So I am in my first semester of college, and I'm really enjoying it. I am already tired since I work full time in addition to going to school full time, but I will get over that hump eventually. Anyway in my English 101 class our first essay due was to be a personal narrative, 4 pages(ish), in MLA format using microsoft word. Our professor had us give him three different topics per person that we could write about, and he would choose the one he wanted us to write about. One of my three was my being disfellowshipped (or Disassociated, same difference.) I got an "A" on the paper, a 92 to be exact. A few points were taken off for a few grammar and puncuation mistakes, and a couple points for some stylistic reasons he gave.
Over all I am proud of the essay. I was a bit daunted at first. Trying to fit the events, the reasons, the background info, the cultural info, and still make it into a personal narrative all in four pages was difficult, but after a couple of rough drafts and rewrites, and some trimming and editting I got it down to just over four pages. I'll include the essay in the end of this post. I wanted to post it as soon as I was done with it, but there is a program that checks the internet for plagiarism, and I didn't want it to show up that I pulled my whole essay from this site seeing as how that would probably break all sorts of rules. However, now the essay is finished and graded so I feel comfortable putting it up here.
Without further adu... The New Pharisees I used to be a Jehovah's Witness. I haven't been for probably three or four years now. For most people this probably doesn't sound like a big deal. A lot of people used to be Baptists, or Catholics, or Evangelicals, or what have you. Most people can be a Baptist, read, study and then say to themselves, “You know what? I don't think the Baptist faith is for me. I believe something different now.” That is not the case for a Jehovah's Witness. You see, when one becomes a Jehovah's Witness they publicly declare themself in front of thousands to be a servant of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Incorporated. The corporation did not let me go easily. It was about two years ago on a pleasant and crisp autumn evening that my wife and I were getting dressed to go out on a little date. It wasn't going to be anything fancy. Perhaps Dinner and a movie, and then maybe go to the mall if it's still open. My wife was putting on makeup and I was still in my robe when there was a knock on our door. We weren't expecting anyone and it was already dark outside, but I went to see who it was. It was two neatly dressed men in crisp black suits. I knew them well; they were elders from the local congregation my wife and I had attended for years. They had not called in advance, nor had they been invited. They just decided to stop by that night. I knew that nothing good could come out of this visit. I went out onto my porch and closed the door behind me. “Hey, fellas. What are you guys doing here?” I asked them. I already knew the answer. “Well we haven't seen you at a meeting in quite a while. We were just coming by to see if everything was alright.” They said. This was a lie. At least the second part was. I hadn't been to a congregation meeting in a year or so, but their intent wasn’t to see if I was alright. “That's nice of you guys, but yeah I'm just fine thanks.” I replied moving my hand back towards the doorknob. “Well we just had a few questions for you.” One of the elders said as he stepped up onto my small wooden porch, putting us in uncomfortably close proximity. “Now really isn't the time, guys. My wife and I are getting dressed to go to dinner.” I told them in an attempt to extricate myself from what I already knew to be a bad situation. “Really this will only take a minute. We just wanted to ask you if you still consider yourself to be a Jehovah's Witness.” It's a dangerous question to answer. A bit of explanation may be necessary here. When you pledge yourself to “The Society”, as they call themselves, it's like joining the mafia. There is no polite exit from The Society. There is no means of leaving with a sense of mutual respect, there is no way to let bygones be bygones. The only way out is through a process of being publicly condemned and the subsequent severing of ties from everyone you ever knew that is part of The Society. They call this process “disfellowshipping”, and they take it very seriously. Anyone who is disfellowshipped is considered an enemy of God, fit only for destruction in God's great coming day of wrath. A disfellowshipped person is considered either weak and dominated by Satan, or a wicked ally of Satan united with him in a war against the Most Holy. Given that I was leaving of my own volition, I would fit into the latter category. The consequences that follow radically alter and sometimes ruin the lives of those being disfellowshipped. For starters you are shunned by everyone. When I say shunned, I mean a Witness will not make eye contact with you if they see you in the street. They will not talk to you, nor will they acknowledge that you even exist. This means family, friends, colleagues, everyone that you used to know. The shunning that follows usually leaves the victim completely alone and isolated in a world they have been taught to fear and hate. This is not an accident. It's to demonstrate that one is only safe and happy within the organization. “Do you consider yourself to be one of Jehovah's witnesses?” He asked me again. “No. No I do not.” I told him dryly. “You do recognize there will be consequences for this?” he said in a suddenly deeper tone. “Indeed.” I replied with narrowed eyes, and with that they left. The conversation had lasted no more than two minutes and my life was forever changed. When I came back inside my wife was crying on the floor, nearly having a panic attack. This may seem like a gross over reaction given that she has no idea what we were talking about, merely that they stopped by and talked to me for a minute. But she is also a Jehovah's Witness, and the reality is that even though the Elders are described as “God's loving shepherds”, most witnesses live with an uneasy fear of them. They have an unnatural degree of influence and control over the members of the congregation. You don't want them to know what movies you're watching, what music you’re listening to, or who you're spending time with. This is because the Watchtower leadership deems certain movies and music to be unacceptable and warns against what they call “bad association” (which can even include other Witnesses that are not considered “spiritually strong”.). But ultimately it falls on the whims of the elders to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate for a Christian. They may warn you (which is what they call “private council”), if someone reports that you were watching a movie containing spirit-ism or witchcraft for instance. Disobeying their council is considered “brazen conduct” and can be grounds for disfellowshipping if it is done too often. A few weeks later, after the paper work was all filed with the corporate headquarters, the announcement was made at the congregation that I had been disfellowshipped. The Elder body labeled me an “An apostate usurper of God”, and handed me a manila folder with detailed instructions as to how I can get back in “God's” good graces. Now you may have been wondering through this whole story as to how I got myself into this situation. I offered a friend of mine who had committed adultery and been disfellowshipped some help. This by itself was dangerous. However, he was a man of humble means, and didn't have much money or education. He largely lived off the kindness of friends and family, and they were all taken from him. He had been one of my closest friends, and so I e-mailed him and told him if he ever needed anything such as a place to crash or money, just let me know. I told him I wasn't afraid of retribution because I didn't think The Society was the lone path to truth and salvation. The organization considers such words to be heresy. I never got a reply to that e-mail. A year later when my friend had shown adequate repentance and remorse, he was re-instated back into the organization. And wouldn't you know it, that Judas turned me in to show how grateful he was to the organization. I don't think they gave him thirty silver coins; so much as a pat on the head, but he got back in the good graces of the servants of the corporation, he got his family back, his friends, and his sense of self-worth.
Now I am considered a heretic and an apostate, and I no longer have a family, and very few friends. However, what I do have is priceless. I don’t wake up every morning feeling like I’m a prisoner in a panopticon. I have intellectual freedom, and true peace of mind. I can live life and see the world as I see fit. I’ve been set free.