Watchtower’s Bad Attitude and The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse

Watchtower’s Bad Attitude and The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse concluded last week with a string of recommendations toward institutions and government for requested changes to increase the safety of children. I won’t, here, go into the details of what the commission recommended, as such information has already been covered elsewhere in abundance. Today, I am more concerned with Watchtower’s attitude toward victims.

Watchtower, you’ve got a bad attitude and I think it’s about time we address it.

Honourable Justice Peter McClellan said something quite beautiful in his concluding speech. Certainly, it’s worth repeating here.

“Although the primary responsibility for the sexual abuse of a child lies with the abuser and the institution which they were part, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the problems faced by many people who have been abused are the responsibility of our entire society.” – Honourable Justice Peter McClellan

See that? That’s called taking accountability. The Honourable Justice acknowledged the problem and then owned it as something that is his business. It’s your business and it’s my business. It’s the business of our entire society. Here, there is a problem and it needs to be fixed. He stated quite clearly that, “the problems faced by many people who have been abused are the responsibility of our entire society”. In case you missed it, I’ve taken the liberty of stressing it twice.

Can you imagine—try very hard—a world in which a member of the Governing Body uttered similar words? I can’t and I have a very good imagination. Look, I’ll give it a real shot.

Imagine Geoffrey Jackson or one of his colleagues took a deep breath, manned-up, stood up and said, “The problems faced by many Witnesses who have been abused by Elders and congregants are the responsibility of our entire organisation.”

Can you imagine how instantly your respect for him would increase? Such an act would demonstrate real love, courage, and empathy. Such an act would be reflective of a man more intent on providing support to people, than maintaining the image of a corporation. I’d respect that man, but he doesn’t exist.

Compare the above words of Honourable Justice Peter McClellan with the victim-blaming narrative disseminated by Watchtower in the October Awake! of 2007.

“The primary responsibility for protecting children against abuse belongs to parents.” Awake! Make Your Family a Safe Haven, October 2007.

I’ve included the reference, so give it a read if you wish. You’ll find that Watchtower takes zero accountability for the child abuse that takes place in their congregations and sometimes on their properties. If parents let their guard down in the “spiritual paradise”, and their child is raped, then it’s entirely their fault. This is so insulting that its equivalence is the Governing Body saying, “Ha! It’s your fault for trusting us, not our fault for supplying the paedophiles, the venue, and the opportunity. Guess you’re just crappy parents for believing us … we, the men who speak for God.”

It’s the same stunt they pull at every level of the organisation. Indeed, it’s the same stunt they pulled in 1975. “If you refuse to believe in the dates with which we provide you, you will be put out on your backsides, but if we’re wrong … Ha! It’s your fault for being stupid enough to trust us.”

You cannot win against such faulty reasoning. This is the definition of an abusive relationship. A man promises not to hit his wife, but she angers him running late with the groceries, so he strikes her. “Ha! It’s your fault for taking too long with the groceries. You know that makes me mad. You should have known I would lose it!”

Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? The 2007 Awake! article I quoted from earlier, opens with the following.

““HAVING no natural affection.” With those sad words, the Bible describes many people of our time, a period called “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3, 4)” Awake! Make Your Family a Safe Haven, October 2007.

No natural affection? All right, let’s do this one last time, shall we? Scroll up and re-read what the Honourable Justice Peter McClellan said regarding the welfare of the victims of child abuse. He owns it; sees it as something broken that needs to be fixed. Compare that Watchtower’s bad attitude and you tell me who’s lacking in, “natural affection”. Is it the guy who wants to help the victims of organisations he’s never even been involved with? Or is it the guy who physically runs the show and is in the best possible position to enact real change, but does not?

I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. You tell me.

“A child cannot understand the full meaning of sexual acts … In other words, if an adult (or significantly older youth) has relations with a child, the older person cannot excuse the act by saying that the child did not object or that the child asked for it. The adult is guilty of rape. This is a crime, often punishable by a prison sentence. The responsibility for the rape belongs with the rapist, not the unwilling victim.”

The saddest part for me, I think, is that Watchtower appears to be quite competent in understanding the depth and breadth of issues relating to child abuse, even acknowledging that it’s a crime. Despite this, they do nothing to reduce the problem, and, as we saw throughout the royal commission, they staunchly resist any change for the better.

