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Cold Moon

Cold Moon

Nestled front and center against a huge cumulus cloud, the moon looks like a hole in the sky tonight. My camera can’t capture the mood, but there is a fiery/faerie halo around the whole moon. It’s beautiful. It rained last night, so the full moon was hidden, but tonight’s moon still looks pretty full to me.

Moon over Atlanta
Moon over Atlanta

“Then came old January wrapped well
In many weeds to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver, like to quell,
And blow his nails to warm them if he may.”
– Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen

I’m cold. I can’t get warm tonight.

I’m sending out hope and care and love and light to so many people I know, people I care about who have lost jobs and lost houses. There’s one smashed up car and one damaged car, a fire, and several scary medical emergencies. I’m hearing about a fair bit of smallness and meanness and drama of one kind or another, and also about how people are having a hard time making ends meet, and who are trying to navigate very difficult terrain. It seems like this should be a time when we all pull together and be more helpful and supportive of one another. Even among those who are doing relatively fine, there seems to be a widespread tendency to depression and fatigue. Perhaps it’s normal for the post-holiday January blahs, especially considering the snow and ice and flooding and who knows what else.

I’m thinking about one friend in particular tonight, a woman who not only had to go through what had to be a very frightening experience when her lovepartner had a brain aneurysm, but then had to deal with a family member who blamed the incident on the fact that her religious beliefs weren’t identical to his own. As if God would punish her – and through someone she loved – for her non-compliance to some spiritual midget’s unthinking person’s standards. Now she’s being threatened with disassociation from the rest of the family because she had the courage to point out that such a statement wasn’t very caring or supportive of family in a medical crisis. This young woman has already been through so much. She is a very compassionate and caring person. She is blunt when confronting unfairness, but she is also just learning how to really articulate a lot of things that have been painful and destructive to her – as well as things that she has learned through her own experience and insight. She is courageous and curious and she loves her boyfriend and the animals she rescues and the friends in her life. She will be ok, I know – but I can also palpably feel her sense of betrayal and pain. It must be awfully hard to deal with that on top of navigating the medical system and trying to make sure that her boyfriend is taken care of properly. He’s a stellar guy – intelligent and creative – and I know they’ll support one another through all this. He’s already doing much better. I hope that she can focus on being with him, and bracket out the rest – at least for a little while until the whole situation has a time-out.

Sometimes, though, when I hear about these things, I’m struck by the anti-agapic qualities of so many people who think they are religious, and I feel a little sick. I know that it means a lot to offer caring and support, but I also feel helpless. I have empathy, and a tendency to try to heal hurts – even just imaginatively. You never know what might help. But what do you say to someone when you can’t make anything better or easier for them? I’m thrashing around half the time myself.

I tried to watch the news tonight, and I actually couldn’t bear it. I had to walk away. I’m freezing and I can’t seem to reset my thermostat. I can’t get warm. I’m tired.

I’m thinking about all kinds of changes – how life moves on, whether or not you’re ready. I know that I have to keep starting again, and that a more hopeful-trusting-positive attitude would be vastly preferable for me. It works… then it doesn’t work. I’m full of confidence and creative ideas, then everything deflates and I find myself looking at some small small rock on the ground for ten minutes – or I realize that I’ve daydreamed several contradictory scenarios trying to work something out when I haven’t even identified what I’m practicing for – why am I creating conversations in my head? They have nothing to do with the dialogue that I’ve been trying to write – it would be great if they were. I’ve dreamed people that don’t exist, and places I’ve never been, and situations that will never exist. And I revise them – for nothing, really. It doesn’t help to know that my internal scenes are passing, and what seems so emotionally fraught will seem somewhat inconsequential and silly at some later time. It’s like when you’re a kid and you attach yourself to a song and it seems so meaningful, and then years later you have to laugh, just remembering how important and serious it seemed at the time.

