I have a new hero and her name is Barbara Anderson. In addition to being a prolific writer, she is a tenacious investigative reporter, a meticulous researcher and a modern-day vigilante fighting for truth and justice. She is unrelenting when it comes to helping victims of child molestation, exposing policies that protect pedophiles and reporting acts of religious tyranny.
Barbara is not at all unlike John Galt, Ayn Rand’s mythical hero, in Atlas Shrugged. In Rand’s story, Galt is a principled counterpoint to a failed society with out-of-touch leaders, who embrace unjust policies.
Rand does not introduce her hero in the first part of the book, but promotes him by continually asking, “Who is John Galt?” Toward the end of the story, Galt appears and delivers a scathing manifesto condemning the inept society that he has abandoned.
Today, I can hear Barbara’s Galt-like voice condemning the Watchtower Society with, “You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that my words have no meaning. You cry out that man’s sins are destroying the world and you curse people unwilling to practice the beliefs you promote. Since belief, to you, consists of sacrifice of this life for a promised better life in a new world, you have squandered precious life now. In the name of a return to a theocracy, you have sacrificed all those evils which you hold up as the cause of the world’s plight. You sacrifice justice because you don’t want to bring reproach upon a God you believe directs your activity. You sacrifice individual thinking skills for top-down group think with no accountability for your poor decisions. You sacrifice reason for faith. You sacrifice self-esteem for protection of failed church policy. You sacrifice happiness for a ‘Let us wait on Jehovah. He’ll resolve the problem in His own due time’ mantra.”
While Barbara may not have literally said those words, her actions validate them. Go to www.watchtowerdocuments.com to learn more about her and her causes. If you can’t wait, you can read the following bio.
Barbara was born in Long Island, NY in 1940 to Polish Catholic parents. The church gave her a sense of community while she was growing up, but she wanted more. Social justice was important to her and all too often, her priests and their theology were at odds with that passion. She also wanted to understand the Bible, thinking it would help her cure the world’s problems. She tried reading it several times but would get lost in the minutiae and give up.
At thirteen years of age, she met one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their mission to save lives before our wicked world was destroyed appealed to her. A Bible study was started and she remembers how well JWs could explain good and evil. They had answers to everything and could find sound bites in the Bible to support what they believed. She was made to feel welcome, that she could belong to a worthy cause.
In less than nine months, she became a convert and an active participant in the door-to-door ministry. She married Joe Anderson, a Bethelite, in 1959 and the two of them moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, totally committed to JW beliefs. Their son, Lance, was born in 1961.
In 1982, Barbara and Joe went to visit Lance, who was then a Bethelite. During the visit, they were asked to join the Bethel family. Joe could help restore old run-down buildings the Society was purchasing and Barbara could work in the secretarial pool. Joe cautioned Barbara that life at Bethel for a married couple was not going to be easy, but they decided to make it work.
When I lived at Bethel in 1962, Don Krebs told me I would see a lot of shit there. His advice for a successful career was, “Never step in it.” That’s how Joe and Barbara could make it work.
They were at Bethel for almost seven years when Barbara was asked to work in the writing department. She was both the research assistant for senior staff writer, Karl Adams and a writer for Awake! Editor Harry Peloyan. Karl’s job was to produce a new book about the history of JWs. Under Harry’s tutelage, she wrote seven magazine articles. She spent four years in the department and discovered many new things about the history of JWs, including who really was the first president of the Watchtower Society. But more disturbing than that was the total disconnect from the group’s history and social justice. Pointing out past presidential cover-ups and flagrant lies to the men she worked for was an exercise in futility. Anything that brought reproach on God’s organization was best left unreported.
But the most troublesome for Barbara was the Society’s policy on child sexual abuse. In 1985, the Society acknowledged the devastating effect that child molesting had on JW families, and that was good. However, their position to not report such crimes to the police and that there had to be two witnesses to the act to make it a crime flew in the face of common sense. In the cases she was familiar with, and there were many, the Society’s decision to protect the abuser was onerous. When she’d complain, it was rationalized that a balance had to be struck between helping the victims and forgiving offenders. That did not sit well with her.
Barbara and Joe decided to leave Bethel at the end of 1992 and go back to their home in Tennessee. There Barbara continued to work for the writing department as one of its outside researchers. For four years, she tried to get the Society to change its failed policies on child molestation, but with no success. In 1998, Barbara resigned as a JW. In 2002, she went public about her knowledge of JWs and pedophilia. Two weeks before she appeared on NBC’s Dateline, she was disfellowshipped for “Causing Divisions.” The trumped-up charges about Barbara that were reported in congregations worldwide angered her husband Joe so much that he resigned as a JW. A few months later, he was disfellowshipped.
In 2007, Barbara appeared on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams to report on the Watchtower’s secret settlement of $12.5 million with sixteen victims of molestation by JW molesters. And, while Barbara has appeared on television and radio shows with Silent Lamb’s Bill Bowen, she is in no way associated with his organization. More information can be found at Barbara’s website.
I am currently writing a third book, a trilogy, which is titled, “Looking for the Truth—It’s Not at Mama’s Club.” Barbara’s story is one of several fascinating life journeys that I intend to explore. Look for the book in 2014.