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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Watchtower legal troops haven’t given up yet:

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

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

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

More! Added 6/17/2012:

Remembering the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Remembering the Jehovah’s Witnesses

I’m not yet ready to write about the loss of my old friend Lee, but I will soon. Learning that he died from complications of a hospital staph infection has brought back thoughts about the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in which we both grew up – or… er… started to grow up. As much as I’ve ranted about the Witnesses on this blog, those experiences have given me so many reference points in my own experience that I can’t bring myself to regret them. Maybe – if the idea of reincarnation has any truth to it – I might even have chosen it, to learn some deep difficult lessons. I’ve been revising this post for four days, and it has turned into one long honker of an essay, but I hope it’s worth the read. It might be easier for you to print it.

The first wash of memory was tied to experiences with specific people. Good, bad, ugly, sweet – they won’t mean anything to a reader unless they were narrated at greater depth than I can do here, or perhaps fictionalized (that’s not out of the question). There were some kind and wonderful people – real people, despite everything. They weren’t always the most obvious candidates. Sometimes it even seemed like there was an inverse relationship between “service” in their sense and the character of the person.

Service never, never means caring for the poor, donating to charity, volunteering, following a calling, or anything that would otherwise be considered an act of service. Service only means “spreading the good news of God’s kingdom,” “placing” magazines and books, turning people into bible or book “studies,” or building a Kingdom Hall (don’t call it a church) for the organization. Sometimes the “friends” will help each other out, sometimes not – but they do not accept any obligation in the public sphere to any human as human.

I remembered the words and music of the “Kingdom Songs.” Oh, don’t call them “hymns”! “Dear Shulamite maiden, so lovely and fair/ your spiritual virtues are many and rare” – and the song we sang at night “we sing this tuneful melody and sing the notes in harmony / for no one else but you could be so worthy of our praise.” “Firm and determined in this time of the end / prepared are God’s servants the good news to defend…” What was it about those songs? Little bits of them still come to me at the oddest times. I’m glad there is a new collection with which I’m unfamiliar.

OH, then the language! The strange contagious weapons of language! Everything “worldly” (non-JW) was of “Satan the devil.” Never just Satan, always “Satan the devil” as though there were a million other satans. All that power discourse of slavery and domination – the district and circuit “overseers.” “Ministerial servants” – literally “serving servants,” used just to avoid words from other communities, like deacon. All the ranks of pioneers and publishers (how odd is that)!

Not “grace” – never, ever “grace” but only “undeserved kindness.” This so diminishes the idea of God, not to mention taking all the meaning from the “good news.” They’ve missed the whole point, I think.

Not “the second coming,” but instead “the presence.” What does that even mean? Is Jesus hovering in the ozone layer?

And here is the “Kingdom,” stripped of any sense that it could be within. What’s left is only a cold “theocratic” rule on earth, God’s “system of things” to be ushered in after the destruction of governments and the wicked (almost everyone, except of course baptised Witnesses in good standing).

By definition, anyone who rejects the JWs rejects God. All other religions are part of “Babylon the Great.” Babylon the Great… the Harlot.. the great evil of world religions, or the U.N., or the Catholic church, or the soon to be here one-world government, or the soon to be here one-world single religion, or… Rome (as many scholars would say).

We were persecuted! Not really, but any criticism was taken as persecution to prove we must be right.

We were special! Kind of special, not as special as the remnant, the 144,000 (who were not of the 12 tribes of Israel, that’s only symbolic), who could “partake” of communion the “emblems” of the Last Supper memorial dinner and rule as kings (that’s literal) with Jesus (in a heavenly democracy? unlikely, maybe a court?) over the “cleansed” earth.

Still, we’re certainly WAY better than those “worldly” people (every insecure group needs a scapegoat, don’t they?).

We’re the Great Crowd! We’re Grrrrreat (cue in Tony the Tiger)! Compared to the world population the “great crowd” is rather small, but there’s a lot more than 144,000! Who wants to be in heaven anyway? We get to live forever on Paradise Earth! Um, well, not counting the still-another final judgment after the thousand-year… reich?

In the “new system of things,” also called “the new world order” (no, not kidding), “things” will be different! After we pick up those pesky bones, we’ll live in an agrarian society full of baskets of fruit, and wild animals walking around harming no-one, and blind ones who can see again, and everyone will have a vapid smile on their face.

There will be no crying, and no sex or children, and no technology – not even the Watchtower and Awake magazines! And by the way, which mansion are you going to pick? I’ve got my eye on that one – truly the worldy people there don’t deserve it.