“Sadly, though, most of such crimes go unpunished by authorities today. In Australia, for example, it has been estimated that only 10 percent of offenders are prosecuted, and few are convicted. Other lands have had a similar record. While governments may be able to do little to protect the Christian family, the application of Bible principles can do far more.” Awake! Make Your Family a Safe Haven, October 2007.

And you know what could do even more than the application of Bible principles? Reporting child abuse to the authorities. That might help budge those unpunished crimes for which you express such sadness. Or, is this just another example of the shameful Jehovah’s Witness logic, where they see a problem in the world, feel sad, and then say, “Oh well, because … paradise!”?

“True Christians realize that the God who had those principles recorded in his Word has not changed. He sees every deed we carry out, even those that are hidden to most humans. The Bible says: “All things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.”—Hebrews 4:13.” Awake! Make Your Family a Safe Haven, October 2007.

I see, I was right … thought so. This final paragraph nicely sets the scene for Elders to discourage parents from going to the police. “How so?” asks the never-in. “Ah, let me tell show you,” says the born-in. I’ll break it down nicely. It goes like this.

 

The Ten Steps of Silencing Victims of Abuse – An Elders’ Guide

By Cael McIntosh, your friendly resident Apostate

  1. Bob finds out Jerry has been raping his kid.
  2. Bob storms up to Jerry and says, ‘You’ve been raping my kid! She told me.’
  3. ‘No I haven’t,’ says Jerry.
  4. Bob goes to the elders, furious. A judicial committee is formed.
  5. Poor little Betty is interrogated, but she sticks to her guns and says that Jerry did it.
  6. The Elders read some Bible verses, including the scriptural basis for the “two-witness rule”.
  7. Bob can’t believe what he is hearing. Jerry didn’t rape Betty in a public space. He was babysitting. How could there possibly be a second witness?
  8. Bob threatens to escalate the matter to the police.
  9. The elders provide Bob with council, saying, ‘You can go to the police if you want. We won’t try to stop you, but keep in mind what the scriptures say about bringing reproach upon Jehovah’s name and his organisation by making private divisions public.’
  10. Not wanting to piss off God or risk being disfellowshipped, moves to a new congregation, but stays silent. ‘Jerry will get what’s coming to him at Armageddon,’ Bob consoles himself. ‘We’ll just have to wait on Jehovah.’

 

Those are the ten steps used by Watchtower to silence victims of abuse. And look, they don’t say a single thing to incriminate themselves! They keep everybody silent without once silencing anyone. No dirty hands here. Nothing more to see. Move it long, people. Right?  If it weren’t so vile, I’d almost be impressed.
Cael McIntosh

An Easily Silenced Apostate

It’s an old memory. I was in the first congregation I can remember, though not the first I’d attended. This was one meeting among thousands. There was no special reason for it to burrow into my memories, except that it did, because of the unscripted intrusion that struck the audience with silence, dismay, and fear.

Elder Soandso got up to deliver his talk. It started ordinarily; nothing special. I scribbled blue pen on notebook pages, carving out little doors that I could open, behind which I drew the faces of smiling monsters. Brother Soandso droned on for five minutes, his breathing becoming staggered, his face sweating as he veered the talk on an unusual course.

I was too young. Too innocent. But something was wrong. I could feel it in the tension of the way my parents sat.

‘ … so you see, brothers, in my research I’ve uncovered … ‘ his voice droned as I came in and out of paying attention. He used unfamiliar words. One of them may have been Illuminati, but I cannot be sure. I was very young. I do remember the next bit, the thing that got the elders raising to their feet to swamp the platform; hungry birds caving in on a lonesome worm.

‘You have to wake up,’ brother Soanso implored. ‘The organisation is run by Satan and his demons. Don’t you see? You’re following a false prophet!’

I lost sight of Brother Soandso as the elders caved in around him, a wall of bodies and grey suits, of shaking heads and muttered reprimands. Brother Soandso was ushered away, removed from sight, disappeared from view … silenced. And then Brother Soandso ceased to exist.

