Thursday, August 15, 2013

Shunning the Shunners

I recently heard a portion of a talk being given at the God's Word is Truth District Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, entitled:  The Truth brings "Not Peace, but a Sword given by Steven Bell of the Watch Tower Corporation, Walkill, NY.

Here are some jewels from that talk:

"What does Jehovah want from us when our family member is disfellowshipped? What does Jehovah expect out of us even if the situation is so painful that we have a family member who is disfellowshipped? What does he want?  Loyalty. That's what Jehovah wants.

Disloyalty to Jehovah's arrangement is not going to work.  For example, when someone is disfellowshipped, one of the reasons they want to come back to Jehovah's organization is to associate with the brothers and sisters in their congregation, and likely to associate with their family.  So, if we associate with them when they're disfellowshipped, we could actually be taking away from them a motivating factor for wanting to be reinstated.

Regarding family members who oppose us, or family members who are disfellowshipped, the vital question is: To whom am I going to be loyal? To whom do I have greater affection?  If we have more affection for anybody on this earth, whether it's a father, a mother, a son or a daughter, than we do for Christ Jesus, we are not worthy of him."

So let's face it:  The shunning is NOT going stop.  Our families are being taught that it comes down to loyalty.  Literally it is between us and their Almighty deity--Jehovah.  However sad, unfair, and just plain wrong this might be, the fact is--we cannot compete with their God. Even though their god is truly the Governing Body of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, our family members believe they are the vehicle the Almighty is using as their mouthpiece and mandate giver.  It's time to face the music.  That's a battle we just cannot win.  Logic does not prevail in this case.  Neither does emotional appeal.  So what are we to do?

Being cast out and shunned by your family members is like enduring a death.  A death of not just one individual, but everyone you know and love. And even a death of the person you used to be. It really is a grieving process like no other, because the ones you are grieving are still alive.  How ridiculous is that?

A picture is being painted of us--the disfellowshipped, or disassociated family members. It is so funny when I see the illustrations in the Watchtower literature depicting the "faithful Jehovah's Witnesses" painfully watching their child walk out of the door, or staring at a photograph of the object of their shunning with a grief-ridden expression on their faces. You never see the pain and agony the shunned one has gone through. The focus is on the fact that our Jehovah's Witness counterparts are the loyal ones and the life that we have chosen on the "outside" is worthy of excommunication, shunning, and even death.

Because many of us have been raised in, or at least exposed to these teachings for majority of our lives, our first instinct is to believe that, on some level, they're right.  We are not worthy.  We did something wrong by not choosing to continue to have our minds controlled by men, and therefore we deserve to be exiled, and ostracized by the very people who birthed us and have even claimed to love us without conditions.

The majority of negative comments on my YouTube channel  are from disfellowshipped ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who are actively being shunned! They are angry at me for speaking out against it, because--they truly believe they deserve this abuse.  It's all they know.  And in essence, although they are technically out of the organization, they are still bound by its chains.  But is that the case? Are we bound, and even getting what we deserve?

Not at all. Think about your family. These are adults we are talking about.  Yes they're being controlled by a government of eight men in Brooklyn, but they are adults, and as such, they choose to shun us.  They choose the Watch Tower corporation over their children, brothers, sisters, etc.  Why in the world should they be pitied? They chose to shun you because they don't like the decision you made. Just as you chose to leave the cult. 

So let me get this straight:  you chose to leave, they don't like it--and they feel the best and only option they have is to ostracize you from the family.  Where does that leave you?  Do you like their decision to shun you?  Do you not have a say in what happens in your life, and who gets to control it?

Let me give you a quick example.  My mother has been actively shunning me for nearly 3 years.  She doesn't speak to me, doesn't call me, doesn't answer my cards, emails, or messages.  At the same time, though, she routinely attempts to contact my daughter, send her emails, messages, or comments on her photos.

At first I was so hurt by the shunning, and the suddenness with which my family disowned me, that I allowed her to do this.  But then I realized something...  my mom's life hasn't changed.  She gets to shun her daughter, treat her like she's dead...and still have a relationship with her grand-kids. Meanwhile confirming her smug sense of "rightness" in following the Society's commands.  Works out great for her!  And every time my daughter got contacted by the woman that treats me as if I do not exist, I would feel worse and worse.  More and more slighted, and it fed even more into the feeling that maybe I deserved this treatment--and worse yet, that my mom deserved to still be in my children's lives all because she was still in the cult.  But that's not how I truly felt.  That's what the Watch Tower Society propagates.  They want you to be unhappy.  They want you to come crawling back so that you can finally associate with your family again.

The last thing they want is for you to move on.  And even worse than that would be to--shun the shunners. Yes, that's right.  Shun the shunners.  In the case with my mom--as I said before, she treats me like I'm dead.  So be it.  I'll be dead.  But guess what?  She's dead too.  She doesn't get to be among the living in my family.  It's only right.  She doesn't agree with my disassociation from her cult, so she shuns me for it.  I don't agree with her decision to let some guys in Brooklyn tell her that she can't speak to her daughter, so I'm shunning her for it.  And with that--comes restrictions.