Watch out for the demonic smurfs! Don’t buy things at yard sales – they could be possessed! Don’t eat Milky Way bars – they have BLOOD in them!

Pray not to need a blood transfusion, unless you want to prove your faithfulness, perhaps unto death. For those about to die, we salute you! But over the years, “new light,” and a little science, and a lot of court cases have revealed some blood “products” might be acceptable now. Which ones? Better not risk it. Just be proud of those brave JWs who resisted the world and its courts in God’s name to ensure lots and lots and lots of death.

Watchtower Building at the Brooklyn Bridge The Watchtower, the Society, the Truth, the Organization, the Governing Body, the “wise and faithful servant” or the “faithful and discreet slave,” Bethel, the publishing house – in other words, the (various) headquarters for the company – was presented as, and believed to be, God’s channel – the only one on the planet. I guess Jesus had an underground station. Best not to investigate since apostates might infect you.

The Society (this was internal shorthand, and I think it’s dated now) was a shadowy group. Questions about its history were discouraged, and most people never questioned it at all. We just accepted that an ever-changing group of men in New York had “new light” (delivered…how? some say by angel!) about the unchanging and eternal Truth. It could really cause a lot of suffering if you happened to believe the “right” thing at the “wrong” time, or the “wrong” thing at the “right” time. Ask them about it in Malawi. Or ask the people that thought the end would come in 1975.

We thought we were following God’s plan, but there was always a tickling cognitive dissonance about being a slave to the organization. Does God really care about service timesheets? Really? Can you “earn” God’s love by spreading the good news? What is the content of this good news, really? Is there anything “good” about it, in their interpretation? Is there any authentic spiritual development or truth involved in the simple obligation to preach to every last person so that they have a last chance to know, and to choose God’s organization, lest they be destroyed and miss out on this Paradise Earth scenario?

A very paradoxical representation of “Jehovah” (YHWH) was really the anchor of the belief system. There is a sense in which it’s correct to call Jehovah’s Witnesses “Jehovists” rather than “Christians.” When they were called “International Bible Students,” the bible might have been fetishized, but at least a mission of learning was inherent.

There is no theology of a trinity. Any JW can give you the entire lecture about how a trinity isn’t scriptural – it’s one of the top ten! Here’s my take on it:

Jesus was only a man, a very special man. Jesus was the ransom sacrifice mysteriously required of the only-begotten son of God. Jesus was the temporary holder of the holy spirit “active force of God’s will.” Jesus was also – and this is fun – Michael the Archangel. Archangel Michael/Jesus became a man, and then stopped being a man and became an angel again, and his “presence” is right back here NOW (since 1914? or has that date changed, too?). Michael is strangely at the same basic level as Lucifer and Gabriel and other archangels, so how is he God’s son? Why aren’t the other archangels considered to be sons? Hey, wait! When did angels get gender? Where then are the female angels?

Don’t think about it. The Society says that God had to be talking to someone at creation when he said “let us.” “Elohim” is only plural in a grammatical, not real, way. Right? How was God’s son Jesus “begotten” if he was already begotten before incarnating being born on earth? Reproducing gods are so pagan, and there is obviously no divine feminine. Right?

In practice, Jesus was just the “mediator” for prayers to get routed to the right God mailbox, a name invoked in a unconsciously-magical chant. I don’t remember anyone ever calling on Jesus, or expressing love for Jesus – only praying “in the name of your son Christ Jesus Amen.”

Jesus was a kind of space alien, the Lord’s overseer for this garden experiment “territory” called the earth. I always wondered about the overseers of other planets. After all, God actually lived in a specific star system, on a giant throne – the Society said so!

How easily we just absorbed the language and the ideas, no matter how strange! The mind-numbing repetition helped a lot – that’s why going to multiple, tediously long and boring weekly meetings was necessary. Not much fellowship there, just rote learning. And of course, everyone talked like that, so you couldn’t help but pick it up, like any other in-group rhetoric, dude. Re-framing the language was not allowed, and deviations from the accepted vocabulary would mark you.

Is it any wonder that I became fascinated with the effects of language?

Speaking of effects, that reminds me that I also remember watching children being dragged outside or into the basement of the Kingdom Hall for discipline. Spare the rod (literal), spoil the child. Without grace, you were always trying to measure up to an impossible standard of perfection, and frustrated adults would often raise the bar (figurative, except for a couple of extreme cases) for children, not understanding much about child development.