Within days of Brother Soandso’s outburst, a rumour went out among the flock. From where it had come, who could say? But it had to be the truth, as everybody was saying so, and everybody knew that Witnesses wouldn’t lie. We could trust our brothers and sisters in Jehovah. This fact was most certain, one we knew above all else.

It became common knowledge that Brother Soandso had been rushed to hospital. To behave in such a way, he could only have been very sick. The doctors took scans that revealed a terrible brain tumour, which had deformed his thinking, causing him to become mentally ill. It was said that Satan seized this freely gifted opportunity to infest Brother Soandso while his senses were compromised; to make him a puppet, performing the Devil’s bidding.

The memory became concrete in my uncomprehending mind. It stole a place and burrowed down deep. It told me to remember it when I was a little older, a little wiser. It told me to hold it close. Because one day … I would see.

And now I see.

I’ve had occasion to wonder after Brother Soanso. It didn’t escape my notice that he never returned to the meetings. Neither did his family. There was no funeral, so I could only assume he’d survived whatever procedure was endured. He never returned, even as a drooling, mindless thing to be pitied in a chair until the new system came. It occurred to me that this was strange, since sick and elderly people were always adorned with such regard when they pushed themselves to make it to a meeting. Brother Soandso was forgotten; his family too. They were never spoken of, except for the occasional whispers of, ‘What a pity about old Brother Soandso … ’ and, ‘I wonder whatever became of him?’

Nobody troubled themselves to find out.

Perhaps he’d had a brain tumour. Yes, and perhaps not.

One hundred thousand years later, I stand across dimensions of time and space viewing that carpet smelling world of peach curtains and suffocating yellow bricks, of poisonous voices of servitude. I see them. I see them all. I see it from the infinitesimally diminishingly eternally enlarging perspective of the skeptic’s eye, awake and untired, where whispers once suppressed now scream the truth of Brother Soandso’s journey. He did not have a brain tumour. He had woken up.

As my young mind reeled in horror, the fetid thing that remains today recognises my first encounter with an apostate; an awoken hero of early days. These are the ones who came before us, the ones who found strength before the internet and the tens of thousands of like minds it contains. These ones stood up alone to look wickedness in the eye, without an audience who praised them. Yes, Brother Soandso, wherever, whoever you are, I salute you. Across the void of time, I catch but a glimpse of your lonesome pain. Now, I am just like you, but I don’t have to be so alone. For there are others like us, now, with hands linked. Together we will complete that which you boldly sought to accomplish. For we are stronger, together, and we are more solid than you could’ve ever imagined.

And for those who would seek to divide us, to drive us apart, remember always the solitary plight of those who came before us. Remember how easily Brother Soandso was silenced. Remember how little we could accomplish as solitary bodies. Remember how only, and only ever as many … as all of us, as this great and monstrous tens of thousands of voices screaming together, we will watch the darkest Tower fall.

Let we, the screamers, scream. Let us scream together.

 

Cael

“Being in the Truth has never been easy, but . . .”

I’ve been gone for a while. I’m sorry. I’ve been relocating from Sydney to Melbourne and taking a bit of time to settle in. But, now I’m back.

I switched offices, left behind the people I knew, left behind my crappy apartment, left behind my routine. I left everything behind … again. It’s at times like these that I’m most keenly aware of my absent family. I don’t think of them excessively, but it’s times like these that I remember the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the incredible impact they’ve had on my life. And not in a good way.

It got me thinking about a common phrase parroted by countless Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s on that I’ve decided to explore with you.

“Being in the Truth has never been easy, but . . .”

God, I weary of hearing these words from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re the same words spoken in countless letters I’ve read from parents to children who have dared to leave. They’re words expressed by tired publishers. And the humour of it all is that they believe those words to be words conjured by their own minds. This could never be the case with the same words spoken by hundreds and thousands of mouths in nearly the exact same order. The concept that they all, independently, came up with the same concept is laughable.

There are few things easier than handing over the keys to your mind and allowing others to choose your actions and thoughts for you. I would argue that being a Jehovah’s Witness is one of the laziest decisions you could make.

Want to understand the Bible? Don’t trouble yourself. We’ll understand it for you.

