One of my favorite movie quotes is from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” (Bill and Ted said this after seeing themselves arrive from the future in a flying phone booth time machine.)
Starting last week some very strange things have been happening. First, on Christmas Day I got a phone call from my parent’s phone number. I was already asleep so I did not notice it ring and did not answer it. The next morning I got another call from my cousin who lives here in the Dallas area and she left a voice message. I called her back and found out that my granny had died. This was sad but not a shock. She was 81 and was very sick for awhile. We all knew her time was near. The only reason I knew this much was because my cousin had informed me before. She was my channel of information since she is not DFed or DAed and still has contact with the relatives.
I was reluctant to call my parents back because of the past treatment I’ve received from them. Once I was invited to an aunt’s funeral and on arrival I was “instructed” to avoid people since most of those present were JWs who did not know I was DAed. I got the cold shoulder. Another time I was invited to my sister’s wedding and was again “instructed” to avoid people and in addition was “instructed” to say in a corner of the KH. I was excluded from the family wedding photos and when I tried to enter the reception afterward I was ejected and sent away.
Ok, back to the phone calls… later that day after talking to my cousin I got another phone call from my parent’s phone number and this time a voice message was left. I listened and it was my Paw Paw calling from my dad’s house. In the messaged he said he missed me and would appreciate it if I drove there for the funeral (a 5.5 hour drive). I called and he answered my dad’s phone and he invited me again expressing how much he missed me.
I was not sure what to make of this. Every other time in the past when I showed up I was treated very badly and always ended up leaving feeling very bad. It was those past experiences that resolved me to stop trying to keep in contact with my biological family. It was obvious they did not want me.
I called my cousin and got her thoughts on this and decided I would go ahead and drive down for the funeral.
I left early the next morning and arrived at my Paw Paw’s house around 1:30 PM. I wasn’t about to go to my parents house after the way I had been treated by them in the past. When I got to my Paw Paw’s house he had stepped out for a bit to get something from the store. The guy who answered the door was an active JW I did not know. I soon learned that he was married to a JW I knew when I was still a JW. It was kind of funny that when she same around the corner and saw me she froze with the classic “
Deer JW in the headlights” look. I smiled and moved forward to shaker her hand and say hello. She was literally “taken aback” and took a step back and shook my hand with a nervous and uneasy look about her. I guess she’d never seen a real live ‘postate before.
I sat down and made small talk and read the news paper until Paw Paw arrived. I don’t believe in astrology but for entertainment I like to read the horoscope so I can laugh about how blatantly wrong they usually are. This day it said something about today being the beginning of a major change in my life. Ok… maybe… let’s see.
To my surprise and pleasure, while I was waiting the two JWs there relaxed a bit and started chatting a bit and even allowed me to help their young daughter with her science homework. At one point the mother even offered me a plate of food! (What??? Could this be happening??? A JW eating with an evil 'postate???)
My Paw Paw eventually arrived and he gave me a big hug and expressed how much he missed me and told me he loved me. I responded in same. Over the afternoon more and more of my relatives trickled in. Uncles, aunts, cousins, parents and a sister all arrived and treated me, well, normal. It was also fun getting a lot of attention about my Mini Cooper parked in the driveway. (You didn’t seriously think I wouldn’t find a way to work my new baby into this story did you?)
My Paw Paw then did something that surprised me: He told me that after the funeral services the next day everyone will be meeting at a community center to eat. Yes, he *invited* me to *EAT* with all of the JWs who were going to be there! For those who don’t know, *EATING* with a DFed or DAed person is a DFing offence in of itself! This is what the WTS used to DF Ray Franz!
Eventually most of the extended family was there at my Paw Paw’s house. Only a few who could not make it in town were not there. Then, it happened. Everyone sat down to EAT dinner! Yes, me too! *GASP* No, I was not told to eat in another room or by myself… I was included at the main dinner table with everyone else!
