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Misplaced Priorities and the Return of the Repressed

Misplaced Priorities and the Return of the Repressed

Republican Culture of Corruption: 2007 So Far is a pretty good list – see any themes?

On this Larry Craig scandal in particular, I’m struck again by how destructive it is when people cannot accept themselves for who they are. There is a strange doubling of the personality. People talk about hypocrisy, but it’s worse than that. It’s worse because it’s a deeper problem than just “not walking the talk.”

People who share the traits that you find irritating in yourself are the most irritating of all, aren’t they? I have a nervous giggle sometimes. I used to have to meditate on Scully from X-Files before giving lectures so that I could be professional about it. If I was around someone else who also giggled when they were nervous, it would be an almost unbearable experience. Even now, when the laughter is a softer thing (it morphed away from the Woody Woodpecker/Horshack sound of my childhood) it is still incredibly irritating to me from time to time – and probably to other people, too. I’ve tried to come to terms with this part of me that I personally find so unattractive. I’m still working on accepting it – and I’ve found the more I accept it, the less intrusive and harsh it becomes – and the less it bothers me when others do the same thing. The more I hated it, the worse it became.

I’ve never understood why sexuality seems to be the most important hot-button issue to so many Americans. We’re a schizophrenic culture in that way – Puritan, and yet… the guests on Jerry Springer. When we have a more realistic and healthier view of sexuality, things are better all around. If you track the relationships between power, religion and sexuality…. more on that another time.

Suffice to say, when you deeply reject part of yourself, the part of you that is rejected becomes more and more important – and darker and more looming. I’m familiar with this dynamic in another way too – it’s a really big problem among Jehovah’s Witnesses. More people are disfellowshipped because of sexual behavior than for any other reason, and at the same time domestic abuse and pedophilia are in some ways hidden and protected. It says a lot about the dynamics of belief-systems and their effects on real people.

It’s interesting that so many high-profile “virtuous” people split out to a seamy side. Jungian therapy would be a good thing… get creative about self-integration.

It’s really no big surprise to me that some of the people who are most focused on being anti-gay are actually repressed homosexuals. And it’s no surprise that some of the big “family values” people are so fond of prostitutes. The more stake you have in appearing to be something you can’t really ever be, the more that the parts of you that you can’t accept come back to haunt you – and it’s always in a darker and darker guise. The return of the repressed.

Larry Craig insists he’s not gay. It’s implausible, I think, but it’s also a measure of how deeply he rejects himself that he takes such an unwise strategy. On the other hand, it really bothers me that he’s being railroaded not because of criminal behavior, but because of sexual behavior. I find it disturbing that homosexual behavior becomes an automatic witch hunt, and all the joking I see is in very poor taste. Is this really what elections should be about anyway? Look at all of the other issues in the list I linked at the beginning.

It really bothered me at the time that Mark Foley could be claimed to have lost the election for the Republicans – not the war? economic policy? any of the other important issues?

Moms mobilize because their children are exposed to lead paint on their Chinese import toys. Good – great – we need mobilized moms! How about holding this government responsible for cutting the funding for the inspectors? What about the issue of child labor in China? Only American kids matter, then?

People in Atlanta have gotten really, really worked up about Michael Vick’s actions. Yeah, he’s a thug. I wish more American athletes were less like pond scum. Yeah, it’s terrible how the dogs were mistreated. But do we see this reaction to American torture policies? Should we put dogs in the cells so that Americans will care?

Americans are exhibiting more and more hysteria and mob behaviors.

We will only get what we deserve if we can’t stop and think and get our priorities straight.

Hearts and Minds of JW Children

Hearts and Minds of JW Children

I often get notified of media mentions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society via fellow ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacts on the web. The truly driven Danny Haszard sent me this one (thanks, Danny).

San Antonio’s media home on the net has a feature called “Through kids’ eyes” in which children write a little about their hopes and dreams and concerns and daily life. It’s not exactly a news item. But among the (statistically improbable) stories of JW pedophiles, murderers, abusers, scam artists, and other criminals and troubled ones in the news, this little article shines out to me.

My heart goes out to Rogelio, the little boy who doesn’t yet understand… but he already understands so much. It’s all there. Already. I wonder how old he is. Third, fourth grade?

He begins and ends the column with the importance of the Jehovah’s Witness identity for his family.

This ground of his existence means that he can’t celebrate his birthday. It’s the first thing he mentions. Not that he doesn’t celebrate it, but that he can’t.

He doesn’t know why – he can’t explain – he “can’t write it.”

This central fact of organizational loyalty means that although he loves math and likes science, he won’t be going to college.

I want to go to college but my parents won’t let me because they say it’s not important because whoever is with the world is going to be destroyed. They want me with them and to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I am second generation and I will be a Jehovah Witness.