Want to receive a guarantee on how to gain God’s favour? Don’t worry about discerning proper morals and ethics for yourself. We’ll do it for you. We’ll write publications that expressly provide you with a list of dos and don’ts.

Want to spend eternity in paradise with your loved ones? Just do as your told, toe the line, and your ticket will be sent in the post.

Jehovah’s Witnesses tell themselves repeatedly that their lives are “never easy” with such frequency that they’ve managed to convince themselves. It allows them to mock and disparage anyone who chooses to leave, as “weak ones”. You left, because you were “tempted” by the world’s offerings. You left, because you didn’t wish to trouble yourself with Jehovah’s high standards. You left, because you lacked discipline and sought to do as you pleased. You left, because you’re weak and couldn’t withstand the “difficult life” of a Jehovah’s Witness.

These people have an unparalleled persecution complex. Please . . . let me tell you about a life that has never been easy. Do, let us compare notes.

Talk to me about a difficult life when your entire social network dumps you like a diseased corpse without burial beside the road.

Talk to me when your own mother hasn’t spoken to you in greater than a decade.

Talk to me when you’ve had no one to turn to and had to sell everything you owned to avoid homelessness.

Life on the outside has not been easy. Watchtower made sure of that. Truth is, it would’ve been a lot easier—and lazier—had I stayed. But I would rather suffer a thousand injustices to live authentically. This is me. I will not be controlled or subjugated. I will not and neither should you. We are able to determine for ourselves what is right and wrong based on the conscience beating in the hearts of our chests. Don’t dare let them tell you what is right or wrong, these other humans, with no greater discernment than you. They are not closer to God than you. They have no right!

My family buy into this silliness. Well, shame on them! I’ve been robbed of them. Well, Watchtower can have them, but they’ll never, ever, have me.

8 Tips for the Steadfast Jehovah’s Witness

8 Tips for the Steadfast Jehovah’s Witness

I know, I know, I’m not going to change your mind anytime soon. You’ll stop reading now, or halfway through, or well before the final line. I assure you I come in peace. I’m not going to try to convince you to abandon your faith or turn away from Jehovah. The internet is already awash with such material. I’m approaching this from a different angle. What follows is my advice for Jehovah’s Witnesses, accepting the fact that they’re not going to leave. I’ll treat that as a given. Fine, you’re a Jehovah’s Witness and that’s never going to change. Okay, great, I can dig that. So, here’s my advice.

These are my eight tips—eight hopes, really—for those determined to maintain their loyalty to Watchtower.

 

  1. Love each other, always

I cannot describe the exquisite pain felt when your family—the ones you hold most dear—choose to cut you out, ignore you as though you were a stranger, or vermin. You needn’t fear that, of course. You’re determined to maintain your convictions and I’m not here to convince you otherwise. But life happens. You lose people. Things go wrong. So please, hold your mother close, tell your father you love him. Remind your children that they are valued and loved for the unique individuals they are. Of course, you can’t tell them that you love them no-matter-what, but at least tell them you love them very much.

One day your son or daughter or mother or father might decide that they don’t believe in the Watchtower’s teachings. I know what you’re thinking. It would never happen to your family. My family felt the same way. And yet here I am, twelve years shunned. I’ve had to mourn the loss of my family just as they have had to mourn the loss of a son and brother. I hope it doesn’t happen like that for you, but life happens.

So, hold your loved ones close. Cherish them. Your time in the sun may be brief.

 

  1. Try not to judge too much

You’ll try to convince me that you don’t judge at all, but let’s save that for the “worldly people”, a term which by its very nature is one of judgement. I was one of you, remember, so let’s just speak honestly.

Try not to judge too much. Try not to sneer in disgust when you see homosexuals. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for you. Try not to value the lives of non-believers as inferior to yours and your brothers and sisters. Of course, you will to some degree, but try not to let it overpower you completely. Don’t let it erase the compassion in your heart. Other people matter too. They love as deeply as you and in many cases, much more deeply than you could imagine.

I know that this will be hard for you. You think that you must see outsiders as “unclean” or “worldly”. But, you really don’t. I’m asking that you see them as people. Just people. Don’t label them. Don’t dehumanise them. I know doing so makes it easier to devalue and judge them, which is why I’m asking you not to do it. I’m not asking you not to judge them at all. Such is the nature of your faith. I’m just asking that you try not to judge too much.