My very favorite memory is about how a way opened that allowed me to know who I could trust and respect in my congregation. This was a major event for me – the appearance of spiritual ok-ness that has continued to inform me even now. It was during an ending prayer on a Sunday. We would sometimes go out after the two-hour meeting for lunch; this was a big treat. My baby brother (he *was* just a baby, maybe two or three years old) shouted out “WHEN are we going to get some KUCKY F*CKY CHICKen?!?” Obviously, he was talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken – but the volume, the uncontrollable nature of it, the unintended profanity!

I put my hand up over my mouth and tried so hard not to make a sound. I peeked up and looked around the room – and I suddenly understood that the congregation was divided in kind. Some were furious, frowning, clenching their fists – which is what I expected. Others simply ignored it, which was at least mature. But there was a third group – and I took note and remembered for *ever* the ones who had a hand over their mouth, or who were shaking with repressed laughter or who had heads bowed, but were grinning. Three people were openly looking at my brother with smiles, and one even caught MY eye – during a prayer! – shaking his head and smiling. The scary ones, the ones I knew to be bad people and hypocrites, no matter what anyone said, were all of the first group. Ever since, I have deeply valued a sense of humor, and the perspective of kindness that it sometimes allows, as a touchstone for ethics.

Meanwhile, pedophiles and other abusers were often known, and usually protected. Statistically, there are more abusers and predators among Jehovah’s Witnesses than in any other religion that isn’t generally considered a cult. There are reasons for that. But why would they be protected? “To protect God’s name.” Their reputation as a religious group is more important than the well-being of their members, who are only bits of a largely-disposable free sales force (ask what happens to their workers when they get old).

There were so few responsible men, you see. It was pitifully easy for men to “rise in the organization.” They didn’t receive or need any real theological or pastoral training. The sermons lectures talks were pretty much outlined in communications from HQ. Anyone (male) could do it. Since college was *heavily* discouraged, power positions in the organization also functioned as a compensation for the lack of a meaningful career. It was amazing sometimes how they would get drunk on their “service” and “responsibilities,” especially where it entered into women’s lives. It was a dangerous but required game to “submit yourself” to the elders, just as it was a dangerous but required game for wives to “submit” to their husbands. In theory, a man should love his wife as himself, and an elder love the congregation. But this was a very high standard, especially for such (generally) non-insightful and legalistic men.

Women are not protected as much as male predators and abusers are. The daughters of Eve are of course inherently more inclined to evil, although they outnumber the men in the congregation. This made it even more difficult for women or children to go to the elders to report abuse of any kind. The “two-witness or call it slander” rule meant that going to the elders for help might mean that you would be disfellowshipped yourself for reporting it. Normally, reporting on each other was pretty much a matter of course – a built-in panopticon, the secret police of your friends and family. But “friends” were discouraged from going to any satanic worldly authorities, like therapists or police or women’s shelters. By the time I was raped, I already knew enough not to go to the elders for “guidance.”

The “theocratic strategy” (lying to “worldly” authorities) was and is an active principle – courts take note – and JWs have an impressive team of lawyers, who presumably were allowed to go to college. They will even intervene in divorce cases, especially when child custody is at stake.

That irony always bothered me very much: that every little rule could destroy your world, and yet gigantic issues couldn’t be dealt with or even questioned – especially from a female perspective. Dating was only allowed with an eye to marriage, and you didn’t want to risk being “unevenly yoked” with a worldly person. You’d lose all status in the congregation that way. The “gray areas” or “matters of conscience” were heavily surrounded with “guidance” from the Watchtower Society. I remember a time when they were obsessed with oral sex, and spouses were reporting on each other for “asking”! Homosexuality… well, don’t even go there. But somehow physical spiritual emotional and sexual abuse – even toward children – was treated differently.

My own experiences were minor, really. I was reprimanded for being in a high school play of Fiddler on the Roof because it had a dream sequence with a “depiction of the supernatural,” not to mention the general exhibitionism. This was the same year that JW Michael Jackson released the “Thriller” video. I started asking some questions and instead of answers, I got labelled “rebellious youth.”

Rumors flew – JWS are great gossipers! – and I got hauled up before the elders again. This time I was accused of sexual misconduct. Supposedly I had been all over the state sleeping with “brothers” in every possible congregation (on my bicycle?). The truth was, I was a virgin – but not for nearly long enough after that, since I stopped caring about it after what happened. Looking back, that was the most damaging part, that loss of self-dignity and self-value. I wasn’t allowed to confront my accusers, although I found out later that it relied completely on malicious gossip, with not one confession or witness involved – yet pedophiles and abusers required two witnesses to the act before there would be any investigation, much less any “disciplinary action.”