This little boy already knows – deep down – that unless he goes along with the organization’s rules, he won’t be with his family (whether because of the end of the world, or because he would be shunned by them if he left or questioned). He tries – already – to interpret the looming murder by God of everyone else in the world except for JWs as something other than a nightmarish doctrine. His family just wants him to be with them, that’s all. When everyone else is dead.

This central fact of his family’s identity – and of his whole existence – is the shadow on child’s sweet, small daily bits of everyday life. The world might be destroyed sometime soon, but if there was a fire (just a fire) – he would try to save his PlayStation, computer and portable DVD player.

He wants to save his computer because it reminds him of his family.

I don’t dream anything. I used to have nightmares like a giant monster is following us and destroyed the whole city, even me. I don’t have dreams anymore. In 10 years, I’ll be right here in San Antonio, with my family, being a Jehovah’s Witness.

Maybe he forgot that world destruction thing, just for a moment. I hope so. He remembers the bullies at school, though, and I’ll bet he gets some… bullying. (Don’t even start with me on the so-called “war on Christmas” in this country. If you didn’t celebrate it, you’d understand that the celebration of Christmas is in no danger in America. Try being a JW kid. Try sitting out all the holiday stuff.)

I get some pretty harsh comments on the blog sometimes from people – JWs and others – who don’t perceive why I criticize the JW leadership and its policies. They don’t understand why I try to connect the dots of the psychological and social controls that generate sexual and domestic abuse, splitting, depression, fear, heartlessness, self-righteousness and cruelty, and a host of other problems. Are they ok with the exploitation of people – and the destructive effects of this exploitation on real people – even under the mask of religion?

They seem to think I hate JWs. I don’t, and I find myself reiterating that ad nauseum. But I do heartily disapprove of the racket that, among other things, does this to a young child. For those of us who grew up in the organization, it’s pretty easy to read between the lines.

There are lots of things to criticize, but this is the one that still resonates most deeply for me.

What they do to the minds and hearts of children. What they take away.

It’s just a boy who can’t celebrate his birthday, and can’t say why. Just a boy who just wants to ride in a truck and watch cartoons and eat some Frosted Flakes and be with his family. Just some little boy who fears being separated from the family he loves – and already understands the implicit future threat of disfellowshipping and shunning and the monster God of nightmare.

It’s just a little boy. Just one little boy.

Already, he’s afraid to dream about his future or his potential. They’ve already done that.

His family is all he has, and all he is likely ever to have. He does not want to lose them.

He knows that his own path of faith is not his to choose or to explore or to pursue. He knows that it’s all about the rules – not love, not forgiveness, not compassion, not any real service to others.

He knows all of this – he knows it in a confused inarticulate way, but he knows it.

However well-meaning and loving his family might be (and I’m sure they are, that’s not the point here), they will always put aside what they know of love – what they know in their hearts to be true – in favor of the cold-hearted “guidance” of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. That’s how strong the hold is over members.

You want to know why I criticize? That’s why. More than any other reason, that’s why.

The sad dark lump in my stomach rises to my throat.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Claiming to Follow the Christ

Jehovah’s Witnesses Claiming to Follow the Christ

According to an article in the Cherry Hill N.J. Courier-Post, Jehovah’s Witnesses aim to “debunk myths” about their faith by adopting the topic “Follow the Christ!” at the District Conventions. The article mentions only the one convention being held in Reading, Pa., but of course the program is an identical thing everywhere, and it’s not as though it’s an actual “conference” type of convention at which one might expect discussions, debates, new scholarship, pastoral support, and the like. It’s reinforcement and rah-rah. The JW assemblies were fun because it was a chance to meet other JWS, and it had a celebratory air for that reason. Now it seems they are using it as a preaching tool. They must have gleaned some tips from Falwell, et al. Too bad for the young ones seeking a mate – they’ll have to sort through all the non-JWs that attend.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Jersey are knocking on doors and inviting their neighbors to attend the convention, which will explain how following Bible principles that Christ promoted can help people improve their family life, draw closer to God and gain everlasting life, said Mark Weaver, a spokesman for the Reading conventions.

Here’s a funny bit: “There also will be a public talk debating the question: Who are the real followers of Christ?” Debating? Hee-hee. Not likely. Any guesses on who they will claim as the “real” followers?

Last year, the district convention was all about the “Deliverance at Hand” – meaning that the loving God is about to kill off most of the people on the planet. So this year, it’s a PR move. They want to fight the perception that “their denomination isn’t a Christian religion.”

Why fight a perception? That’s like saying that you should undermine an insight. They should at least say they are fighting an “inaccurate impression.”