You don’t know what lead to the hooker selling her body to get by.

You don’t know what horrors the drug addict experienced as a child, why he needs to numb the pain.

You don’t know how the teenage girl wound up getting pregnant.

You – don’t – know.

So, please, try not to judge too much. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for you.

 

  1. Know your religion

This one seems obvious, but you would be surprised how few people know their own religion. And that extends to many denominations, not just yours. Adherents are often born in and keep on doing the things they do and believe the things they believe simply because they always have. That’s not really a good enough reason though, is it? You owe it to yourself to know why you live the life you do.

That’s why I don’t proselytise or wave anti-Jehovah’s Witness literature in your face. I’m not going to do your homework for you. There’s no point. You wouldn’t read anything like that, coming from someone like me. Besides, we live in the “information age”. If you want to learn the truth, it’s not hard to do so.

I will give you a head start. Your primary concern should be whether what you believe in is true. For that reason, I cannot stress enough, that history is where you should look. Any organisation that pertains to have God’s favour must have a solid historical basis for such a claim.

Let’s pretend that you were interested in becoming a Muslim. I know, I know … that’s a silly idea! You’re a steadfast Jehovah’s Witness, but just stay with me for a moment. Pretend you were considering the Muslim faith. Where would you start? Would you be most interested in their practices today? Of course not! That can be said for secular organisations, but not for religion. When it comes to religion what matters is whether or not it’s true. So where to start? History. Did God speak with the profit Mohamed, or not? It’s a “yes or no” question. You must examine the past to determine your future.

How much do you really know about the history of the Watchtower? Sure, you vaguely remember the names of a few of the presidents. You may have an inkling of Beth Sarim … but is that really enough? Don’t you owe yourself a little more detail than that?

 

  1. Try not to bleed

Look after your health as though the world wasn’t coming to an end, just around the corner. This is a point of pure concern for your well-being. I never paid particular attention to my health as a teenager because I didn’t honestly think I would age another year or two before the end came. Now I’m thirty-one years old. One day, I’ll be sixty and hopefully much older. You may age as well, but you might not have as many medical options as me.

Take care of yourself and try not to bleed. Your faith won’t allow you to replace the blood you lose. Also, when you abide to point three, you will learn that at times the Governing Body has forbidden organ transplants, but I won’t go into that, as that’s for you to investigate.

The point is, take care of yourself. You never know what medical options will be available to you at any given time. This life is precious.

 

  1. Save some money for yourself

It is not selfish to do this. I attended the same meetings as you. I remember the example, time and again, of the old woman putting two coins of little value into the contribution box. She was praised for having given more than the wealthy man because she’d given everything she had. You remember those talks, right? You can be honest, it’s just you and me and we both know it’s true.

Save some money for yourself. I know, I know, the end is just around the corner. What use is it building up wealth on Earth when you should be building it up in “the Kingdom”, am I right?

Save some money for yourself. In 1914, millions then living thought they would never die. Prior to 1975 (for reasons you can investigate at your leisure), countless brothers and sisters sold their homes and took out bank loans they couldn’t possibly repay so that they could spend their final years in this system in the preaching work. That’s great. That’s admirable. They scrounged up the metaphorical two coins of little value and put them into the metaphorical contribution box.

You mustn’t live this way. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Maybe, just maybe, the end isn’t so close as you think. It’s conceivable, right? It’s even conceivable without breaking any Watchtower rules. All you have to do is acknowledge how long your religion has been around: well over a hundred years, right? For that entire time, you’ve been preaching that the end is imminent, right? Well, if it’s been imminent for a hundred years, it could conceivably be imminent for another hundred years, right? Who really knows what “imminence” means to Jehovah?

I know, I know, you’ve got to contribute something. I’m not telling you not to. You’re a steadfast Jehovah’s Witness and nothing is going to shake your faith. Fine, I’m cool with that. But maybe, just maybe, you’re going to get so old that you won’t be able to work. You’re going to have to feed and house yourself somehow and guess what, Watchtower’s not going to contribute back to you. Their funding is a one-way street from your pocket to theirs. If you get too old, you’re on your own.

