by Glen James
The last Kingdom Hall meeting I attended was in August 1998, but it wasn’t until I started seeing a psychotherapist in 1999 did I start to realize that the problem wasn’t inherently me, but the JW culture itself. My therapist was a registered Adventist deprogrammer (I didn’t know that at the time, I was referred by an Adventist neurosurgeon). On reflection, I would have felt threatened had he been an “Apostate” and true to my nature I would have dug in.
I credit Randy Watters at www.freeminds.org with my recovery to life outside of the Organization. “Support4xjws.org” was a wonderful place to air my feelings and get support from good people such as Spock, Mommie Dark and Abbie Normal. “H20” was a bit too rough for me, although I’d visit from time to time, always being reassured that leaving the JWs was the right thing to do. And how shocking, yet sadly such a relief, it was to hear stories that rang true yet thousands of miles apart, the whole world over!
Now ten years later I can conclude that the past few years have been the best years of my family’s life – making up for many of the 17 years we were active JWs. At our “peak” as JWs I was a book study conductor, an MS being groomed to be an elder and my wife a full-time pioneer. Out of the four of us I am the only one who is still a Recovering JW, my wife and two children wrote the experience off long ago. My daughter is finishing her Fine Arts degree at a local university. Her particular focus is Installation Art using straw, dirt and wood as mediums. She has one piece that has a leaning watchtower made of straw that was part of a work entitled The Gospel According to Chinny-Chin-Chin, so she exorcised her JW “demons” her own way. She is the resident artist at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham Oregon and currently has an exhibition of her work on show.
I like coming back to visit JWD Forum, it’s a good group and it looks like it is working, but I generally don’t post as I don’t have the time to keep up with it. I would say that after the first two years of being angry that I was duped by my own emotions (we were converts to the faith) and then for a few years feeling spiteful toward the brethren, I am now at the point of just grazing the information in JWD and Free Minds and not taking that much to heart personally. It’s best for me that way. If I get emotionally involved I can go into a funk, and I can’t afford that baggage anymore. Along the way I was diagnosed Bi-polar. I think I had that my whole life and it was probably the reason I accepted “the kingdom message” in the first place. I guess you do have to be a little nutty to convert to the faith! I was put on Tegretol, which I still take daily, and that was the first time my left brain and right brain worked in unison. Oh how I made myself so miserable in all the years beforehand!
I do support Free Minds financially, in a very small way. I have a regular charge to my credit card each month. Randy saved my family’s life, how could I not help him to continue to help others like me! I would recommend those of you who can to think about the work that Randy Watters is doing to raise the consciousness level through his education-work to help hundreds and thousands of lost souls. Think of how much money you wasted driving cars (ours was a 40 x 30 mile territory) and buying literature to lie in the trunk of your car. And since we helped the other JW funds (such as the Society’s Kingdom Hall program), it could be $300 a month easy. Add it all together and send 20% to Randy for Free Minds! Well, that’s what I like to do, and thankfully I can afford a small sum regularly.
When we became JWs in 1981 we lost most of our friends and some of our family. When we left in 1998 we lost all of the JW family, their love being totally conditional, dependent upon our good standing in the congregation. Since we were the black sheep of our worldly families we had no other family members in the JWs. And that was a good thing; we were able to make our break without too many problems. Although I wish I hadn’t tried to explain why we were leaving, especially as I said that if I were to go to the Memorial I would partake, as everyone should (John 6:53). That was taken out of context, and it quickly got around that I was losing my mind and thinking I was better than everyone, hence the partaking. All I was trying to say was that anyone who is truly a Christian should partake, the two-class structure of Anointed and Other Sheep is fictitious.
So perhaps I shouldn’t have left as quickly as I did, and played their system longer instead. We never did get DF’d. We left with a vengeance, which included the tobacco habit. Going from a “liberal” JW household (we were the ones with a beer keg!) to a very worldly one left my son without direction and without any reference points for some time (he was 16 when we left). If I could go back in time I would leave a little more gently, rather than reveling in all the world had to offer. Still he graduated from Oregon State in 2007 with a degree in Animal & Poultry Science and has a goal of starting an organic farm. Despite a few rocky years he created his own direction and motivation. We are on great terms with our children and they are also our best friends.
