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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.

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