that it is their duty to fully investigate crimes against minority religious communities:

Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses reported an increase in assaults and other crimes against their membership in 2007 and during the year and noted the difficulties their members faced convincing the police to investigate or apprehend the perpetrators. Between September 2007 and September, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses filed 46 criminal complaints against antimissionary activists, most of whom belong to the Haredi antimissionary organization Yad L’Achim. The crimes ranged from harassment to assault. Police responded to 15 of 35 calls for assistance during the same time period, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses legal department. The JIJ noted a similar increase in crimes and violent assaults against members of the congregations it represents.

JW Disappearance

Eridania Rodriguez, a 46-year-old married mother of three, disappeared from her night job as a cleaning woman in Manhatten. Police found her cleaning cart on the eighth floor and her street clothes and purse in her locker.

“I think she was kidnapped,” said Figueroa. She said she was suspicious of a DOT worker who her mother often saw on the eighth floor. “She was really terrified of him,” she said.

Rodriguez’s brother, Cesar, 28, ruled out the possibility of a jealous lover. “My sister is not like that,” he said. “She does not have a boyfriend. She is a Jehovah’s Witness.”

Money, Money, Money

Securities industry regulators report that say Kenneth George Neely, a Jehovah’s Witness stockbroker from St. Peters, MO ran an eight-year ponzi scheme in which he swindled brokerage customers, fellow church members and a cousin. It seems that Neely ran up some bills buying dinners and drinks for clients and friends at his country club just at a time when his personal income had declined.

“It was during this period of personal financial stress that (Neely) conceived and effected his ponzi scheme,” FINRA said in its order. He invented the “St. Louis Investment Club” and the equally phony “St. Charles REIT,” promising 20 percent returns. He made up investment “certificates” for the club and REIT to give to clients. His first investor was a cousin who invested $30,000, expecting returns of up to 10 percent.

Neely portrayed membership in the investment club as exclusive. He told a retiree, a longtime friend and fellow church member (Neely is a Jehovah’s Witness) that he would tell her when “openings” occurred in the club. “Seven or eight” other church members invested in the scam, said James Shorris, executive vice president at FINRA.

Maxine Kennedy, the JW school secretary for Scotlandville High School in Lousiana, ran amok with the school’s credit card. For some 28 months, she bought groceries and furniture, paid bills, and got cash advances. She also allegedly allowed her daughter, Toni, to use the card, including for large cash advances, and a Jehovah’s Witnesses convention.

Legal News

Lawrence Hughes abandoned his Jehovah’s Witness faith to fight for a blood transfusion for his daughter, Bethany, who had acute myeloid leukemia. He has since lost his daughter and been disfellowshipped. But he’s still fighting, even after divorce and bankruptcy.

What it most clearly does not say is that Mr. Hughes is necessarily wrong in claiming that his daughter received problematic advice from lawyers working not just for her, but also for a religious body intent on seeing her denied the blood she needed. “If I was advising [the Watchtower Society and its lawyers] I would now say, ‘At some point, this is no longer going to work out for you,’ ” Ms. Woolley says.

When Bethany Hughes died in the summer of 2002, her story was national news; the girl, just turned 17, had been diagnosed earlier that year with acute myeloid leukemia, but had fought, legally and physically, blood transfusions prescribed by doctors on religious grounds, her resistance abetted by lawyers from a firm that, by all available evidence, is a branch of the Watchtower Society itself, retaining the church as its primary client – a “captive law firm” as one judge described Glen How and Associates, employer of Bethany’s lawyers David Gnam and Shane Brady. The firm is even located within the Watchtower Society’s Georgetown, Ont. compound.

Armageddon’s Gonna Git-choo

A sweet blog post on the moon landing reminds us that on the day in 1969 in Chicago, 38,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had crammed into Comiskey Park, saw the landing as “a sign that our universe is in its last days.”

I get the sense that there has been a serious effort towards positive PR. To a current JW, this must be a little bit humorous, in a macabre sort of way. Here’s the new approach:

JWs “don’t mean to scare people,” they say, but just to “provide believers with a revelations roadmap. A spiritual survival guide to emerge from Armageddon intact.” The May assemblies offered guidance on how to “avoid Satan’s snares. Because we know that the goal of Satan is to hamper people from surviving.”

The summer assemblies deny that JW’s approach Armaggeddon in a “fanatical way” but only to use “careful judgment in everyday life.”

Along with spiritual gains, he added that avoiding negative behaviors has very real benefits: money can be spent in better ways and a greater focus can be on family, for instance.