I’ve been fine, then not fine, then depressed, then creative, then hopeful, then tired, then depressed again… and I’m really losing interest in my own thoughts and feelings. I just want to curl up with a book. Everything I have on hand that I haven’t already read is spiritually uplifting and hopeful and again – another wave of nausea at the thought.

I know it’s all very silly. I know that I am loved – despite how difficult I can make that – and that the wheel will turn. As scary as it can sometimes be, change is something that can be counted on. Things will change, and then they’ll change some more – everything is always in process. Trying to hang on to a static reality is deadly, anyway. It’s best to pay attention, adjust, ride it through – or surf it if you can – and be open to the bl(i)ssings as they arrive over the top of the other side.

Rambling post on Suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Rambling post on Suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Christian Peper has made a good start in thinking about suicide and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it’s worth a read. I’m just using his post as a starting point to bounce some ideas around.

Suicide isn’t really any kind of sure way for JWs to hedge their bets. The position on suicide was one of their rare agreements with the Catholic Church. JWs don’t believe in hell, but they used to say that suicides could not be resurrected because it was an ultimate rejection of the gift of life. It’s not one of the main points that gets repeated and repeated, so many JWs might not even be aware of that position. Commenter Stacey1970 points out that the Watchtower Society actually took a step back from judgment in the 1990 Awake! – I wonder why?

This 1990 Awake! article (it’s so sad they hid this doctrinal change in the Awake!, since the Watchtower is their doctrinal magazine, it seems they would have printed it there too…) from Sept 8th, states:

“Love strengthens our recognition that suicide—though evading one’s own burdens—only heaps more problems on loved ones left behind. As far as the one who rashly took his own life is concerned, we humans cannot judge as to whether he will get a resurrection or not. How reprehensible was he? God alone searches ‘all hearts and every inclination of the thoughts.’ (1 Chronicles 28:9) But we may be confident that ‘the Judge of all the earth is going to do what is loving, just, and right!’—Genesis 18:25.”

Is there a similar Watchtower article? I’m sure there must be an article on suicide somewhere (will look up later) for comparison.

When I think of my own transition through depressive, melancholy times, and of people I have known or talked with later on, I feel that that it may not matter so much what the position on resurrection is for someone who feels suicidal. Someone who wants to kill herself or himself feels done. They want escape, or just an end to feelings of despair. It is painful and horrible to be desperate or tired enough to consider killing yourself. Would a person in such a state necessarily care whether or not he or she were resurrected? I don’t know, but I somehow don’t think so.

Yes, there is a focus on death and destruction, but the energy isn’t so much about anger. JWs have usually been pacifists (except for that weird 3rd cousin Waco offshoot). JWs don’t vote, or fight. If some of them got a little angry once in a while, there might be more real discussions. It is short-circuited at the start. I think that might change, though, judging by the comments of some current JWs. Now, they direct their anger at people who criticize the Watchtower Society – but that anger is new – where will it go? (Note: The comments on JW-related posts are often troubling, in many ways. There is a lot of anger to go around.)

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses try not to think about what they are actually saying about Armageddon, and they fear it, and they bury their fear. They expect the God of Love – Jehovah-God, through the Archangel and Mediator Michael (Jesus) to do the actual killing. JWs are just preparing the way… or something like that.

Some JWs simply want to think that if they obey every rule, they will be favored. They are the ones who could most benefit from the idea of grace (that is never discussed).

They think that if they follow the leadership of the “governing body”, then they will get a reward. I grew up with a completely different idea about keeping “your eyes on the prize.” It was a song, and it wasn’t about civil rights.

It’s deferred gratification, but hey – who wouldn’t like to live on a paradise earth forever, or for even the thousand years before the second judgment? It looks like fun, with the lions lying down with the lamb and all. No pain. No work. Everybody just gets along. No ethereal ambiguous heavenly existence for the “great crowd” – that’s only for the 144,000. No, the great crowd gets paradise – with all the inconvenient other people gone, like in that song “Political Science” by Randy Newman.