She can't speak to my children.  My father (who has never been a JW, but is still married to my mom) can come down and visit, stay with us, play and take pictures with my kids.  She is not welcome in our home. She is blocked on my daughter's social media, and unless my father shares photos with her, she doesn't see them.  She doesn't get to disown and ostracize me, and go on with the same privileges she had before making that asinine decision. If I am dead, then the only way I can move on is if she is dead too.  In a figurative sense, of course.

I always have heard that just because someone shares your DNA, doesn't make them family.  It doesn't make it okay for them to hurt you, or destroy your soul.  They can only hurt you if you let them continue to do so.  They're just people.  People who can be removed from your existence.  

Once I came to that conclusion, I started feeling better.  Immensely.  I started truly sensing the power that I had given away, returning to me.  Because really, who has any power over any of us?  No one but US.  I started living on my own terms and realized that just because the Watch Tower society deems me inappropriate for association with my own family, it doesn't mean they are right.  They are nothing to me.  Their thoughts, controlling words, articles, and talks mean absolutely nothing in my existence.   They can only affect you if you let them.  And that is what they want.  It's the result for which they're waiting.

And just think about it.  If you did return to the cult solely for the purposes of associating with your family, is that really right?  I mean, why in the world would they even include that in the talk?  If you're not returning for "Jehovah", then are you really authentic in your faith?  I think not.  Shame on them.  Emotional blackmail at its worst.

So my advice is to get your power back.  Don't wither away, and wallow in this pain, guilt, and feelings of unworthiness.  Do something about it.  You don't deserve this treatment.  You don't deserve to be told that you're only worthy of love as long as you are doing what others want you to do.  Do you really want that energy in your life?  If not, let it go!  Shun the shunners.  Don't go crawling back and succumb to their ultimatum. Live your life.  You only get one!  Think about how you want to spend it.  Trust me, I know it's hard. I still have my tough moments, but it's getting better every day.  The sun has risen again, and it will do the same for you! But only you can decide whether you want to go out and see it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Without This Man, You Would Have Never Become a Jehovah's Witness

The other day, I happened upon a British television program called QI, which stands for Quite Interesting.  It is a panel-type quiz show which explores factoids that most do not know, and many would find, well, quite interesting.  Anyway, this particular episode was very intriguing to me because of the subject matter.  Take a quick peek here:

William Miller?  The Millerites? A cult that predicted the end of the world would come in 1844, and then failed?  And from that cult, emerged another--Jehovah's Witnesses, which also predicted the end of the world several times and failed?  QI definitely lived up to its name in this instance.  I had to know more.

William Miller was born in 1782 into a relatively poor family. He was the firstborn of 16 children, and because of the time period, had become quite a laborer. There was not very much education available at the time, in the Millers' town of dwelling, Low Hampton. In fact, it only provided about 3 months worth of education.  His father was a war veteran, and his mother--a devout baptist.  Needless to say, in that household, there was little to no room for questions from a young boy who had a thirst for knowledge.  His mother, however, did teach him to read--and in a very short time, William Miller had developed a ravenous appetite for books.

He would read anything he could get his hands on, and often would be awake all night doing so.  His father, who William assisted in the farms during the day, would wonder if his reading all night would eventually interfere with his work.   As a result, his father commanded William to go directly to bed at the same time he did.  William could not bear that, though.  He would wait until everyone else was asleep, creep down to the fireplace, light a fire, and read as long as he could.

Eventually, William married and moved away to Poultney, VT in 1803.  There, he continued his journey of education through books.  He didn't spend as much time reading as he would have preferred, as he now had a wife and household to support.  He spent much of his time in the farming business he had learned from the time with his father. However, William's wife greatly encouraged him to continue in his pursuit of reading and educating himself.

During the time of this self-taught education, he began questioning a lot of the things he was being taught and seeing in the Christian churches.  He withdrew from them, because above anything, he wanted to find something noble in character before anything else!  He even wrote in his own memoir:  "The more I read, the more dreadfully corrupt did the character of man appear.  I could discern no bright spot in the history of the past.  Those conquerors of the world, and heroes of history, were apparently but demons in human form.  All the sorrow, suffering, and misery in the world, seem to be increaded in proportion to the power they obtained over their fellows.  I began to feel very distrustful of all men.  In this state of mind, I entered the service of my country.  I fondly cherished the idea that I should find one bright spot at least in the human character, as a star of hope--a love of country--PATRIOTISM."

So it was no surprise that in the war of 1812, William Miller received a commission as captain and entered the army.  He lead an infantry regiment at the Battle of Plattsburg.  They were extremely outnumbered by the British, and Miller had no idea how they could possibly win.  But, by what he deemed as divine intervention, they came off victorious. Miller believed, then, that God stepped in to save him for a distinct purpose.  And because of this victory, and came out as a hero and was very respected among his counterparts.