“People are being barraged all the time by different viewpoints of morality, different concerns for the economy,” West said. “We know by trusting God that we can cope with the most difficult situations in life and it gives us a positive hope in him.”

By lunchtime on Friday, the thousands of Witnesses and others who packed the Convocation Center, Northern Illinois University’s sports arena, had just finished listening to the keynote speaker. Darien Hanson called on the group to be “watchdogs” and to be alert to the signs of Jesus’ presence. A slackening of Christian expectations, he said, is detrimental to this.

Hanson also announced a very exciting offer: A DVD on creationism was being released that weekend, and each family in the audience could take home a copy. This is what Jean West was most excited about, as it would help illustrate God as a creator, she said.

“It tells us we have a maker who’s intelligent,” her husband added.

Though the Bible teaches that God both created the world and will someday end the world, neither the 24th chapter of Matthew nor Jehovah’s Witnesses know when that will be.

“We feel that there is going to be this change,” West said.

As written in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that preceding this time will be wars, famine, false prophets and the like. This makes the 2009 district convention theme very “timely,” West said, noting how much has changed since the onset of World War I.

Research

The Pew Forum comparative study on religious beliefs and practices is very interesting and worth a read.

New Video on Jehovah’s Witnesses

New Video on Jehovah’s Witnesses

I posted a little while ago about the little boy who couldn’t see a future for himself outside of the JWs. All Jehovah’s Witness children grow up this way.

Watch this short new video to get a sense of the kind of message that all JWs – even children – hear ad nauseum. Notice the way non-JWs are presented, and the image of God that they create.

There is no room for love, compassion, or grace in this message.

I’ve heard Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to claim that the Watchtower Society never gave the 1975 date for Armageddon. They did – I remember it – and this video proves it. “Stay alive ’til 75” was something I heard a lot as a kid. People made all sorts of decisions based on this false prophecy, and when 1975 came and went, a lot of people left. There has been a fair bit of historical revisionism since that time, as there has been for other dates that had been given.

This is the kind of discourse I grew up hearing all the time. I thought that I would never graduate from High School before the end of this wicked system of things happened and all the other people were destroyed and the New Order on a paradise earth (full of unified Jehovah’s Witnesses) would begin.

JWs believe that you have to be in the organization to survive the Great Tribulation. They make noises these days about God being the only one to judge, but no JW really believes that. They hear differently all their lives, and they know about the “theocratic war strategy” of lying to the satanic public.

JWs imagine the Last Days vividly – and often – and most would never have the courage to leave the organization, just in case it really is “the Truth.”

Ex-JWs might enjoy the background music on this, including the “From House to House” Sambo remix.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH86vaycH58%20[/youtube]

(Thanks to JB, JME, and Amanda)

More videos about Jehovah’s Witnesses (or resonant with exJWs):



Breaking down a Watchtower message to the Great Crowd

Breaking down a Watchtower message to the Great Crowd

When my friend Janet sent me a link to this piece from a very recent talk (given by James Rayford at a Kingdom Hall in Houston Texas), I actually forced myself to listen to it. I’m going to comment below, so that you can begin to understand what happens to the self-identified “Great Crowd” (who believe they will inherit a paradise earth after Armageddon) in all those hours of listening at the Kingdom Hall.

This is why they can feel good about shunning their own family and friends if they leave. This is why they can let their children die for lack of a blood transfusion. This is why they look so alarmed if you try to wish them a Happy Birthday or a Merry Christmas.

Matthew 24:14 is Fulfilled, Speaker James Rayford, January 2007 (2.2mb mpg file at DavidGladden.com) (Note 7-25-07: The previous link to the audio has disappeared. Turn on your popup blocker (sheesh) and try this one http://www.savefile.com/files/403256. See also the discussions at Jehovah’s-Witness and E-Jehovah’sWitnesses.)

I’ve created a transcript here (in case the file disappears, as they are wont to do), but you really have to listen to understand the effect this might have had on the audience. All such messages are crafted by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (despite the ploy of his opening comment). My comments are below.

I’m going to put these notes down here for a minute and just say something to you.

I’d like for you to listen to this very carefully…

For those of us at Bethel we have the privilege of working with the faithful and discreet slave – the governing body – and I would like for you to know how the governing body – the faithful slave – feels about the way things are right now in this system of things, the time period in which you are living.

The faithful slave feels that that have fulfilled Matthew 24:14. This good news has been preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness.

What does the next part of that text say, after?

