Planning exit, alternative venues to preach?

by Goodstein 54 Replies latest jw experiences

  • Goodstein


    I've come to the conclusion that many doctrines of the WTS are unscriptural after many years of privately disagreeing with some of them but feeling that the society was "mostly right" and still being used by Jehovah. This turning point has happened in the last year or so. Since then, I've done more research and basically confirmed my impression.

    I'm now in a difficult position. I'm born-in. My father is a convert, but my mother and her family are born-in, multiple generations. I barely know my non-Witness family. Since one of the things I disagreed about previously was higher education, I have a career and non-witness friends. I recently moved to a new area for work, so I'm not especially well-attached to anyone in this new congregation, and I know it would be difficult or impossible to convince any of them to really read their Bibles. Basically, my main concern is for my family and a handful of other Witness friends.

    My father is an elder, but in the past has shown signs of free-thinking. He's an intelligent professional man who became a Witness basically because of a perceived "miracle" (i.e. coincidence) at a difficult time in his life. I have a hard time reading him, if he really believes some of the more outlandish stuff or not. Not too long ago, he left his old congregation of many years and moved to the opposite side of the country after a complicated, protracted and locally scandalous judicial matter, but I do not think he is disillusioned with the organization as a whole - he has recently become very active as an elder in the new congregation and with various other WTS-related activities. My intuition is that he's got his private doubts about WTS teachings, but, like me at one time, thinks they are the "least wrong" religion and is trapped in the paradigm that there is one least-wrong denomination he must serve. He knows I read a lot of non-WT theological / bible history publications and has never commented negatively about it, and we will even have friendly arguments on Bible topics sometimes. These aren't winner-and-loser type debates; we usually end up agreeing that there are merits to both positions or that it can't really be decided for sure and it's not critical. Beyond those implicit in the WTS's absurd literalism about science and history as reflected in the Bible, I've never challenged at WT doctrine in front of him, though.

    My mom, on the other hand, is a kool-aid drinker, as far as I can tell. I know dad can influence her because he got her to knock off her opposition to me going to college years ago, but he might have just pulled rank/"headship", I don't know for sure.

    I feel like I need to tell my dad about my real beliefs, in the hope of getting him out, or at least getting him thinking. I am not sure if his actual salvation is in danger - right now I'm tending to think that good people in all religions, who did good and worshiped as best they knew how, will get an eternal "good ending," but I feel like I owe it to him to be level with him, and am struggling in general with questions about what my obligations are as someone who knows WTS teachings are wrong. I've been able to restrain myself so far mainly in the name of prudence - that if I do something to get myself DF'd, I will eliminate the possibility of reaching many people I could have helped if I'd been more discrete. I also would like to get the parents off my back about spirituality - I used to pioneer and stuff, but since discovering the WTS teaches so many unscriptural things, I've barely been able to motivate myself to get out in service but to place bibles with people or slip an innocuous Awake issue into a laundromat. I've thusfar blamed my new work situation, which is true, but I won't have that excuse forever. I couldn't bear to teach someone that they had to die to avoid a blood transfusion or that some old men in Brooklyn speak with the voice of the One True God, and that his message for mankind is that he's going to kill most of them Real Soon Now, since 1914.

    Apart from trying to avoid being shunned by my family, and in particular my parents, the one thing I am concerned about is not being able to give talks. I love teaching about the Bible, and people react very positively to my talks, probably because they don't consist of reading a couple paragraphs from the Watchtower. (I've relied on various Bible commentaries for years for talk preparation.)

    Also, the congregation I am in now is mostly educated and super-liberal (would love to share some funny annecdotes, but they might be personally identifiable...) which makes it harder to leave, because they aren't doing anything particularly cultist-like. (I don't think that the WTS is actually a destructive cult except maybe at Bethel; it's sort of in Hassan's gray zone.)

    My question:

    Where can I find an alternative to giving parts at the meetings, and in particular the theocratic ministry school? Any other churches with exegetical "open mic night" so to speak? Or do I just have to find interested people and start a non-denominational bible study group? I realize these things could compromise my fade if I do them locally, but I'm thinking more long-term or if my dad turns me in anyway after I tell him.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  • jgnat

    I like to plant seeds and let the HS do the watering. It's not my job to convict people; that's God's job.

    You might like to try a Home Church, attempting to meet in each other's homes like the first century church.

  • unstopableravens

    im pm you

  • cofty

    Welcome Goodstein.

    The best advice I can give you is that when you make a break from the cult take some time away from religion completely. You have worked out that the Watchtower are unbiblical on some things but I'm afraid you haven't even scratched the surface yet of how misguided we all were as JWs

    Do lots of reading over the next year or two about the origins of the bible and religion in general that will challenge you. Look for authors like Bart Erhman, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Dan Dennett. Especially read science - Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and Donald Prothero for example.