Save some money for yourself. Be practical. Get real. Plan for a future that just might come, after all.

 

  1. Do not trust other Jehovah’s Witnesses completely

This is a tricky one to negotiate without going into matters you’re probably unwilling to hear, but I’ll try.

The congregation is a spiritual paradise, right? Well, not always. Think about it this way. You think apostates are wicked. Let’s run with that. Well, before they were outed as apostates, these people were in congregations just like yours. That means “wicked people” can exist, however briefly, within the congregation.

Other kinds of wicked people exist in the congregation as well. I’ll demonstrate with an example from my own life, rather than using second or third-hand accounts.

When I was in my early teens I had a best friend, also a Jehovah’s Witness (naturally). I often slept over his house. I found out years later that he’d been molesting his cousins and younger brother. He had likewise been molested. Wickedness existed in my congregation.

You wouldn’t trust “worldly people” with the care of your children beyond your supervision. I know, I know, you naturally trust Witnesses a hell of a lot more than “worldly people”, but I’m asking you not to trust them completely. The congregation isn’t always quite so clean as you think.

 

  1. Don’t be cruel

I get it. You have to shun or “limit association” with ex-Witnesses and non-Witnesses. Just don’t be cruel about it. If your loved one leaves your religion, don’t sling insulting terms at them when they reach out to you. They’re only following the natural instinct to engage with someone they care about. Remember, they have every bit as much right to—and as little control over—believe in whatever they do, as you.

I know you’re not supposed to share a meal, but refusing even to acknowledge them is just cruel. Keep the conversation brief if you must. Remind them that you cannot have a relationship with them because of some arbitrary beliefs, but don’t ever let them walk away thinking you’ve stopped loving them. Don’t hassle them with your literature. Many of us have read it all our lives. We know what’s in there. We know what it’s about. We don’t magically forget once we leave. Hassling ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses to return to your way of thinking is about as useful as ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses hassling you, the steadfast Jehovah’s Witness, to read apostate literature. It’s not going happen.

So, if you cannot talk about doctrine, what can you do? Don’t be cruel. Tell your disbelieving loved one that you do in fact love them. Tell them that because of the way a handful of admittedly imperfect, fallible men in Warwick in the United States of America have interpreted the scriptures, you cannot speak to them. Admit that it’s not your interpretation, nor do you necessarily understand it. Remind your loved one that you know they haven’t turned to sin, that they just don’t believe in a few things that have absolutely no biblical backing. Tell them that you’re just in so deep with your religion that you are willing to suppress all natural affection to obey the interpretations of men.

Just remind your disbelieving loved one that you love them and that if the men at Bethel ever change their minds about shunning, you too will immediately change your mind about it thereby proving that it was never your personal belief to begin with. When that day comes, let your loved one know that you will associate with them freely, but if the Governing Body changes its mind again, and reintroduces shunning, then you’ll change your mind back. But if they change it yet again, you’ll embrace your loved one again. Then if they change it back again … oh, you get the point! You’re a mindless puppet. Just try not to be cruel to the ones you love and let them know that you do in fact love them, in whichever limited fashion you’re allowed. Because, after all, you’ll do as you’re told.

 

  1. Keep something of yourself for yourself

You are a steadfast Jehovah’s Witness. You give all of yourself to Jehovah. Well … I’d suggest that you exercise some caution in doing this. Keep something of yourself for yourself. Nurture a hobby, not related to your faith. Find a passion for something you enjoy, not related to your religion. Find something that makes you, you.

Please do this. Keep something of yourself for yourself. Because if you don’t, when you wake up, and yes, eventually you will wake up, you will have nothing left. There will be nothing left of you.

Shepherds of the Flock

Shepherds of the Flock

I’ve realised that what first triggered me along the path of awakening. It was the attitudes of the elders toward me. They’d always treated me well, until my late teens when I became a “troubled youth”. This was when I truly became disillusioned with the organisation. I’d expected that in such circumstances, the elders would gather around, take a personal interest, try to reach this wayward sheep. No sir! They removed my “privileges” without reason, treated me with contempt and told my friends to avoid me. At the very time I needed them most, they abandoned me.