(a couple of people mutter in the audience)

Yes. The end will come.

Do you know that there are only three countries in the entire world where there are no Witnesses today?

Only three countries. They are Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean that the literature is not in those countries, there’s no Witnesses there.

And I mentioned this yesterday to some of the friends, and they wanted to know why, and I will tell you why.

Jehovah does not send his people to any environment where they will be killed.

That’s why there’s no Witnesses there. Those two (sic) countries bear community responsibility. But the good news of the kingdom has been preached.

Matthew 24. Luke 21. Mark 13. Revelation 6. Those scriptures are having their fulfillment. They’re being fulfilled.

So where are you in the stream of bible prophecy?

What is the next prophecy to be fulfilled – the next one?

Do you know?

(silence)

I’m going to read it to you. Turn to Revelation. Revelation 17. Verses 15 through 17.

And he says to me, the waters you saw where the Harlot is sitting means people and crowds and nations and tongues. The ten horns that you saw and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked and will eat up her fleshly parts and will completely burn her with fire, for God put it into their hearts to carry out His thoughts – or His thought, even to carry out their one thought – by giving their kingdom to the wild beast until the words of God will have been accomplished.

The words of God will have been accomplished.

The anointed – the faithful slave – is waiting for God with this one thought in their hearts.

That’s the next bible prophecy to be fulfilled. For those who know what that means, that triggers the Great Tribulation.

Once that starts, all of you will be locked into where you are now.

Whatever you’ve done, you’ve done. There won’t be any more “well, you know I could have, I thought of, that I might do this, if I had the time.”

This is the time.

What will you going to, what will you do about the time in which you, we, are living?

Be at it urge..urgently. Be quick about it.

The time left is reduced.

First of all, you need to hear this man’s voice – it is very soft and seductive and easy to hear (a little creepy, too, but maybe I’m biased). Anyway, that kind of voice is pleasant, compared to the usual. He draws the audience in with a confidential-seeming aside. He’s an insider, so they will be excited and a little apprehensive with this kind of set-up. Clearly, the message will be special. They are promised insight into the assessment of the governing body! That’s like getting the message straight from God… kinda.

The governing body is actually just the twelve men in New York who act as the ultimate earthly (worldly?) authorities for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They run the Watchtower corporations and set all of the policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note how they are as ambiguously singular and plural as the harlot and the beast.

You’ll note also the repetition reinforcement technique used with the interchangeability between the “governing body”, and “the faithful slave” (who they believe are the remnant of the remaining living members of the 144,000 who will rule with in heaven with Jesus – the Archangel Michael – over the new earth).

The two groups aren’t actually synonymous, even by their own doctrine. The members of the governing body are assumed to be of the 144,000, but not all surviving members of the 144,000 are members of the governing body (official Watchtower statistic: 8,524 memorial partakers in 2005). Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of these spoke out against the organization? (For a critique of the governing body as an embodiment of the “faithful slave” see Six Million Jehovah’s Witnesses Held Captive by Don Cameron, a former elder).

There’s nothing very new or special about the statement about the good news being preached throughout the earth, except that they seem to feel their job is done. (You have to realize that any other christian missionary work ever done by any other religious group doesn’t count.)

(I need to verify this, but I believe that their membership is down and they are “downsizing” many of their unpaid workers, which might be prompting this whole thing.)

JWs have always felt that they were in the end times. The sense of urgency is the same, too.

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.
~ Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Studies in the Scripture”, 1910 edition

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.
~ Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Studies in the Scripture”, 1923 edition

Rutherford stressed 1925 as a date for Armageddon, and there are other dates. Check with anyone who was told that the end would come in 1975. Many JWs left when that didn’t happen.

What’s also interesting to me – and I wouldn’t have noticed it when I was still a Witness – is that the content of the good news isn’t mentioned at all. No word here on grace, forgiveness of sins, salvation, Jesus the Lamb of God (or the mediator, or anything involving kindness – only the kingship and destroyer metaphors are used with regularity). The focus is on all the prohibitions, but none of the virtues or insights.