I think that people have the perception that Jehovah’s Witnesses (I call them Watchtowerites) aren’t Christian because of different and larger issues than simply their non-celebration of Christmas and Easter, which is the only reason given in the article (Even mainstream Christians are somewhat aware of the history of the development of these two holidays). No, there is a much larger set of issues. Grace, forgiveness, compassion… for starters.

They miss Jesus’ whole point (and in this they are not alone, of course), and so this topic is very pertinent to their problem. Unfortunately, they won’t address it at all. It takes a very narrow focus to try to claim that JWs follow Christ, and many things must be unspoken in order for them to attempt to do so.

Since comments on the article were allowed, here is the one I posted:

In some ways, JWs follow Jesus. They preach, like the disciples. They accept persecution, as did the early Christians. They will die for their beliefs – even as the beliefs change. They believe that the Christ has a mediating function in prayer, although they do not think it through but merely invoke the name.

However, I don’t think that anyone who looks more closely would believe that they are Christians. They are more like Watchtowerites.

They believe that Jesus, as Archangel Michael, very shortly will act as God’s hand to destroy “this satanic system of things,” including most of the people. They do not have a communion, only a yearly memorial of the last supper, during which only those who feel that they are of the 144,000 (destined to rule as kings over the earth) may partake of the bread and wine. The “emblems” are actually passed over every person present. In the years that I was a JW, I never witnessed any of them eat or drink in remembrance of Jesus. The ceremony is a reminder that they are not part of the communion. But hey, most of them would rather live on paradise earth anyway (once all the pesky bones have been cleaned up).

It seems to me that they have become more rule-bound and less able to make Christian decisions in my lifetime – but I am surely biased on that since I receive letters and questions from people who have been hurt by their myriad and often senseless cruelties. In judging comments from other former JWs, remember that they have cause for anger.

In their most destructive aspects, JWs not only divide families and cause paranoia and isolationism, but also protect predators – not only through their infamous “two-witness” requirement, but also by discouraging their members to deal with worldly (satanic) powers such as the police. Although they have furthered civil rights legislation in the US, they do not offer such democratic structures within their system. There is no discussion or debate, only endless repetitions of the “guidance” of the governing body in Brooklyn.

What they produce is a free sales force, driven by self-righteousness and fear, not compassion. And it is exploitative, too, since members often end up paying for the publications themselves. For a population that has been discouraged from higher education, and whose primary investment might be a few of those (strategic blending-in camouflage) three-piece suits, this is a hardship. They are kept busy and isolated – if members have questions of faith, they are labeled rather than mentored.

The rank and file JW is a good “sheep” – submissive, obedient. At least you can say that they are doing what they believe God wants of them – sometimes at great sacrifice. But the leadership, for all they call themselves “slaves,” are all-powerful to members. Some would even say that they have put themselves in the God-position. And they hide it under anonymity; you will look in vain for writer’s credits in any of their publications.

Local elders, who hold power over each JW’s life, have no training in languages, biblical interpretation, or even basic pastoral counseling. But there is a huge investment in their legal team. Recently, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Corporations succeeded in settling multiple cases about child abuse and pedophilia out of court – with a gag order.

If this is a Christian group, then the Christian message of reconciliation between God and humanity has been warped beyond all recognition. They have no concept of grace whatsoever. They are neither forgiving nor kind. Their only concept of service to others is to offer them the “good news” of how people might be able to survive the approaching destruction from their loving God. That’s it. The only community they are concerned about is their own.

Like some other fringe groups that have risen in influence, they are of the sort that would be more than happy to throw the first stone. They have completely missed the message.

I still don’t salute the flag – I think it’s a very creepy nationalistic ritual, but in most other ways, I have found that there are higher spiritual standards than the ones they can offer.

The recovering JWs that do best are those who have curiosity, like to read, and can locate their sense of humor. And, if you leave in freedom, you do have another advantage. You have learned to recognize the methods of control, and you have one step ahead in resisting them from other directions.

For those who are being shunned by their families and the people they thought were their life-long friends – know that you are not alone! Hang in there – it gets better.

JW Background History Video

JW Background History Video

Jehovah’s Witnesses exposed (download available) – Jeremiah films

The comic-book style explanation of Jesus/Michael, his resurrection, and his judgment at Armageddon (minutes 26-29 or so) is especially worth watching now. The destruction of New York in back of the Statue of Liberty resonsates very differently after 9/11. I actually had a lump in my throat from minute 33-36 – it brought so much back to me. Some parts may be a little dull to non-Witnesses, who might not grasp the importance of the questioning and contradictions – but it’s a good film overall. This film is clearly not terribly recent (1986, coincidentally the year of my college graduation), but it holds up on the information it presents. I even thought the very last minute or two was sweet and touching. Some former JWs will not appreciate the “grace and a personal relationship with Jesus” alternative just at that moment, others will. It would have made me very uncomfortable years ago, but not now.

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