I was tempted to check CNN to see if George W Bush had converted to Islam and the apocalypse had begun.
After dinner we all changed into more respectful cloths to view my Granny at the funeral home. JWs don’t like to call it a wake but that is basically what was held. After the family viewed the body everyone else was allowed to enter. Many JWs who had long shunned me, even at the last funeral and my sister’s wedding, approached me and made friendly conversation. I almost took a look out the window to see if there was a locust plague waiting outside. There were a few there who gave me the “OMG, an apostate! What do I do?” look and turned to walk another way. I suspect they are the ones who fended off the locust plague that surely would have overwhelmed us all because of my presence. Aside from these few people, the vast majority of the people there treated me, well, normal.
It was sad seeing some of the old elders there. Most of the elders who knew much of anything about me DAing were old and lacking the mental faculties to recognize me beyond knowing basically who I was. They just smiled and made friendly chat at the best level a person in their condition could. It was cute the way one introduced himself to me twice within five minutes. Hehe. Yes, it’s sad, but still cute. It seems age and senility has made them into much more kind humans. No more condemning and judgmental looks used to intimidate the congregation into compliance.
It started to get late so I asked my Paw Paw if anyone was planning on going back to his house to visit and he said no, so I made my way back to my hotel. Once there I needed to call my mom about trying to get my older sister transportation there and discovered that my mom had gone to my Paw Paws. It turns out that a spontaneous gathering formed there after all. My Paw Paw apologized and expressed that he had no idea that it was going to happen. I could tell he was afraid that I was going to conclude that I was intentionally excluded. I let him know it was ok. I was very tired and it was getting to be my bed time anyway. No harm done.
The fact that he was concerned that I would conclude that I was intentionally excluded spoke volumes to me. My presence there was not being tolerated as it had been in the past, he actually *wanted* me to be there and he was not going to tolerate anyone else giving me a hard time. At the different gatherings I could tell some of the other JWs were gritting their teeth seeing me there and talking and, *GASP*, eating with everyone. My Paw Paw and family ensured these JWs did not carry any sway.
This all turned into a very interesting irony. For those who do not know, my family is a very prominent one in the JW community. My Paw Paw is the PO in his congregation, my late Grand Paw was “anointed” and PO in another congregation, my father and many of my uncles are elders, my mom is “anointed” and there are many pioneering aunts and cousins out there. Basically my entire family is viewed as a model JW family with power and clout in the organization… yet here they are allowing their “evil apostate” son to join in on all of the activities and suppressing any protests against my presence. I could see the anger in the eyes of a few JWs who very obviously did NOT approve of my presence. There were also a few family members from my mother’s side of the family who expressed disapproval of my presence through body language and blatant shunning. Oh well… their choice and their loss. They are getting old and time is running out, not for “this old system”, but for THEM. Time and age are catching up to them as they do everyone.
At the funeral the next day it was more of the same. One thing I paid close attention too was whether or not I was going to be put “in the back of the bus” during the funeral service. One thing I resolved years ago was to NEVER allow any JW to put me “in the back of the bus”. To my pleasant surprise a place was reserved for me and the rest of the family in the very front. Several relatives invited me to sit next to them in the reserved area. I ended up in a front row end seat (I always prefer sitting on the end of a row because I feel “cramped” and “trapped” when sitting between people).
As the funeral service proceeded I respectfully did not participate in any of the prayers or other distinctly religious activities because I am atheist. I will not participate, but I also will not interfere with the right of others do follow their religious beliefs.
An interesting thing happened. The “bow your head for prayer” motion is so thoroughly programmed into people through repetition that at one point I did, for a brief moment, put my head down before quickly realizing what I had done. I found this amusing and curious. I have to admit that my mind drifted at that point for awhile and started analyzing how enough repetition can literally impose an involuntary behavior… basically a Pavlovian Response.