Does this kind of message sound like good news to you? Is it good news to think that most of the world’s population is about to be destroyed? What a lack of compassion. Mostly, it’s this “bad news” that is being spread…

What is important to all concerned is simply how many Jehovah’s Witnesses there are. Even in the three – perhaps recently it was two? – countries, the “literature” is there and those communities bear “responsibility.” It doesn’t even matter how many people come to love or accept the Judeo-Christian God, even the one of their interpretation. Not even the distribution of bibles (a standard missionary move) matters as much as the spread of the literature produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

I am surprised by the claim that Jehovah (God) does not send people to where they will be killed. God has sent people to where they will be killed on many occasions, according to biblical narratives. Jesus comes to mind, for example. Or the early christian martyrs who were thrown to the lions. Or any of the martyrs of any faith, really. Back in World War II, one of the Kingdom songs (Forward You Witnesses) was written in a concentration camp, where they continued to worship and preach, as they sang about “this time of the end.” Ask any old-timers about the policies regarding Malawi.

It’s also interesting that the usual comments about courage and perseverance in the face of persecution seem to have been dropped.

It seems to me that there are probably some other reasons why the organization is not formally recognized in these three countries… Unmentioned additional countries may ban the JW faith, particularly where there are strict theocracies or semi-theocracies. Just a speculation.

You’d really have to be steeped in JW-speak to understand the reasons for this cherry-picked meandering through Revelation. Note how he lingers on “naked” and “completely burn her with fire.” (She was askin’ for it, right?) The sexual fascination and misogyny is an undercurrent, but I won’t dwell on it here. Let’s just say the language resonates for JWs in many directions, and for many reasons.

The scripture speaks about end times, and empires, and religions, and the kingdoms of the earth, and who-all knows what else, in allegorical and symbolic terms – maybe even in a kind of code. The meaning? Well, there are huge interpretative differences among the different Christian groups about how to interpret. Babylon, Rome, Jerusalem, the Catholic Church, the UN, all “false religion”, the anti-christ, secular governments, blah blah blah. I won’t go into all of the explanations of the beast and harlot and water and horns and such. The thought of explaining the JW doctrine on this stuff gives me a headache. I’m not going there today. I spent too much time peddling this stuff myself. JWs are taught to believe that there is only one correction interpretation of any biblical passage, and that God has given the correct interpretation directly to the governing body via mysterious transmissions of holy spirit. They don’t worry about conflicting interpretations – they just follow whatever the organization happens to say that decade.

Have fun. Google Revelation 17. Get out your bible and read the whole chapter, or the whole book. Do your own research. Or not. Some people can get a little addled and odd after becoming obsessed with the cryptic messages of Revelation (cf. Charlie Manson, David Koresh, etc.).

Basically, the purpose here is to wave around some secret knowledge, reinforcing previous messages and emphasizing the horror to come for non-JWs and anyone else who is not in good standing with God when the Great Tribulation comes as the opening act of Armageddon.

The whole ending, delivered very quietly, will create a tiny little panicked voice in the heart of the regular rank and file Jehovah’s Witness. I felt a little pang inside myself, as you would feel while watching a good play. He effectively delivers the whole crafted sales pitch. Even though he is, as they say, “preaching to the choir,” he is successfully making personal status and diminishing time felt as urgent issues.

This sort of content and delivery makes the audience feel special, and frightened, and resolute – the perfect combination for control. He is pumping up the herd.

Notice that the emphasis is on what someone does, not what they think or what they believe or who they are. It’s not about joy or love or character or insight or prayer or faith or compassion or transformation. It’s about a very specific and very limited kind of work. Care for others – a wider sense of service or devotion – doesn’t enter into it. There is no language of individual calling.

JWs will simply ask themselves whether they are really doing everything possible to be in the best position when they get “locked in.”

They had better stop talking to former brother-X altogether – they just can’t risk being associated with anything outside the “organization,” outside the “Truth.” Better cut down on that outside reading, better quit school, better stop learning karate or piano. All these things take up time. Kindness doesn’t matter anymore. God’s going to kill everybody else anyway.

So what if he’s my brother, or son, or father, or cousin, or friend? What if that person never got any real guidance or help? So what if someone is simply a decent person who’s going through a difficult time and needs the support and help of his or her family and friends to figure things out?

Gotta keep that congregation clean. It’s ideological cleansing. We recoil in horror at the idea of ethnic cleansing, but theocratic cleansing doesn’t seem to bother us so much.

Ironically, it’s also hopeful. If the preaching work is fulfilled, well, maybe they can stop this thankless task? Maybe the hours they spend out in service won’t need to be reported anymore? Maybe the book and magazine distribution to worldly outsiders is no longer important? Wouldn’t it be exciting if the whole mission were re-envisioned?

I wonder if they actually will rethink the evangelical mission if they feel the prophecy is already fulfilled. Probably not, but the thought might occur to one or another of the brighter ones. Of course, they won’t have the courage to ask.