    You only think you have examined your beliefs at the moment, in a few years time you will know what I mean.

    Lots of us here were good and very experienced at pubic speaking. Its a trap. It strokes your ego and keeps you from being objective about things that you are busy teaching others.

    Give it up. Maybe you will find an outlet for it later.

    I became an evangelical for 9 years after the Watchtower and preached regularly. I wish I had known then what I know now.

    Focus on education, friends, sport, hobbies, careers and relationships.

    Well done on escaping young.

  • Goodstein

    My work involves science (I wish I could elaborate further, but it would simply be too identifiable, sadly), and I have no objection to the theory of evolution, scriptural or otherwise. I don't believe Genesis was not given to us to tell us [i]how[/i] the world came to be, but [i]why[/i]. In fact, anti-evolutionism was one of the things that first bothered me about the WTS, actually, because it seemed like they were missing the point of Genesis tremendously and basically making their big stand on something that wasn't even the point of the book, and for an interpretation that was so clearly not supported by the natural world.

    I've read some of Bart Erhman's books. (He introduced me to the idea that Early Christians had various viewpoints, something that really seems true.) I'm not much attracted to the angry shouting atheists, no more than I am to the angry shouting fundamentalists. In my view, the existence of God is a tough question without a rationally provable answer from the data available; I have respect for anyone with a well-considered opinion who also respects those who disagree with them. If you are a theist and think atheists are just stupid, or vice-versa, then it probably means you're trapped in your own theistic or atheistic paradigm and can't see past that paradigm.

    I'm open to reading respectful non-theistic viewpoints, but I wouldn't expect any change on that front. Mentally breaking with the WTS has made it easier to believe in God, not harder.

  • jwfacts


    I feel like I need to tell my dad about my real beliefs, in the hope of getting him out, or at least getting him thinking.

    Your thinking sounds like where I was at when first leaving. You said your father is a freethinker. If you tell him your real beliefs, that will instantly change and he will become 100% the company man. It is not worth it. Especially if he has become extra busy, then he has even more to lose and more reason not to listen to you. It may feel good to you to tell him what you believe, but it can only destroy the relationship. Feel free to carefully test the waters, but be very quick to back down if you do not want to cause trouble.

    If you love giving talks, look up

  • cobaltcupcake


  • problemaddict

    Hey Goodstein,

    Welcome. Isn't it interesting that our situations always feel so incredibly unique, and then you come here and realize it is almost on reset? I still find that incredible. I am fairly new to the board. But I have benefited from some key advise that I will paraphrase. Do not do what you think is reasonable, but act with reason.

    Long timers like JWfacts are right. Remember, with years in, free thinking or not, its always self excused. If you come on, the wall goes up. Better to "confide" in him your problem with something indefensible such as blood. Ask questions so he looks into things he may not otherwise. Suggest implications to him. See where it goes. Don't be in a rush.

    I understand your desire to teach scripture. I am in a similar boat as you are in that regard. The truth is, it is almost impossible to maintain personal integrity AND be a speaker in a congregation. Why? Because you are a rep for the GB up there. Even if you do a very good job on a part that does not conflict with your newly freed Christian conscience, all glory goes to those that wrote your outline. Feel me?

    I have respect for anyone with a well-considered opinion who also respects those who disagree with them.

    Your comment above is fantastic. This should be all of our mentality. But even the most liberal of congregations, does not reflect this simple reasonable statement. They all consider the same material. Some halls just look the other way for the sake of reason. Good for them. It is subject to change with any new CO visit, or new elder that roles into town. i'm sure you've seen it.

    You are in a better position than most. Plan well, and be patient. If you want to tell others about Jesus and his father, better to first decide what your message is.

  • Goodstein

    Thank you for your sensible comments. I will be sure not to be hasty, although I'd sure like to get it all out. I never never planned to ambush my dad with all the differences of opinion with the WTS I've accumulated over the years at once, but not sure what to do instead. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to communicate with him in a way that I'll speak to his free-thinking real self rather than his Witness persona. After reading Hassan's book, I've got some ideas, but would like more specific advice. In particular, Hassan seems to be more thinking of parent-helps-child-out-of-cult rather than child-helps-parent-out, so my situation is a bit different from the type he mostly describes.

    I see your point about giving talks. I will have to think carefully about this because I know if I just ask not to be given them it will raise red flags, and while I know the elders aren't privy to my reasons, I certainly have compunctions about outright lying to them about my reasons for stopping. It's something I'll have to phase out gradually somehow, I guess. I may have some busy times ahead in the coming years with work, depending on how things go career-wise.

  • l p
    l p

    good advice/reply jwfacts


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