Both my children are straight-A students, and always have been. I do credit being able to study and summarize tedious material as a JW for some of that - although both their mother and I have been good students ourselves. Just as we were getting “out” I asked my son if he missed going to meetings, he was actually very good at “it”. Typical for him, he can condense a paragraph into a sentence, he replied: Well, I think we just left a minimum security cult. That summed it up.
One admonition for those readers who have raised children in the JWs and have now left together, is to let them know that you would not have left them to die without blood. When I told my son that the Elder who called on us initially lied to me about the use of blood and that I felt that I had a ‘chit’ from God not to go along with that policy, there was a noticeable change in his relationship with me, starting with a: Well, thank God for that! How do I know that you wouldn’t have let them die too? Because so few people sign the Blood Card. Our universal inner self can’t really accept it.
As much as the JWs think otherwise, the Organization is a cult. It has the cultish practice of exclusion and of demonizing the other 99.x% of the world. When you are “in” you are like the frog dropped in a pan of cold water and gently brought to the boil, cooked through and through, hardly noticing the temperature change a degree each week. You are permitted to know the milk food first – Jehovah’s name, no Hell, etc. When you are more grounded/brainwashed you then get to know the Organizational side. By then you are at parboil and enjoying the warmth of the JW alternative-life.
If after leaving you spend the rest of your life demonizing the JWs then you have created for yourself another cult. I see this as trying to vindicate yourself by attacking individuals, not the education that Randy provides. I believe that if you are still angry after two years of therapy through Free Minds and kindred websites then it would be best to get some basic counseling. Dr Burns’ Feeling Good is a good place to start. Read Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong for some excellent background on God and the Gospels. I would heartily recommend Eckard Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ to help you understand how your ego works. Get a balanced viewpoint. There is nothing in this world that makes a JW’s acceptance of you (or vice versa) of any importance to your self-worth whatsoever. I do realize that being a “raised-in-it” means you lose your physical family and that has to be a terrible blow. But it is up to you to rise above the “my Jesus is better than your Jesus” battle, or how wronged you were by the people who should have supported you unconditionally. You must get through this. It is up to you to make it through. They really can’t do anything to you if you don’t let them do it.
Sadly, there seems to be an event in the XJWs life that seems to make the difference. For me it was the treatment of my daughter, caught smoking ciggies at age 13; and then there was the “Generation” change that didn’t sit well with me. For my wife it was the treatment of me when I tried to step down but was Deleted instead (hence my ‘slave’ name). For my son and daughter, they were ready to leave (they said later) from the time they were 13 and 14, leading a bit of a double life. Looking back it was then that we stopped coloring-in the wt and having a family study or even really going out in “service”. We would do RV’s from one end of our huge territory to the other, stopping for breakfast along the way.
My wife was about three weeks behind me leaving, which meant she wasn’t ready to blame the WTS when I was. I remember that moment clearly, and I stopped pushing it, just sending her URL’s of webpages that addressed one issue or another that I knew bothered her. Looking back I could have lost her if I hadn’t realized that she wasn’t ready to leave at that point. So if you are at that moment yourself, back off some – it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, it takes time to come to the realization that “the truth” is a big fat stinking lie.
I do miss our old friends and I bear no harm to any of them, they are so well-programmed that we don’t need to be DF’d for them to shun us. Now and again I’ll catch one on his or her own and strike up a conversation like the old days, but that’s very rare, generally we don’t exist in their eyes. It’s sad, and it used to be hurtful, but really, how can they be any different? The ring of cognitive dissonance (what the inner self knows and what the outer self believes are out of harmony) is a very painful situation for anyone. So I cut them all some slack, even those that seem to actually hate us.
I am not a regular XJW Meet-up attendee; it’s 35 miles away, and on a week night. I would meet if there was one closer. So if by some remote chance that any of the readers live within 20 miles of Estacada, Oregon then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think it’s a good idea to stay in touch with others of like ex-faith. Hey that’s a Hebrews 10:25 sort of thing! Still, it is good to talk this all through. This is a rotten experience. It reminded me, looking back, of an old Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk and crew find a starship with people are eager to go to an Edenic planet. Yet when they get there the fruits and vegetation were caustic and couldn’t sustain life. Looked great, poisonous filling. I can’t help but conclude, through little emotion, that we were all in a rather nasty cult. I wish there was a better word than cult, it’s so pejorative.