And I hadn’t done anything against the rules. I was just “troubled”, as brooding teens may be.

I’m not saying that I expected a pity-party, but I had issues, and I’d been led to believe that these men were responsible of taking care of such people. Many have been advised not to seek professional help; instead to rely on “Jehovah’s arrangement”.

Nobody cared. That was a hard life lesson, but one learned well.

I went off on my own, sorted myself out, discovered a love of life, but I’d lost all respect for the elders. When I finally did break the rules, these would be the last people I’d turn to. If they treated me with such ill-regard when I was a sheep who’d wandered a little off the road, how much less would they care to shepherd when I approached them a little battered?

These were not men who forsook the flock to search for the precious, lost sheep Jesus spoke of in Luke 15. These men watched the animal wander astray, turning their attention back to the flock to ensure none followed. These men watched the sheep slipping away and scorned it for daring step out on its own. Should it ever return, they wouldn’t welcome it back like the prodigal son, but would make sure it suffered further still.

Should that little sheep ever find his way back, wishing only to gather among his family for love and warmth, these shepherds would sneer at his bruises and blood-caked fleece. They would nudge him to the back of the flock, to walk behind the others so that no one could pay him any attention. The little sheep would limp after the others for months and years without medical attention, constantly fearful, the most likely to be picked off by wolves. Should he survive through tenacity alone, become healthy again despite being ignored by the ones he holds most dear, then maybe, just maybe, he would be allowed back into the flock. But he’d be made to suffer well.

The little sheep would go through his life, never quite treated the same. He’d be regarded with suspicion from the flock and the shepherds alike. Eventually he would wander away to fend for himself in the fields, to be beaten and bruised, if only to escape those who disparaged him. Again, the shepherds wouldn’t trouble themselves to stop him. The flock would jeer and mock the tainted sheep. They would nudge each other and say, ‘See, the dog who goes back to its vomit? He was never to be trusted. We always knew he was no good.’

Throughout the years that followed, the shepherds would occasionally go out into the field, seek out the little sheep where he hid in caves, shaking, black with mud and blood and abandonment. They would make a show of welcoming him back, but the invitation was never true. He would be welcomed back, but only to walk behind the others, as they whispered, kicking dirt up in his face.

He’d prefer to take his chances alone.

Sheep and Goat.jpg
Yes, I saw how the elders treated wayward sheep and it had no representation in Luke 15. If you’ve wandered once, even dared to place a single hoof off the trail, you will never see freedom from the shepherds’ persecution and suspicion. You are tainted.

This little sheep will find his

love among the goats.

Calum

Ex-JWs: We Are Fish

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot understand the angst of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. They can’t understand the anger, the malcontent, the outrage at the way we’ve been treated. Many, current Jehovah’s Witnesses perceive ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses as liars, over-exaggerators, and monsters.

Why?

Why is it that we, as ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, can have such an entirely different perspective on our experiences with the religion than those currently living it? How can we say it was horrible, whilst they say that it is the most wonderful way to live? I believe that it’s because the greatest damage is done, or at least noticed when you l ve.

We are fish.

We are fish with hooks in our brains.

Some fish swim about their lives, eating morsels, when one day a hook sinks deep into their brain. Other fish have a hook in their brain the second they’re free from their egg, a hook brought into them by their parents; already hooked.

The fisherman is a silly old bastard, half drunk and sleepy in the afternoon sun. He doesn’t always know when he has a fish on the line. So, the fish go about their days with hooks in their brains. They’re quite unlike the other fish, who look at them suspiciously—with great shining rods sticking up out of their heads—but, for the most part, they feel as though their lives are somewhat ordinary.

You are a Jehovah’s Witness, with hooks in your brain. You swim about your day. You eat like the other fish. You sleep like the other fish. You defecate like the other fish. But you have hooks in your brain. You just don’t know it.

The true damage of being a Jehovah’s Witness is when one day you wake up, or at least, the fisherman does. He yanks hard on the rod and you are reeled in. Chunks of your brain are torn out as your flesh splits and scales spiral into the grey sea. Your family scatters, hooks in their brains, praying that they aren’t too, reeled in.