The ending seems dramatic at first, unless you stop to think for a moment. If you believe in the end times, then – logically speaking – the time is always reduced.

Try to imagine leaving this group after years of messages like this for several hours a week. For a JW who leaves or is disfellowshipped, the trauma and fear (and even paranoia) is very real. Add to that the rejection, and being cut off from family and friends who fear to taint themselves with association – even to give spiritual guidance or simple, caring friendship. Follow JWs in the news to see some of the results.

There are no marks of love in any of this.

This is the kind of message that only strengthens my resolve to help and support recovering Jehovah’s Witnesses in any way that I can. If you are a former JW and you need someone to talk with, please feel free to contact me. I’m no guru. However, I “get” what you might be going through, and I don’t have any agenda except to support you, in kindness, with finding your own way, your own path.

(No, I don’t make any money doing this – it’s a part of my own spiritual calling to help if I can.)

To a Recovering Jehovah’s Witness

To a Recovering Jehovah’s Witness

Dear C –

As always, take what is helpful to you and reject what doesn’t ring true to your inner self…

If there is a spirit of the cosmos, and if that spirit is what we mean when we talk about “God”, then I have to believe that the spirit is a spirit of Love that holds everything together and makes everything related and connected in a million, mysterious ways. All our words about God are simply ways to place God within a human frame of reference. It’s all metaphor, all of it. We don’t really have the words to describe or understand.

Don’t get hung up on names. Only humans care about names. Come back to that question later, when you don’t have so much scar tissue about it (smile). Yes, pray. Pray if you can. Pray for wisdom and understanding and forgiveness and compassion and clarity and joy and laughter and caring.

Listen to yourself breathe. Maybe you remember the old childhood mantra, “In with the good air, out with the bad.” Let strength and caring in, breathe out despair and depression.

Find and follow your own path, your own light, your own connection. You are unique and all the cosmos wants of you is to be yourself in the best way you can. Support others, care for others. You have an internal sense of ethics and care and attentiveness already – build on that from within. Even biblically (and please remember that the collection of texts that we call the bible is just that, a collection of texts – from several cultural moments and places, and it’s been censored and edited to please very specific audiences), it is said that the kingdom is within you. Spirituality is a lifelong journal journey, not just a moment when you have all the right answers and then you are done.

As for family, what can I say? Yours is being spectacularly intrusive. I would intervene if I were you, but that’s entirely your own decision. At the very least, some basic ground rules for contact with your kids should be established. If it gets any uglier, you could consult a lawyer for the best way to proceed. Meanwhile, tell your daughter something like that some people believe in the end of the world, but that you don’t believe that God wants to torture and kill people. Something like that would go a long way toward undoing the damage. Tell her something, something calmly, lovingly, to ease her fears. Something at a level she can understand.

My son (6) asked me if I thought my father had gone to heaven. I told him that some people believe in a heaven, but that I didn’t know, and that nobody else really knew either.

He asked, “Do I have to decide for myself what I believe?” Yes.
“Do I have to decide _right now_?”
No – (smiling inside) and you might change your mind from time to time.
“Well, then maybe do you think his skeleton will come out and dance with us on Halloween?”

I sort of don’t think so, but if you like, we can do a dance, and pretend that he’s laughing, which is what he might do if he were still here.

We did a dance, and Ben laughed the whole time. It was fun.

With kids, you’ve got to be creative, and not let it get so heavy. Your words mean more to your kids than anybody else’s – but if you’re upset, they’ll know that too. Keep it light and reassuring.

Even without these issues, you are not the only one who cannot rely on biological family! It’s sad, but it’s reality. Even Jesus said – these are my family, these are my brothers and sisters.
And he really didn’t have anything to complain about with his own family if you believe the stories….

I have “adopted” parents and brothers and sisters and cousins. Friends can be family too. Somewhere there is a father and an older brother to give you advice. Somewhere you already have a friend to call, and you’ll have more, because as you refocus you will have more and more to offer to others – understanding, caring, welcoming, laughter, joy.

I read a study not long ago that said that the words that people most wanted to hear from someone else weren’t “I love you”, but instead, “It’s going to be all right.” So let me say to you – Everything is going to be all right. It is. It might be hard, but you’ve gotten this far, and you’re strong enough to refuse abuse and to step out of situations of abuse – physical, emotional, spiritual. Your own self-respect and sense of self-worth is what you have to continue to build on here.

Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are “better than everyone else.” There are solid good people who are rank and file JWs. The odds are against them, because JWs are so set up – in all sorts of ways – to believe that they are better, that God likes them more, that they are superior. They are told that they are the only ones who matter, and that the only good work that matters is to make more of them. They also block internal questioning or criticism or debate – and train the JWS to believe that independent thinking and reflection and research and meditation are somehow displeasing to God.

JWs are also so controlled by the dictates from the Watchtower publishing corporations that it is easy to understand the longing for personal power, even in these hidden forms. When the lack of power is at issue all the time, when the people willingly take on the identities of sheep and slaves with “overseers”, then the whole issue of free will and religious self-determination gets cross-wired with other things. Statistically, there is also more mental illness, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, pedophilia, and so on as well. It’s a pathological situation.

Still, there are good people in every religious group. Some of it depends on simple timing – when they were brought in, with who, what they are used to, how things connected for them, and so on. Many people are just simply doing the best they can, believing that what they do is right. But yes, of course I have noticed what you’re talking about. To be fair, I think most religions at the edges have people who miss the whole point in just that way –

When kindness and caring are lacking, so is love. Cold, hard, rule-based, totalitarian forms of religion are anti-spiritual (at least, that’s my opinion). They are actually anti-religious, since they don’t “retie or rebind together” but rather “split apart.” There is some form of that, some legalistic fanatical wing, in every organized religion – as we see on the news every night. Is it a war god, a god of death, that they worship? I don’t know – but you have to decide for yourself which is better, what kind of god would be the god of love, and worthy of praise.

It is easy to let someone else take over your spiritual responsibilities. Self-righteousness is very comforting. Humility is more difficult.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society hardly ever talks or writes about grace – actually they reject the word “grace” altogether, and their alternate word “loving-kindness” is employed only under very specific conditions. They want that free salesforce out there under their control…

But what kind of God would count the hours selling books and yet turn attention away from the fundamental cruelties to others that JWs endorse? You can’t “earn” some kind of salvation, redemption, or love – least of all by counting hours knocking or by mindlessly following the (often-changing) dictates of a set of corporations based in New York. Actually, I think it’s very funny that they started calling it the “Truth” – with a capital T! That signals enormous insecurity.

Ask yourself every kind of question you can and watch the questions get better. Grow into habits of caring and tolerance and kindness, and watch what happens to you. Small moments matter. Love grows. Kindness blooms. You’ll feel it.

Think of how you are with your children in the most special kind of moment, and imagine:
THIS is how God would view you – as precious, as unbelievably beautiful and real, with kindness, with love.

JWs and Armageddon

JWs and Armageddon

Wayne Jackson has an interesting biblical analysis of the JW position on Armadeddon at Christian Courier.

A sample:

In Matthew 24:5ff, Christ set forth a number of “signs” that would herald the impending destruction of Jerusalem. He plainly declared: “this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished” (v. 34). Of special interest are the expressions “this generation,” and “all.”

The word “generation” (genea) refers to “the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time and freq[uently] defined in terms of specific characteristics, generation, contemporaries” (F.W. Danker, et al., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000, p. 191).

The expression “this generation” (he-genea-aute) is found five times in Matthew’s Gospel record, and never is it employed in any sense other than that of the “generation” contemporary with Jesus Christ (cf. 11:16; 12:41-42; 23:36).

The “Witnesses,” however, assign a most strange interpretation to the phrase. They contend: “It is the generation of people who saw the catastrophic events that broke forth in connection with World War I from 1914 onward” (Watchtower, op. cit., p. 31).

The fact of the matter is, however, the “Watchtower” folks concede that Christ’s application was to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. “[Christ] outlined things that would befall the Jewish nation during the execution of Jehovah’s judgment upon Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman general Titus (Dan. 9:26)” (Aid to Bible Understanding, Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Society, 1971, p. 642).

Incredibly, however, they manipulate the expression “this generation” across more than 2,000 years of history to embrace the modern era. Further, they totally ignore the Lord’s declaration that “all” the signs of Matthew 24:5-33 were to be fulfilled in the A.D. 70 event. The common-sense rules of responsible exegesis are thrust aside with reckless abandon.

I have one quibble with the piece. Anyone who refers to the JWs as a “non-prophet” enterprise is correct only in the literal sense. Lack of prophetic vision, yes.

But it’s no fun without the pun, and JWs are not non-profit – far from it.

Note for researchers – “Watchtower” is written as a single word in the name of the sect’s New York corporation, but as two words in the name of the Pennsylvania parent corporation.

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