The culture we came from, and most of you were raised-in-its and that meant your only culture, was full of contrived contradictions. Strange superstitions, as if everything you do is being watched by a personal God. As if small human infractions could mean anything to the creator of the universe, assuming “one” exists. It’s not just a socially distasteful religion, people are dying for it! The counting of time in service is a strange one, but only a few JWs might have been killed that way. But there have been lots of suicides. And, of course, The Blood Policy. That is another of the 30 nails in my own JW coffin. I heard of 3 that died that way. How about in your JW world from congos, assemblies etc.? And what a mishmash of rubbish the list of acceptable vs. unacceptable blood products is! What kind of a God cares about whole blood versus blood fractions to save someone’s life? This is criminally wrong, and must stop.
Then there’s the two-rule policy, meaning that the victim of a molestation and/or rape needs someone else to see the crime for it to be considered valid in the eyes of the Elders at the KH. Now when is that ever going to happen? Would a pedophile molest two girls or boys at the same time? Ours was a culture that wiped clean a member’s past, and what a home for serial pedophiles that must be! So that means the “brother” will get away with it. Or they get moved to another congregation, with no one else knowing – and that happened at my congo.
And remember the brothers in Malawi and the ones who suffered in Germany during WW2 and prior? They needn’t have died save for a 2/3rd’s vote requirement on Malawi a Governing Body vote that failed too many times; and, on the other, Rutherford’s personal arrogance in correspondence with the Nazis sealed the fate of possibly hundreds of law abiding Bible Students.
It’s not just Mind Control that the WTS is largely responsible for. It is the physical control it has over its 6+ million followers. The Blood Card as one specific. If you follow all the pages at www.freeminds.org and it will take you a while, there’s plenty to read from the WTS’ own writers, you will get the benefit of Randy Watters and many other former JWs who have had long and relevant experience of what really did happen concerning 1874, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1919, 1925, 1976, 2000 and 2034. And a whole lot more.
Four years ago I started a novel on Judge Rutherford, having read many books and having spent days at Free Minds and the links that take you to the truth about “the truth”. I had researched 50 books and thought I was ready to write “for real”. However, try as I might to separate my feelings from my work I couldn’t, every time I’d work on it I would get depressed and I have dropped the idea of keeping the Watch Tower Society in my daily thinking. I am happy to say that it is rare that I look at the world through my JW glasses these days. And that it a great place to be.
Just as it was when we first became JWs and I alienated people with my enthusiasm for my new found beliefs, I did the same thing when I realized my mistake in believing that the WTS was god’s channel of truth. I was older on the way out of the JWs and more balanced, so that burst of craziness lasted only a couple of months, thus alienating my former friends immediately as I started to rag on the elders, my starting point of demonstrating the wrongdoings.
I had read anti-witness literature coming into the JWs, yet we still became Witlesses! Some of it had to do with how much we loved the sister who studied with us, she was a surrogate mother to my wife. But how could I, and I am supposed to be well-educated, join a group of kooks, who seem to only have one goal in life being to “study the Bible” (somehow transformed into WTS literature)? That one has plagued me, and I still don’t fully know why. So, as I sign off for this year, I’ll pass this thought to you.
I believe it is because, as someone with O levels in Greek and Latin, and as a passionate student of the history of the Greek and Roman world from 300 BC to 300 AD, I was also in need of a community to bring our two children into this world. Where I could discuss (I thought) the deep wisdom of the Bible with like-minded, albeit circa 1950’s, folk and wait for the end of the world? Well what could be better than that! In addition, as someone raised by a superstitious mother, I confused synchronicity with divine direction. I had read the Late Great Planet Earth in the late 70’s and was hooked on the notion that God was going to do what Hal Lindsey said. I was primed for these two regular guys in suits coming to our mountain home in the middle of nowhere in rural Portland Oregon to bring us the knowledge that my Dad wasn’t in Hell. What could be finer than that!