On your journey to the surface, you are waking up. It’s not something you can control or undo. Oh, how much easier it would be if you could have just kept on swimming with hooks in your brain. You’d never be free, but you could have functioned. You would have appeared slightly odd to the un-hooked fish, but you’d have felt normal.

But now . . .  Oh, now the real damage is done.

Everything you thought you knew is torn out. Chunks of your brain go missing. Your school of family and friends; lost. Yes, a great deal of damage was done when you were a fish with a hook in your brain, but you only truly appreciate it when you’re torn to the surface; when you wake up.

That’s why ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses see so much more than current Jehovah’s Witnesses, because the true horror of what has occurred is amplified exponentially when the hooks are torn out.

The fisherman only fishes for sport, so he throws you back. Your face is haggard, your head is half collapsed. The fish with hooks won’t come anywhere near you, repulsed by your appearance and fearful of a shared fate. The free fish stare at you in wonder and bewilderment, wondering how you ever allowed yourself to become hooked in the first place. You hide away.

You hide under rocks.

Your head is half collapsed. You wonder how you will ever be a normal fish, whilst knowing that you never will.

You hide under rocks. Occasionally, you glimpse out your disfigurement to the black sea, hoping for your father, praying for your mother; a friendly face . . . anyone? But you have been discarded, your deformities too great for the ones you hold most dear to lay eyes upon you. They know the rock beneath which you hide, but have already decided you’re dead. They blame you for the damage the hook did, the hook they guided you toward to begin with. They condemn you for the calamity you remind them could be theirs, should they ever wake up the fisherman.

But.

Yes . . . but, you smile.

Although you hide beneath rocks and swim in deep shadow, you smile. For you are free.

Suicide Salve

I sat on my bedroom floor. It was dark, but for candles flickering: dancing shadows, praying demons.

My special knife sat before me, its blade painted red. I’d made it that way. I coloured it with my special brand of human paint. My arms–hidden always from the family outside, laughing at whatever stupid program was now on TV–bore scabs and scars and fresh lines that oozed red atop clear plasma. Bundles of toilet paper surrounded me. I used it to keep the blood off the carpet. I couldn’t leave a sign. On this occasion, I did it more out of habit, really, as it was no longer a necessity. After tonight I wouldn’t exist, so why did it matter if I painted the carpet too?

Nobody wondered what I was doing in the pitch gloom of my room, the sorrow of existence. Recent months had rendered me a shadow. Before me: two boxes of painkillers. They would be my mechanism, my suicide salve. They would send me into that horror sleep, the one through which I’d reach the other side and be granted all the answers. Whatever was next, I was ready to embrace it. I was done with this world. I was done with this place.

I would wake up in heaven, or hell, or a paradise Earth (I hoped). Or I would never wake at all. I didn’t really believe that that would be the case though, so why not push on to the next world? I’d gotten everything I was going to from this one.

I opened the boxes of painkillers and popped every last pill out of its blister-seal. But I wasn’t ready yet. My eyes slid, shifting their focus. I needed more. I needed the rush to help me do this.

The knife was in my hand before I could stop it. Cold steel bit into my flesh. Shivers of pain . . . and pleasure. It’d used the damn thing so much that it had somewhat blunted. These days, it wasn’t enough to slide it across my flesh, but I had to kind of shake and wiggle it side to side as I went. This made it more painful, but that was okay with me.

I checked the wound, parted it hard with my fingers, looking to see if I’d gone deep enough. It was important not just to break the skin, but also the weird white layer of stuff beneath it. It was a testament to my accomplishment. I was about to run the blade back across the fresh wound as I was accustomed, but something bumped outside and I jumped in nervous fright. It was now or never.

I scooped up a handful of pills, threw them into my dry mouth, raised a glass of water and swallowed hard. My eyes watered and I gagged, but I managed another handful. A couple more and I’d gotten most of them. A few rolled beneath my bedside table, but that was okay. You were only supposed to take two of these every two to four hours. Surely, I’d taken enough.

I laid there listening to my breathing. I rested my head back against the bed and then made a few new cuts. I lay back again wondering how many thoughts I had left. But more than anything I wondered, how had it come to this?

Now I laugh at that naïve little boy with his puny concerns. It was beyond his wildest imaginings to dream up the creature he would inevitably become.