This all sets the stage for the events that would unfold.  Miller was highly regarded among his community, he was a self-made educated man who was known for his knowledge on a wide variety of subjects.  So, when he took to reading and interpreting the Bible in its entirety, he had credibility on his side.  People listened.

What was of particular interest to Miller was the End of Times, as described in the book of Daniel, and--he believed--it would be fulfilled in the book of Revelation.  He took passages from Daniel that refer to 1,260 days, transformed each day into years, and used the beginning point of the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and arrived at the year 1843 for the end of the world.

He was likable, trustworthy, and so convincing, that his "prophecy" gained lots of momentum.  He utilized the technology available in that era--the high speed printing press to produce pamphlets, and employed a gentleman named Joshua Himes to promote the movement into a mass "organization" called the Millerites. Two of the pamphlets produced and promoted by Himes and Miller were entitled Signs of the Times and Midnight Cry. Take a gander at one of the flyers produced and dispensed by this organization.  Looks like something right out of Jehovah's Witness publication, Revelation--The Great Climax is at Hand, doesn't it?

Interesting to note, at this time, the Millerites were admonished to keep away from, and not have any association with those who would nay-say, or those who were deemed "evil" so as not to distract them from God.  Miller was even a freemason at one point, and chose to remove himself from the group, stating that he did so to "avoid fellowship with any practice that may be incompatible with the word of God among masons.  He even wrote a letter to his followers to treat Freemasons "as they would any other evil".  Starting to sound a bit familiar, yet? 

Obviously, the year 1843 came and went, with no Apocalypse.  What gives?  Well it turns out that Miller had miscalculated.  He failed to add in the year which BC turns to AD.  So all he had to do now was simply move the prophecy forward one year.  He even pegged it down to an exact date.  October 22, 1844.  This new date extended and greatly increased the excitement.  At this point, there were over a million Millerites awaiting the end of times, and anxious for Christ to come sweep them up to heaven. 

The day, forever after called the Great Disappointment, arrived and passed.  People had literally given everything they had as a result of belief and trust in this prophecy.  They had sold their homes, farms, and even given their lives awaiting it.  When the day came, and Christ did not appear, there was incredible dismay.  The Millerites were literally traumatized, frenzied and utterly disappointed.  Ultimately the group disbanded.  

Note some glaring similarities
  • Only the Millerites had the truth.  All other churches, and religions at the time were regarded as Babylon the Great.
  • Christendom was called the whore (harlot) of Babylon the Great.
  • Millerites stopped their educations, and sold or gave away their possessions in enthusiastic anticipation of the Great Day of God--the end of times. 
  • Millerites produced and dispensed large amounts of pamphlets and flyers to gain awareness of the prophecy.

Though William Miller did issue a heartfelt apology (which is definitely more sincere than the arrogant use of "new light" employed by Jehovah's Witnesses), he did continue to warn that the end was still near.  The signs of the times were still there, there's just no exact date.  So it makes perfect sense why Charles Russell, a Millerite at the time, proceeded with the same fervor in his creation of the Bible Students, which later became the organization we all know as Jehovah's Witnesses.   This group, which employs some of the exact tactics used by William Miller to keep people "anxiously awaiting" a day which has, and most certainly never will, come. 

Truthfully, it seems to me that William Miller was at least genuine and earnest in this movement.  He sincerely believed the end would come in 1844, and he was greatly disappointed along with his followers when it never came to pass.   I believe Charles Russell--in the creation of his organization, and failed prophecies to come--was also very sincere.  However, the leaders of the organization have progressively evolved into something much less sincere, and much more controlled.

So there you have it, people.  William Miller--the man without which, we would have never even heard of, much less become Jehovah's Witnesses.  Kinda makes you sick to your stomach a bit, doesn't it? Ah, I digress. 

I'd be willing to bet that there is little more than a handful of active Jehovah's Witnesses who actually know where their organization comes from.  That it actually is a direct derivation of a previous "last days" cult which also failed at predicting the end of the world.  This is why I keep stressing to do your research.  Find out the truth about the corporation in which you are involved.  The answers are there. The history is there.  All that is required is to open your eyes.  

My silver lining in all of this is if I had never been exposed to the cult of Jehovah's Witnesses, I wouldn't be in the place I am right now.  I wouldn't be writing this blog, and I wouldn't have the insatiable desire to find actual truth.  I would be much more susceptible to what others believe and accept it as factual without reason, and research.  It is because of the Jehovah's Witnesses that I have realized the fallacy of taking the opinions of others as my own.  It is because of their arrogance that I the humility to say how little I know, and how much I have to learn.  So for that--thanks, William Miller.  My life would have been completely different if you'd never existed.