I wonder what kind of leader a person would be in any organization who cannot feel empathy for someone who was misguided all his life. If we heartlessly condemn this pitiful former district overseer just because of his membership and position, what kind of persons would we have been had we walked in his shoes?
People generally have choices to make about their lives, but not always. When I was a small boy, I heard it said that a child would never renounce Catholicism if the Church could have him and raise him for just seven years. I knew some boys who were born into the Church and after all these years they're still Catholics and devout defenders of their Church. I have a cousin like that. She's as evangelistic about her religion as any devout pioneer I ever met. Nothing negative about the Church ever phases her. She has no qualms about how the Church dealt with pedophile priests, and she forgives every such priest no matter how many children's lives he may have damaged. She insists it's her obligation as a Christian to forgive, forgive and forgive.
Are Catholics like my cousin evil? Some may say yes, but I'm not so sure. Yes, I believe people should always be accountable for their actions -- obviously they should -- but are they hopelessly evil because of those actions? Is my cousin as evil as those priests she forgives, or is she simply ignorant, misguided and foolish due to the way she was raised?
Another example is the nation of Germany during World War II. The majority of the nation had been brainwashed into thinking that the brutality and sadism of the Nazis was perfectly okay. At least they didn't protest when they found out about it. Some even felt it was the will of God. Were all such Germans evil? Some may say yes, but I'm not so sure. At any rate, they've been forgiven and helped along by other nations and people ever since the end of the Nazi government. The worst among them, if caught, were punished severely, but not the rank and file.
A large number of JWs were born into the religion or entered when they were very young. All their lives it's all they've ever known. That was my situation for nearly 60 years. Am I evil because I foolishly gave most of my life to such a warped and harmful religion? Am I evil because I didn't know any better?
I was an elder for most of my 40 years in "full-time service." As an elder I fully supported the organization's teachings and policies. But I know that deep down in my heart I always tried to do the right thing by everyone. I wasn't a harsh elder, and many times I went to the defense of persons who were treated harshly by other elders. That sometimes got me in hot water with a circuit or district overseer and/or with overseers at Bethel. But that didn't matter to me. I felt it my obligation to do the Christian thing, no matter what.
Yes, I made mistakes. I wasn't perfect. And there were times when I ended up acting harshly when pleasantness would have done a whole lot of good. Am I an evil person? Some here will probably say yes indeed. I've met some xJWs who never knew me as a JW, but they can't stand my very existence because of the way they were mistreated by someone in the organization.
I can't help wondering if that's really fair. Why am I being held accountable for what someone else has done, simply because I was a member of the same church, an organization that as a child I was brainwashed into thinking was an instrument of God?
The brainwashing was so thorough that it caused me to tremble and weep on and off for years before I drew up enough courage to make the break for freedom. Some may think I deserved all that anxiety and trauma because I made a choice to be part of that corrupt organization. I can't blame them if they have no idea what the experience was really like.
What are persons to think who are up in years and who are still members of the organization? If they get up the courage to leave, will they be welcomed or will they be treated with disdain?
God knows I've repented of ever being a member of Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm not proud of having wasted most of my life serving a selfish organization when I could have been doing things that are genuinely charitable and helpful to my fellow man. Am I to be forgiven because I now have remorse for my actions and I have built a better life that I'm now proud of? Or am I still evil in the eyes of persons who cannot forgive?
And what about the former district overseer? Will he have to do more than say he's sorry before he's forgiven? Instead of fending for himself to make a decent living, will he now have to spend his old age raising money for various charities in order for us to feel compassion for him? Will he always be just a plain old evil man because he made an unwise choice as a child when he knew no better? I'm saddened by the feeling that some will say yes, according to some of the above entries. But as for me, I'm not so sure.