I asked myself why they thought it was acceptable and right for grown men to surround a young girl, intimidating her and accusing her of lies. I didn’t think their actions were even in alignment with their own rules. It felt – and I think it was somehow – personal. Events after that, mostly concerning how other people were treated, finally convinced me that the fruits of the spirit were only to be found as exceptions to the rule among Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s not completely their fault. Their priorities are seriously disordered, and intentionally so. It gives special meaning to Leonard Cohen’s song “The Future“: When the prophets said “repent,” I too wonder what they really, truly meant. Surely not this.

The self-righteousness training backfired on them in my case. I could not in good conscience commit to being baptised (the symbol of my dedicated vow to serve Jehovah and his organization). Sure, I enjoyed explaining exactly why I didn’t salute the flag. I loved feeling that God was on my side. I loved being a possessor of “the Truth” and being “in the Truth.” I even believed that this evil satanic system of things could end at any moment. But…

I was also a bookworm, and I loved to dance and to sing. And – I so valued kindness. I so valued caring and love and understanding. Eventually, the very training that they gave me in having the courage and integrity to stand up for what I truly believe made it possible (with curiosity, knowledge, imagination, creativity and humor) for me to leave. I took the easy road, and left town to go to college on scholarship.

What a flashback it was in graduate school to face a faculty that had already decided to dismantle the program of Literature and Religion when my advisor had a stroke. They called a meeting to “get feedback” from the students. It was amazing how fast colleagues had abandoned ship. When I tried to argue for the merits of the program, the faces of the faculty members held the same expressions as those elders so long ago. For a while, it seemed like I was back in that same helpless, unfairly-judged space again. I thought I was getting “the intellectual life,” but these dynamics can appear anywhere, anywhere at all – even in my adopted community of academe, toward which I was so idealistic.

You have to deal with ignorance and injustice and resentment and hate and insecurity and all of the rest directly and at the time. That’s the way in which teaching and ethics and politics are all local. I would have handled things differently knowing what I know now. I understand their perspectives (in both cases) better now, and wouldn’t have set myself up by being defensive and letting my fears be so visible and easily-read.

It’s not always wise to stand up to a bully, but smarts often beats thugness. Among people who seem to lack empathy, stories and humor are the only methods that have any chance of getting through. Sometimes it’s not really worth the effort – or the effects – even to try, but one thing is certain: the argument “but it’s not fair” is not one that ever works. You can’t assume – ever – that anyone will understand why it’s not fair. Just skip that part. Try logic if you like, but logic does not engender empathy. Let logic be implicit.

Obvious sectors of the American political landscape remind me so much of what was so unkind (and so self-righteous, misinformed and manipulated) about the (enforced/reinforced) mentality that so affected my life and those of others. I am heartened when I see healers and thinkers and storytellers, but there are not nearly enough of them, not nearly. Their voices are shut down whenever possible. Sometimes our future looks very dark. I cannot read The Handmaid’s Tale again in this atmosphere; just remembering it makes me cry.

How could I ever have thought that “theocracy” was a good thing? The mentality is global now – almost every religion has an active fanatical wing. Christians, Muslims, Jews, even Buddhists? Say it isn’t so. What happened to the virtue of humility? What happened – in America the Beautiful – to the wise separation of church and state that has been one of the foundations for both to thrive? Power-mongers, corruption, mass manipulation. It’s sad… and shameful.

Lingering effects… I still don’t salute the flag. I know the history, and I just feel that it’s a creepy way to show love for your country. I do vote now, though, and I’m kind of relieved that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t.

I still have a kind of hyper-conscience about community memberships. I don’t feel comfortable participating in communities if I’m not in agreement with every little thing that a particular group believes. I’ve become aware that this is actually a holdover effect, but this has meant that I’m basically a non-joiner (my natural mode is critical). I’m getting better about allowing myself some leeway that since I’ve seen – and experienced – the value of accepting people and situations as they are, unless they are destructive. I am not so distrustful as I used to be, nor as insecure or defensive, and that helps enormously.

I’ve made peace with that me-girl who so desperately needed someone to tell her that it was going to be ok and that she was loved and that the cosmos only asked for her authenticity and her ethic of caring. Her God was a such a cruel, heartless God.