Yet I read The Kingdom of the Cults and Why I left JWs type books – and they both seemed to be contrived, resting on semantics, or just plain whining. There was no Internet in 1981, and I was baptized after 10 months. And aside from backsliding somewhat from 1985-1989 and 1995-1998-until-out we were really into it and truly believed it. I tried to treat everyone as potential “sheep” and I’d informally witness to those interested just like I was supposed to.
By 1995 I was just mouthing the words, the “generation change” being the catalyst for complete change in thought. Although my Greek knowledge was classical, I did have some sense of NT Greek and I couldn’t believe that somehow “Genea” meant one thing one minute and when the circumstances didn’t work it was changed it to something else. That was misrepresentation, the meanings were very different. It is either a generation of say 70-80 years (or even 25) or it’s a general period of time where the same conditions existed (or something equally confusing). You can’t believe the Greek meaning one way and then believe it another way - that’s rewriting history and Orwellian!
In 1982 Ray Franz, a former governing body member wrote (an excellent) book called Crisis of Conscience, and I wouldn’t let myself read it at the time, I was already baptized. I did read the Time magazine article on it, I saw the Orwellian reference and it rang true. From then on I always had a jaundiced view of the WTS’ influence over the congregation, via the CO through the Elders or in the wt or assemblies and conventions. Yet as time went on, when I was giving talks and being a book study conductor, I generally reflected on something an old friend said when I mentioned the Time article to him all those years ago: If the Society was to tell me to jump in the lake I probably would, he said, Why? Because I am positive they had a good reason for me to do so. And when the rah-rah articles came up in the wt, even though I was often reading them aloud to the congo, I told myself, believing it too, despite what this sounds like, the brothers at Bethel are doing their very best for each and every one of us. Sadly, with empirical data, that is just not so when Jehovah-Reproach is in the air.
When there is fear that there will be “reproach upon Jehovah and his people” then that’s the gateway into half-truths, unreasonableness, bullying, lying, and pretty much any nasty behavior to stop some event from coming to light, or forcing one that need not be aired publicly to make a judicial hearing over it. There’s even a name for it, Theocratic Warfare, whereby half-truths are used to misrepresent the truth, even in a Court of Law. The Fear is profound, it is ubiquitous and is pervasive. I would hazard a guess that in every situation it’s the fear that the elders will find out or did find out that makes human nature escalate into excommunication. These are kangaroo courts, and the brothers in charge of the hearing are grossly unqualified, scarily so. There was one suicide in my congo, because the sister could not control her lesbian feelings, as it leaked from the most gossipy of the elders involved, and I always wondered what could have happened had she got qualified help.
Choose life, do not let another’s acceptance of you affect your own self-worth. You are OUT or at least on your way out. The world is a wonderful place. There’s no paradise to live on forever, this is it, make the most of it! All you ever have is right now.
Even though I hold certificates of ministry in another (liberal) faith – I perform weddings at no charge - I do not consider myself to be Christian, more likely a Christian as I accept the teachings attributable to Jesus, along with all other books of wisdom. I am happy this way, it makes my heart larger, to consider that there’s light and dark in everything, and that a balanced life is what is important. Any faith that tries to be just a bright light and call itself The Truth, trying to extinguish anything that doesn’t conform, casts a long dark shadow. As my therapist said: Evil exists when one group or individual tries to control another.
Our faith’s shadow stretches from Russell’s cobbled interpretation of the Adventist Millerite Error, through the illegal take over of the WTS by Rutherford – not one of Russell’s Bible Student relatives became a Rutherford JW! The doctrinaire, Fred Franz and the organization-man Knorr created a faith that had to end by 1976, or absolutely by 2000 or it would have to morph. To date the WTS has not accepted that outcome, fighting pedophile cases legally with malice, and adjusting the tenets of the faith to those gullible to accept the changes as if from Jehovah himself. Will it survive? Probably. It’s a religion that has reinvented itself every 20 years or so. But the Internet is a powerful educational tool. After all we are all here.
May you have a great 2008 & 2009!
Keep doing the right thing!
Glen, who once was Deleted
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