My wife, Helen, walked out of her last Kingdom Hall meeting in 1986 after spending thirty years as a JW and has never looked back. While her story and more is told in an upcoming sequel that I’m writing, Ghosts from Mama’s Club, I want to share an event that happened to Helen two weeks ago. But first, I’ll need to share a little background information.
While Helen was never disfellowshipped, her JW siblings treated her departure like she was. When my step father passed away in 2001, Helen and her JW sister had a pleasant two-hour conversation after his funeral. Still miffed by the silliness of it all, Helen said sarcastically as her sister announced it was time to go, “See you in another fifteen years Esther.”
In July of this year, I organized a meeting with my JW brother, who is ironically married to Helen’s sister, to persuade my JW mother to move into an assisted living facility. Esther joined us and the hour-plus conversation preceding family business went well. Lots of laughs, hugs, and conversation you’d expect from family members. It prompted my mother to say to me later, “You could really see the love Helen and Esther have for each other.”
Two months later, Helen received a letter from Esther and a copy of the September 2006 Watchtower, featuring the article on page 17, “When a Loved One Leaves Jehovah.” Esther wrote, “My intentions in sending this is not to upset you, but rather is out of love and concern for you and Dick, (me) especially in view of the worsening world conditions and the nearness of Armageddon.” She went on to underline the following expressions:
…when a person chooses to leave Jehovah and the way of life set out in the Scriptures, faithful family members typically experience deep anguish. ‘I love my sister very much and I would do anything to see her come back to Jehovah. This has been hard for me to bear because in every other respect she has been a wonderful sister to me.’
Why does the spiritual loss of a child or other loved one cause such deep distress to Christian relatives? Because they know that the Scriptures promise eternal life on a paradise earth for those who remain loyal to Jehovah. They look forward to sharing these blessings with their mates, children, parents, siblings, and grandchildren. How it pains them to think that their loved ones who have stopped serving Jehovah may miss out!
Are such Christians overreacting? Not necessarily. In fact, they may to some extent be reflecting the qualities of Jehovah, in whose image man was made. He implanted in humans the capacity for having similar loyal attachments, and the bond between family members can be especially strong. So it is not surprising that humans would grieve over the spiritual loss of a beloved relative. Indeed, the spiritual loss of a loved one is among the most difficult of trials that come upon true worshipers.
Do not give up hope. Love “hopes all things.” Indeed, experience has shown that many who have left the truth eventually do return.
Respect Jehovah’s arrangement for discipline. (Hebrews 12:11)
Have you left Jehovah? If so, whatever the reason, your relationship with Jehovah and your eternal prospects are at risk. Remember, the storm clouds of Armageddon are swiftly approaching. Moreover, life in this system is short and uncertain. You cannot know if you will be alive tomorrow. If you have left Jehovah, now is the best time to return.
Esther’s letter, and especially the Watchtower quotes, were too much for my normally tacit wife. Her dander was up and she needed to respond. To do otherwise would make her culpable. So here is Helen’s response:
“Dear Esther, I don’t like discussing religion or politics. People generally believe what they do, not because of objective research, but because that’s what they want to believe. If anything, people look for evidence to support what they already know to be true and they aren’t comfortable when those beliefs are challenged. Having said that, I’m going to make an exception as you took the time to show your “love and concern” for me by sharing your beliefs. Hopefully, as you said, my beliefs will not upset you.
“I’m personally embarrassed by the number of years I allowed a group of self-anointed men, the Governing Body and writers of the Watchtower, to tell me who are Jehovah’s friends and how to please Him. If you’re interested, I’ve attached a list, Telling It Like It Is, of things I believe about Jehovah’s Witnesses. If not, you can toss it. Although, I read the 2006 Watchtower you sent me.
“As you observed during our recent visit in Mom’s house, I’m a very happy person. I lead a good life and am grateful that I can use my mind, without being made to feel guilty, to challenge beliefs that aren’t healthy for me or my family. I’m proud to have broken free from the bondage the Watchtower put on me. It’s opened up windows of opportunity I wouldn’t have experienced as a JW and I’ve had a full life that’s been productive and satisfying.