“Independent thinking” was against her religion, but everything inside told her that it would be wrong not to think and ask questions. She didn’t run toward, but away, from the Kingdom Hall to find spiritual dwelling places. Being a JW kept her – for a while – from heading toward the path that was always at the core of her being. Isolation, paranoia, the insecurity/superiority flip – all of these were stumbling blocks. And friends? Sisters and brothers? There *were* friends and sisters and brothers among the members of the Watchtower Society, but many more false friends and Pharisees. Not trying to sound like Job or anything – just sayin’.

That girl found somewhere to be, somewhere to find connection, always – in the woods, the song, the dance, the book. She was always going to be nurtured somehow; it was intuitive, and for that gift I am ever-more grateful. Because of that private set of communion-paths, I wasn’t damaged in some of the ways that I’ve seen among some of the other ex-JWs I’ve known. It took many more years to find authentic connection in relationship, but the starting place was observation, watching people as characters instead of threats, listening to a range of perspectives and voices – especially to the ones that weren’t just nightmarish variations on familiar themes.

Because of the new communication and information resources of the internet, I’ve also discovered that I was never alone in this. There were, and are, others. Some of these went on to higher education, some became singers or musicians or artists or writers or comedians (yes!), some became caregivers in real service to all kinds of people, some started a business or found a soul-mate or travelled the world. Some developed compassion and their own ethical sense (often a much better one). Some kept the evangelism, or even the fundamentalism, but became involved with another religious community that was more rewarding to them. Others became freethinkers and atheists, or goddess-women, pagans, wiccans. Some – sadly – have not yet found another way to be, or are so hurt and isolated and scapegoated and abandoned that their road will be a very difficult one. Some – realistically – never were very interesting people, and still aren’t. There is no one thing that describes former JWs, certainly not the attribute of being “demonic.” Sigh.

The path that brought me to value openness and attunement has been admittedly eclectic (even mystical), but it is imbued with a sensitivity to kindness and justice that I feel all the prophets tried to convey. I lean towards more compassion than I naturally possess – as though it were the sun. I dream with more freedom than I’ll ever have – just like the moon.

There are wisps of fondness for some members of that community still. There are people that I could love better now than I did then, and I am so sad about the loss of the people they might have become were it not for the stranglehold of the JWs. I will always cherish each one’s essential person in my heart, their ‘ness. Sometimes, I pray for them. Still I wonder (yes I wonder) if anyone is listening.

I’ve seen the nations rise and fall
I’ve heard their stories, heard them all
but love’s the only engine of survival. ~ Leonard Cohen, “The Future”


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

Former Jehovah’s Witnesses – Take care, please

Former Jehovah’s Witnesses – Take care, please

I am becoming a bit concerned about the safety of former Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When I received this latest email, I asked permission to post it.

Reports of various annoyance activities toward vocal former Jehovah’s Witnesses seems to be increasing. I will try to do a post very soon about how things are heating up in the public sphere for JWs.

Already Ex-JWs are demonized – at any sign of escalation, please never hesitate to contact the police.

Barb and I are back in our house though remodeling construction work continues to kick up some dust.

Today 11-11-07 I filed report number 2007-024301 with the Overland Park, Kansas, Department of Public Safety (police), the attending officer being Officer “Carrillo” with badge number 673, after having received a criminal telephone call from a person at 2:52 AM (i.e. in the morning), our phone recording that the call had come from 613 212-1419 in Ontario, Canada. (I’m guessing the number is a deadend or somehow they re-routed it)

The person sought for approximately fifteen minutes to talk me into “returning to Jehovah” and he offered me a $10,000 bribe to do so, the person’s motive for this speculatively being because of my anti-child molestor efforts in backing Silentlambs, my having an online fellowshipping website where 1,207 persons have signed in with two years which is viewed as possible down-the-road competition by the Watchtower Society, and implicitly my “needing to shut up or be shut up.”

A friend had just the day before spoken with me of ritualistic abuses other than those I too have experienced which, if they were to become widely known, would be of tremendous embarrassment to pedophile leaders embedded in the Watchtower Society. The caller did also use obscene language vile enough that, although put into writing by myself as asked for by the police, is really too repulsive for me to repeat to you here.

Officer Carrillo said that there would be other officers assigned to look into the matter. As those of you who have been on the ExJWs&FriendsNet for a long time already know, I have had to file past reports; for example, previously my wife and a neighbor friend were on the phone when two men broke in calling them vile names and the like, whom my wife and the neighbor believe may have been and be part of the general harassment campaign we have been regularly subjected to.