For many, for most (not for all, but for most), the best thing seems to be to simply put up with everything, and do what you’re told to do, think what you’re told to think, and feel that you’re doing the right thing – even if that means you don’t talk to your son or your daughter or your mother or father or sister or brother or friend anymore. They think that they might save a life by cutting them off from love. They believe that the only good work is to make more Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They miss so much.

There are no celebrations, few occasions to break into the hours of service and talks and indoc…um…training. JWs don’t celebrate holidays, even their own birthdays. It’s not so much that the specific holidays are so important as that there is no cause for celebration – there is no little light and warmth in winter which to make days to remember, touchstones of repetition in one’s life. No Halloween frolic, no day of carnivale, little dancing, not nearly so much laughter as there should be. Simple kindness is undervalued somewhat, or twisted somehow.

Yet, as a JW, you feel that this is what God wants for you, and you go out and try to convince others that you want to save their lives by introducing them to the “Truth” – the only real religion (the others are demonic). Saving lives – it seems like such a good motivation to sell ideas and books for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, doesn’t it? And many of the JWs are good people.

Social pressure is intense. The loss of self-determination and the slow ebb from freedom (even the freedom to seek God), are compensated with intense self-righteousness. Hey, I loved explaining to everyone in homeroom why I didn’t salute the flag! I felt special, even if the differences were also difficult (I wanted to sing the Christmas songs and make Valentines).

I felt right. That’s the hard part. Oh, that’s so hard to give up, once you’re accustomed to that feeling. I struggle with it. I still love to be right.

Suppose you have to admit you are wrong. Tough, isn’t it? Suppose you didn’t have a friend, or any family that would speak to you if you did admit you were wrong. Makes it harder still. Sometimes people set themselves up, or lash out, or identify with what they have been told former Witnesses are. It takes a lot of windup to go.

It helps if you just leave the area, but you’ve got to develop new skills.

I had it easy, really – I was leaving for a while, for lots of reasons. I still had my family, and I had “worldly” friends that were strangely kind and understanding and supportive. I read a lot, too, which also helps more than I ever knew at the time. I left.

Some are kicked. Everyone participates in shunning the “unrepentant ones,” and among some congregations, there are internal urban myths – such as that the belief that once away from the “Truth”, you will be spiritually attacked by by by…demons. These demons are depicted as even more frightening and evil than this “wordly satanic system of things” which, to them, is our common reality.

Some of them even feared Smurfs. Smurfs with mystique. I remember the story of the wallpaper with demonic Smurfs that came to life. I wonder if that JW urban myth led directly to the animation at the beginning of “Dragon Tales”? Hmmm.

Depression, glumness. Glum. Like Puritans.

So then, if a JW is dealing with a real issue or problem, and isn’t necessarily ready to leave, who does the JW turn to? The elders? Elders don’t really have the training or even (usually) the inclination to shepard someone (in the good sense) through a moment of crisis. They’ll be using selected bible verses to support a thinly-veiled argument dictated by someone else – in New York. Asking questions could get you labeled – “gray area” “rebellious” “independent thinker” “worldly” “Memorial members.”

There are problems with power – the JWs are happy to think of themselves as submissive sheep – but righteous, very righteous and preferred by God. These shepards don’t coax, not even with friendly dogs. They are the kind with the whip hidden behind their back. To admit difference is to invite punishment – some of it is subtle, but it is effective. “Only” Jehovah’s Witnesses follow God’s Word – at least in that translation. If you have questions or problems – well, they have to keep the congregation clean.

I would like to see more documentation on the suicide rate among Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would also like to see the same kinds of figures on former Jehovah’s Witnesses (especially those who have been cut off from contact with their families under conditions of disfellowshipping or other ostracizing behaviors). Is anyone tracking this to know the statistics? Has there been a recent study? (I’m already aware of information and news tracking, and the work of such groups as Silent Lambs). Please comment with any information.

Sorry for the rambling quality of the post. I’m working out some things in my mind, trying to think how it might help a former JW who contacted me. Sometimes writing helps – and sometimes the thought process itself might help someone. You never know.

