The only memorial I can think of from me would be a letter to the editor of my local paper:
We often think that religious freedom is found in a certain country or in a certain church. Here the state may not interfere with our religious views --But our own church can! How often do we end up saying or doing whatever the preacher says or the person next to us says just because we are lazy--or afraid. There is no real freedom until you are willing to take personal responsibility for your own faith. And that can cost you.
A man who paid dearly to free his Christian conscience died today. His example and writing was unknown to me until these past few months as I met a crossroad in my own conscience. Raymond Victor Franz, former Governing Body member of Jehovah's Witnesses died from a brain hemmorage at his Georgia home. His beloved wife and companion of 51 years, Cynthia, survives him. He was 88 years old.
Ray's life and death would have passed unremarked if he had simply remained one of Jehovah's Witnesses. He had been a faithful missionary 20 years in the Dominican Republic. He helped write and research Bible study materials before being invited to join the Governing body. But Witnesses do not make names for themselves as a rule, not outside the Organization.
His expulsion by itself even from his high position in the Organization didn't make Ray Franz memorable. It was his unrelenting kindness and faithful testimony to the saving grace of Jesus in spite of the wrong done to him. His help to the thousands over the past 30 years. We have waited and prayed or just thought of him when we heard of his final collapse.
How was it that this man got crosswise of his church?
How, in a religion that claims to bring "the truth that makes you free" right to your door via a free home Bible study, could Ray's own Christian faith and his own struggle for Christian freedom became such an affront that he was kicked out?
Ray was a diligent student of the Bible who believed in Jesus. There simply were issues that rose up to him in his private study of the Bible that did not conform to the WTS. He repressed them.
He tried to ease tensions over suspicions that he held dissenting views by resigning from World Headquarters. He and wife Cynthia moved to Georgia for a sabbatical. But he was too important a profile to just fade away. At a fast food restaurant, Ray was seen eating with his employer (a fellow JW who had stopped attending meetings). Ray was reported, judged and excommunicated from the Witnesses through a process called "disfellowshipping"; a cutting-off so thorough that many suffer deep psychological pain because of it. Neither friends nor family may talk or eat with you. Ray was nothing to his former faith community.
Ray Franz' story was interesting enough that in the February 2,1982 edition of Time magazine reporters took this rare opportunity to peer into the upper eschelons of the Watchtower world and wonder at this group that had fought so hard for freedom of conscience: There was a price to pay for disagreeing, even in your thoughts, with this religion.
Happily, Ray's faith did not desert him even if his religion had, and in the following months he wrote a book that for thirty years has bolstered the spirits and the sanity of many Jehovah's Witnesses who likewise have found themselves cast out by "the only true religion". Though it is without doubt written as a direct result of one man's experience in one religion, it is well for each and every one of us to reflect on the insidious effect of religious captivity.
I can attest to the powerful censure surrounding Ray Franz and his book Crisis of Conscience. It was so effective, so powerful that in the 21 years that I was a JW, I neither heard of Ray Franz nor his book. But when I suffered my own crisis of conscience and saw a reference to it in my internet wanderings, I still knew not to touch it while I was "in" for fear of the damage an "apostate" can cause. Instead I read Amazon book reviews of it: The gratitude that people felt for Ray Franz was overwhelming. And as soon as I knew there was no way but "out" for me I sent for a copy.
"Life is uncertain and when a man dies what he knows dies along with him--unless he passes it on while still in life.
What this book contains is written out of a sense of obligation to people whom I sincerely love. In all good conscience I can say its is aim is to help and not to hurt. If some of what is presented is painful to read, it was also painful to write. It is hoped that the reader will recognize that the search for truth need never be destructive of faith, that every effort to know and uphold truth will, instead, strengthen the basis for true faith. What those reading this information will do with it is, of course, their own decision. At least it will have been said, and a moral responsibility will have been met."
Crisis of Conscience
Own up to your faith. Own up to your conscience . The truth will only set you free if you let it. Thank you Ray.