Something else very intriguing happened at the funeral. Several of my cousins served as Paul Bearers along with other relatives and non-relatives. One of the cousins had facial hair in the form of a goatee and a tongue stud *Double Gasp*. I do not know for certain, but I suspect that he is not baptized, otherwise I doubt that even my family could have held back the JW protests.
After the funeral at the gathering where everyone ate and visited I met my little sister’s boyfriend. We got along well and regarding my little sister I expressed I was glad I would not need to break his legs… he expressed that he was glad I wouldn’t need to break his legs too. What I found even more funny is that later I discovered that all of my other male cousins had made the same basic threat. hehe
What I found interesting is at one point my sister's boyfriend approached me and asked me how I made a living… basically how I was able to pay my bills. I could tell he was concerned about the future and the possibility of being married and having a family. I remember being his age and being scared out of my mind about how I was going to be able to make a living. I answered in a very straight forward way: If you want to make a good living, you MUST go to college and get a degree, period. He agreed and we talked about the different possible carrier paths he could take and I mentioned which degrees would likely earn him a good living and which ones would not. Simply put, anyone who wants a degree with the word “art” in it better be willing to starve for their art. The degree should directly translate into a *good* paycheck.
His agreeing that college was important is an unmistakable sign that the WTS is loosing its grip on the JW population. Even though the WTS is printing article after article about avoiding college, many young JWs are still going. It is as if JWs don’t really, truly, take to heart everything the WTS tells them (Other than THE END IS NEAR). In the past the publications were viewed as the word of gawd and treated accordingly. I even noticed my Paw Paw who is the PO of the local congregation actively encourage people to go to college.
I could also tell that many of my relatives did not have that “jack boot” JW air about them anymore. I saw them allowing all sorts of little JW taboos slide. I would say that the vast majority of my cousins are not baptized or are married to non-JWs who express absolutely no interest in the religion. It is as if the WTS is slowly coming apart through apathy. I doubt there will come a time when the WTS will suddenly explode... on the contrary I suspect it will slowly die a quiet death that will be almost imperceptible to anyone. I also suspect that most JWs won’t notice this until long after it has happened. One day they will happen to stop and notice that they have not done any “JW” activities in a very long time. When this happens they will just shrug and go about their business as if nothing had ever happened to begin with.
My dad and a few others did ensure they put on a few little shows for me… talking about how “this old system just can’t last much longer”. When they noticed that I was not responding to the conversations they quickly came to an end. Why put on a show if the audience isn’t watching?
Shortly before I left to head back up to Dallas I asked my mom and dad for a copy of the new January 2006 Awake! Magazine. I could tell they had a glimmer of hope when I asked so I made sure I told them I was only interested in the historical significance of the new format. Even still they took on an excited search for a copy to give me. If any local ex-JWs want to see it, I can bring it by.
I noticed an irony in one of the current Watchtower magazines they gave me. One of the study articles, “Do not Allow Place for the Devil”, repeatedly used the words “devil”, “satan” and “apostate” in the same context. Basically the WTS, in its usual style, is trying to tell JWs that ex-JWs are satanic in nature without outright saying it. I doubt my parents have actually read the article since most JWs never crack the magazines until the Sunday study or the night before. The article is scheduled to be studied in the weed of Feb. 13th – 19th. I wonder if they will put 2 and 2 together and start shunning me again.
I really have no idea how to view all of these events. There have been times when my biological family have treated me nicely only to have them reject me again when they realized I was not interested in being a JW. I am hoping that this will not be a repeat. On my way out the door they asked me to call when I got home after the 5.5 hour drive and I did. They also got a good laugh when I walked out the door saying “Now you guys behave yourself!”
I’m also wondering if the “Hunt them down and threaten to DF them” strategy from a few years ago has shown itself to be a miserable failure resulting in the opposite effect they desired, specifically the ones who stopped attending meetings were pissed off by the threats. I’m wondering if they are now trying to complete opposite and are now trying to “love bomb” all of those who have left the bOrg in an attempt to get them to return.