Questioning JW Records Disfellowshipping Process

Questioning JW Records Disfellowshipping Process

In the words of Christopher Walken in the role of The Continental, “Wow. Wowie-wow-wow-wow.”

I stumbled across this today while backtracking some google searches that led people to this site. It’s always interesting to see what else comes up under the same search phrases. Go to this page at FreeMinds.org to hear the recordings. It doesn’t take long for someone who is looking for answers to their questions to be shunned. This gives a pretty good idea of their pastoral expertise.

Sick of Lies Conversations with Elders

The following phone conversations reveal the lying, misinformation schemes and doubletalk of elders and other brothers that are often triggered by a conversation with a questioning Jehovah’s Witness who is trying to get truthful answers from the Watchtower Society.

“I get many people asking me why I did this, it started as an idea. I wanted to leave and just disassociating myself seemed pointless because I wanted people to know why I was leaving and not just have a blank statement read to the congregation that I’m no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I decided that I would get myself disfellowshiped and document every step of the process. I had already been ‘reproved’ for asking to many questions on the subject of evolution, so I decided to continue to ask questions. I phoned up several elders and asked them questions on various topics, including 607, child abuse, UN NGO statue and more. When I first started doing this I started having second thoughts, I decided I would not pursue the matter anymore, I doubted anything would come of the questions and decided to leave it alone. Well it was only two days after asking these questions that the elders told me that they wanted to meet with me in a judicial committee and discuss what I had said. I was very nervous, but I decided to finish what I had started and carry out my project.

During the whole process I listened to questions and comments from other people who have been through emotional distress because of this religion, I tried to incorporate some or their concerns and questions in where I could. All in all I would say that this has been very therapeutic for me, facing my abusers who caused much depression and hardship in not only my life, but many others has made me feel like I took control of the situation and left under my own terms. After the whole ordeal was finished I left feeling no fear and no anxiety, I felt totally free.” – Sick of Lies

A few sample descriptions:

The elder who denies the “Two Witness” rule that protects pedophiles in the congregation as well as the Watchtower’s connection with the United Nations as an NGO (and they are still an NGO) (19:37)

An “anointed” elder is asked about proving the validity of the 607BCE date for the destruction of Jerusalem, gets flustered and says, “If the Watchtower says that’s what it is, then that’s what it is.” He is then asked about how you know you are of the anointed, and what would happen if the caller partook at the Memorial observance. (11:37)

Asking an elder about 607 BCE. (2:59)

The committee begins, they start by stating the reason they are there: “because your questioning everything” then state the reason they feel that I’m asking the questions is “your just trying to show your superiority because you have an education”. The elders in this committee repeatedly run down ‘higher education’ and state how it destroys spiritual minds.

“You’re looking for information that’s outside of what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has published… I support what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has to say. Those are my beliefs.” Never is the bible mentioned as the highest source, but always the Watchtower.

Questions are asked about how the elders handle someone who is suicidal or mentally ill. The elders simply reply that this is not their concern and they are simply there to assess wither or not the person qualifies for membership anymore. The elders state that baptism is a contract, and that once joined there is “no nice way out”. They take no responsibility for any depression or suicides that occur because of the shunning that results from their decision.

Second appeal hearing Part One. This time Dan is accompanied by Sean who came to provide him support and counsel if needed. Until last meeting where the elders allowed an outsider (Dan’s mother) to attend the entire hearing and even speak freely, this time they state confidentiality / elder privilege / organizational policy prevent any outsiders from viewing judicial committee under any circumstances.

Part two of appeal hearing. Elders ask if the meeting is being recorded and ask him ‘do you want to get in a war with us?’ ‘If this recording is being used for clandestine purposes you are in a heap of trouble’. Also the person is told that a picture he took of the elders was illegally taken.

04/26/06 Final Meeting with elders. Here the person is told the appeal committee has decided to uphold the decision to disfellowship. He is told there will be no more appeals and this decision will not be overturned.

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