I told the officer that also a while back I did not report it (not wanting to have the police running out to us so often as to annoy them) but there was a young adult Afro-American male dressed in a loud necktie and blue suit shirt whom I spotted from my upstairs den window after he had knocked on our door (this time for a change in broad daylight) then scurried away. I believe that back when a JW I had seen him at one or more Bible conventions in Kansas City.

Such knocking then leaving while we are upstairs and can’t easily get to the front door in time has occurred many times before as well as for example pebbles or rocks being hurled up against our upstairs bedroom and den walls, some kind of electronic device being used to raise our garage door, what the police have described as a “professional” crow-bar effort being perpetrated to try to break inside our front room door (found out it had happened after a night when I had especially complained about the Watchtower Society’s sending pedophiles among those JWs unknowing or unbelieving of the pedophiles among them preaching at doors or the like), assorted monkeying around with and even inside our car.

These things are documented by me for the police and also here to you guys in email so that in the event that serious harm or death ever occurs to myself, my wife or other loved ones, then there is a record.

This email is not a direct accusation against the Watchtower Society for I cannot prove such, but it is a statement of factual observation that the events as stated in the police reports have occurred including that the person today offered a bribe to get me to re-enter the Watchtower Society organization, in other words to shut up and get back on their side.

I told him No then said they need to reform and end their sheltering of pedophiles as I said I supposed he himself probably is (his vile words caused me to believe this too) and although awakened and thus tired I also calmly if exhaustedly “witnessed” to him pertaining to three doctrinal lies the Watchtower misteaches JWs and the Public.

I pointed out that Luke 10:7 don’t be transferring house-to-house but rather Christians can go from a house with interested persons to a house in a different town where similar interest exists; that the Christmas tree began with the Tree of Paradise in church plays about the Garden of Eden in the Middle Ages rather than originating from Druid tree worship; and the Watchtower Society teaches many now living will never die, the many being JWs loyal to the Watchtower Society’s governing body members increasingly and wrongly held to be over even the Annointed, and that this idea of “many now living will never die” flies directly in the face of the apostle Paul’s having said all humans sin and therefore all humans die.

When my wife handed the phone to me early this morning I got to speak with only the one person who to me appeared to be faking an Oriental accent. She said she herself had also been spoken to by a second person.

Anyway, after I pointed out the contradiction between what Pauls said about all having to die as opposed to the Watchtower misteaching that many will never die, he ceased to say anything more (I believe I hit the target with that point), it was clear that although I was speaking into the mouth piece what I said was somehow not going through (it was like speaking into and having your words muffled by a wall), yet I could tell there was some manner of continuing electronic connection (possibly what I believe detectives call a hook-switch by-pass), and I said this into the mouth piece whereupon there were 2-3 small clicking sounds then a sudden abrupt full and fairly loud termination of the electronic connection.

I was in then out of the Watchtower Society twice so am what they see as a “two-timer” and whom they would like to get back and seek to “mold” (brainwash) etc to neutralize me. I am also a very good, powerful writer (so I’ve been told) who is able to hit them in various different languages beyond English alone. My helping Silentlambs including by a reminder in the last email that it’s good for us to remember to donate to it so that it can keep helping the kids is also a pain in the rumps of pedophiles.

As stated previously I believe the perpetrators of such harassment are most probably pedophiles, some of whom are, as seen this time, given to “return to Jehovah” type statements and the like, enhancing the likelihood most are active JWs; although I also hold belief that pedophiles such as among JW do also collaborate across and regardless of religious belief differences, for example, as when my wife has told me that Mormons (possibly themselves pedophiles or acting on the behest of a pedophile Mormon elder) have appeared at our door and simply stood standing and facing it about twenty minutes before suddenly quietly leaving.

That two older elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses sought to set up fellow exJW Danny Haszard in Maine (who has posted signs they saw clearly, and who has delivered hours of videotapes to the police showing previous harassment) as they did therefore does not seem the least implausible to me, and I know of at least one other person in the Net reading this email right this second no doubt (also on the East Coast) who has had similar harassment experiences. If any of you also have such to happen or if you know of another exJW (especially those in and out of the organization twice as I think those including myself get especially worked over) then please let me know.