“Esther, you will always, irregardless of the big differences in our beliefs, be my little sister that I love very much.”
Telling It Like It Is
(An edited copy of a September Freemind’s post based on this original article.)
1. Joining Jehovah’s Witnesses is a one-way street. They will pretend to intensely love you while you walk in and they will openly despise you if and when you choose to walk out.
2. They love to say only they are from God and to point out that everyone and everything else is from Satan.
3. Flattery is one of the tools they use to win people over. They like to make potential converts feel special, so that they continue to ‘feel good’ about studying the Bible with them.
4. They also frighten. They don’t want you to realize this, but they subtly and effectively use Fear as an ingredient in many of their teachings. You see, nothing else controls as Fear does! (i.e. “…especially in view of the worsening world conditions and the nearness of Armageddon.”)
5. Eventually, they will only accept you if you ‘disown yourself’ and submit entirely to what they call ‘Jehovah’s Organization’.
6. You will only be allowed to have friends who are Jehovah’s friends. The Governing Body decides who Jehovah’s friends are. This practice also ensures that if you ever consider leaving the Watchtower, you will have to deal with a terrible social vacuum in your life, because all your Jehovah’s Witness friends will have nothing to do with you.
7. They love to exhibit mock humility. They take immense pride in saying they are the most humble lot. They want you to be proud and have this humility too.
8. While they theoretically believe that acts of kindness should not be publicized, you will notice that they actually crave the adulation and praise that result from publicizing their own self-proclaimed acts of godly devotion.
9. As an extension of the previous point, while they say Jehovah’s Witnesses are not men pleasers, any thinking person knows better!
10. They take great pleasure in contemplating the destruction of billions of people who have not responded positively to the message they preach. They routinely portray (in pictures) the painful deaths of unbelievers at Armageddon in their publications, and they find such artwork tasteful.
11. To a sane mind, the previous point may fall into the same genre of hate and destruction found in certain other groups that foster world terrorism, but of course, they don’t want you to realize that.
12. Their own congregations, outside the symbol of love and harmony, are as full of gossip, slander, distinctions, prejudice and even hate, as any other part of Babylon the Great, the false religions they condemn.
13. They would have you believe that the brothers love each other. In actuality, rivalry is widespread among congregation members, as each tries to out-do and outshine the other. After all, there are ‘privileges’ on offer, and these will only be yours if you tow the Watchtower line.
14. The more hours you put into field service, the more ‘spiritual’ you will be called. Of course, on the face of it they appear to say that even service that is comparable to the widow’s mite is precious to Jehovah, but know them for a long enough time and you will know that is not true.
15. You may not realize it is disparaging, but it is not uncommon for them to categorize believers as Bethelites, Special Pioneer, Auxiliary Pioneer, Elder, Ministerial Servant, Spiritually Weak or a Marked Person.
16. Naturally, the circuit overseers, elders and other prominent members of the congregation are attracted to those members who are materially well-off. They will never expressly state this, but observe them closely, and you will find that’s true.
17. Please say good-bye to a good education, rewarding career, etc. You are in the Watchtower now.
18. Look closer and you’ll discover that they are like any corporate organization. The rewards and privileges you enjoy in the organization is proportional to the ‘value’ you bring into it, in terms of new converts, hours spent, etc. And, your money is important to them.
19. You can bequeath any such wealth that you own to them, be that gold, financial securities, property, and real estate. They welcome it all.
20. Their love for you, the esteem and value that they hold for you, all actually comes at a heavy price, with many strings attached. But they hope you never realize that.
21. They have many organizational secrets which they don’t want you to know. Those who have ‘left them’ often know these secrets. That’s why they forbid you from ever speaking with them. Similarly, they will try and do everything possible to convince you that the internet is a Satanic trap, so you’ll never read online the things they don’t want you to read and know.”