The Watchtower Society not only has had to pay out to settle with 16 victims of sexual harassment (Silentlambs) earlier this year but at a guess there will be more such lawsuits. In fact I told the harasser this morning after he made his $10,000 bribe that I found it interesting how they lost millions of dollars (one guess is up to $1.5 million for each of the 16 earlier this year) and given how they refuse to reform and keep enabling the harming of children, I have no doubt they will be paying out more.

If any of you know victims please urge them to come forth and sue the perpetrators of such sexual or other crimes (phone harassment etc) against them. Let’s also keep each other informed, speaking up, spotlighting the darkness so that it keeps fleeing into the shadows, and trying to document matters so that if law enforcement may do more in the years ahead, then there will be a strong paper trail lending credibility strong enough to be used as evidence when the creeps are brought to justice.

I showed Officer Carrillo the silentlambs.org website’s photos of JW elders convicted of sex crimes including one just sentenced to several years in Ontario, told him about the 16 settlements etc. He found it interesting and, as said, he says other investigators will pursue this farther – I believe the telephone record of time and location being tangible enough evidence in view of the other things such that it is now seen that the matter is serious for our household even as Danny has concerns about his family in his house in Maine.

The metro areas are where organized crime of diverse types are focused, and this is, I believe, also extremely true for sex crimes perpetrated by pedophiles seeking to hide behind the cloak of religion. Three of the largest U.S. cities are Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. When I think of L.A. I remember what Pat Garza when alive said was done to her there. Chicago reminds me of Laree Slack’s fate. New York also has its skeletons including at Brooklyn where the Watchtower Society is headquartered. Of course Kansas City, St. Louis and other places have them too at least to some extent.

As also said before two of my three dear adult daughters are still in the cult; besides which there are many others in the ranks there who are kind, decent people despite the cult’s misleadership and who do not know what all has been done by Ted Jaracz and others on the Watchtower Society’s Governing Body. In a courtroom they would instantly deny that the Watchtower Society shelters pedophiles etc, that it became an NGO of the UN while having local JW elders keep preaching against the UN; and most are misled into thinking they must die or let their own kids die rather than ever take an emergency transfusion of whole blood to live, not knowing 1 Sa 14:32-34 says Saul’s men ate unbled meat and were forgiven as it was to stay alive. Unfortunately we can be loving and loveable people and yet also wrong and misled by those who are devious.

Well, enough, I’ve written a letter almost enough for a booklet. Thanks for being friends. I told one of you earlier today in an email I would try to not directly ask for donations for Silentlambs (he views it as tacky, counterproductive or whatever) but in that case then he should know that I will give the Silentlambs link more regularly in emails, and so here it is for those who like the reminder of helping the abused kids: http://www.silentlambs.org

Best wishes,

Joe

J. Mason Emerson

The above is posted in its entirety, with permission, from an email dated Sun, November 11, 2007 2:56 pm. Other readers may also print it, but only in its entirety and as is.

I will look at them and repeat here and now in this email to you (please retain a copy) for the record in case the Watchtower Society’s attorneys ever try to claim differently that as said in my email their Watchtower organization per se is not accused of harassment but PEDOPHILES who spoke of wanting me to “return to Jehovah” have done so and the criminal record and convictions among organization’s elders from Bethel headquarters (e.g. Jesus Cano) down speak for themselves loud and clear. Thanks for posting the email and you are encouraged to post this one too.

Which I did.

Hang in there Joe, Barb, Danny – and everyone else, please be a little extra careful.

Videos about Jehovah’s Witnesses

Videos about Jehovah’s Witnesses

On the practices and policies of the Watchtower Society

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt47lPS_QEw[/youtube]

Some background on early JW days – most contemporary JWs are unaware of their own history

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-40YmWfg9sQ[/youtube]

One testimony of what it was like to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H-Y1mSf0xk[/youtube]

On the Street with a Jehovah’s Witness – Gloats Gripes (and Damage Done)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-llW8QUM7g[/youtube]

Jehovah’s Witnesses Should Not Look at this One

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biuJ74qu_pc[/youtube]

JWs at My Door

JWs at My Door

Two pleasantly plump Jehovah’s Witness women have just departed, their undelivered invitation to the upcoming District Convention in hand.

They were still huffing and puffing a bit from the exertion required to climb the driveway when they rang the bell. For a moment, I was tempted to pretend not to be home. Sigh. Nah. I instructed Ben to go play elsewhere in the house so that I could talk to them.

Follow the Christ. Sigh. I let them go through their opening remarks, and observed them closely. They were black women, a little bit younger than me – in their thirties, I’d guess. They both wore clingy dresses of artificial fabric – uncomfortable clothing for a muggy day like this. One wore glasses. They had kind, somewhat keen, expressions, and by their manner of speaking I would guess that they both had some amount of higher education – a bit unusual.

I found myself feeling sorry for them, and so my self-presentation was, I think, somewhat muted – even sad.

I told them that I was aware of the convention, although I hadn’t known where the local one was being held. I’d even blogged on the topic. That surprised them, and one exclaimed, “You blogged on it?!? Were you ever a baptized Jehovah’s Witness?” Interesting question – I wonder if they ask that now to establish whether they might be talking to an apostate. But no, I was never baptized. I told them that my father had been an elder and I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.

I asked them in what way they thought they were following the Christ. They looked at the invitation for clues, but it was really very general. “Well, we go out in service, like he told us to, and we oppose Satan.”

Wow. I’ve never heard the “opposing Satan” thing before. Yikes. When you consider that JWs believe that this entire “system of things” is ruled by Satan (including schools, police, government…) that’s a pretty wide-open sort of statement. They used to confine Satan remarks to insiders.

Hmmm. Where to begin.. “But there are a lot of things that Jesus instructed people to do that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t do, and a lot of teachings he gave that JWs don’t really follow, right? Forgiveness, compassion, caring for the poor, sharing bread and wine together….” My words kind of faded off. There was so much to say, but…

They looked utterly dismayed, even stupefied. I don’t think they were ready for that kind of response.

Before they decided to start quoting, I tried once more. “If you’re Christian, and you have love and spirit amongst yourselves, wouldn’t it better to follow the Christ than to follow the governing body and the Watchtower? Look at how many times they have been wrong, how many times they have changed their guidance to you.”

Oh, they had a response to that, all right. “We are all imperfect, but the light gets stronger and they have more understanding…” They started to smile again, almost like mirror reflections of one another. There is reflective strength in the buddy-system.

“Why would you be salespeople for a very wealthy, very worldly corporation in New York, especially when – as you say – they are only imperfect men? Why would you hand your lives over to this group of men, just because they claim to be God’s channel? Don’t JWs always criticize other religions for putting priests and bishops and holy men between the congregation and God? Why would you need another mediator than the Christ? I think there are many good Jehovah’s Witnesses. I just believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are being misled.”

Their smiles had frozen at the first sentence. Now they were expressionless. Totally blank.

“I’m sorry. I know you do what you think you are supposed to do, but I think that you are being misled. I truly believe that you are Watchtowerites, not Christians.”

I looked at them miserably, hands open. Then I handed back the invitation, and they turned, without a word, and – slowly – stiffly – started walking back down the driveway. They went directly to their vehicle, got in, and drove off.

Yea, sisters, time for a coffee break.

They will label me, they may even put that “X” over my house on the territory map at last. There wasn’t really very much in what I said to vilify me, but in another way, I said the worst possible thing: I spoke against God’s supposed channel on earth. And it may have scared them, because they are trained over and over to think that anyone who could do that is demonic, controlled, a slave of Satan.

I wonder if either one, maybe years from now, will ever read the scriptures and start thinking about the wider message that Jesus tried to deliver. They looked like strong women. What if they somehow found themselves able and willing to intervene when they saw cruelty – what if they were able to say “this is not a loving thing that we are doing.” Maybe they could allow themselves other kinds of service to others than simply preaching the end of the world. Maybe they could spread kindness. You never know.

Language is a virus. Maybe one small idea may turn out to have been contagious, mutating, incubating, ready to re-emerge later in changed form. Someday. Maybe.

“We had as our goal to capture, brain wash and establish thousands of Kingdom Publishers, making them all think alike, like robots. When in 1938 the Theocracy was decreed, all these fell down in abject submission before this newly erected ‘Image of the Beast’ of the Watchtower religion of ‘buying and selling’ (Rev. 13). All the companies of Jehovah’s Witnesses at that time voted in a resolution declaring that henceforth and always that would accept all instructions and appointments handed down by the Watchtower Society. All shreds of congregational independence was thus given up, together with every semblence of a personal Christian religion. A new world organization based on the concept of robot-like obedience and performance had now been realized and would now expand to become a New World Society. It is described by Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s Organization or Kingdom. It is in actuality nothing more than a dictatorship of the Faithful and Wise Servant Class in Brooklyn” – William J. Schnell, Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave, p.130.

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