Well, it had to come to this eventually.
This winter my wife and daughter and I celebrated Christmas with my in-laws, with whom we currently live (high school English teachers don't make much money!). My in-laws have been inactive for about two years, and this year, they decided to celebrate the holidays. One reason for this is that their son, who is eight, has multiple disabilities -- can't see, trouble hearing, other, quite sever, issues -- and Christmas, with its presents and wrapping and loud carols and trees and wreaths is, well, a very accessible experience for him, the way, say, My Kingdom Ministry and The Watchtower are not.
Well, as a household we went all out. Lights on the house, animated reindeer in the lawn, candles in the windows, a brightly decorated tree in the bay window. Needless to say, it didn't take long for the elders to find out. This was in early December.
Meanwhile, my brother-in-law needed to have a very severe operation to put a new stomach tube in him. After the operation he became very sick, and had to return to the hospital twice for extended periods of time. He was home two days before Christmas (which was a terrific time!), and then, after the holidays, he was back in the hospital for a few days. When he came home again he still wasn't well -- at night he would scream and cry for hours -- it was heartbreaking, more than I care to describe.
So, one night in early January, while my father-in-law was taking care of his son, who was uncomfortable and crying, the elders showed up, about eight in the evening, unannounced. I answered the door, my daughter in my arms. They asked to speak with my father-in-law. I told them he was with his son, who had just had an operation and was still very sick.
"We want to invite him to a judicial committee meeting," said one of the elders.
I repeated that my father-in-law was with his son, who had had a fever the last few nights and was currently very uncomfortable.
"This is very important and we need to speak with him," the other elder said.
I repeated that my brother-in-law was quite sick and required the immediate attention of my father-in-law; my mother-in-law wasn't home, and so there was no one who could talk to them now.
"But it's very important that we talk to him -- could we perhaps step in and talk to [your father-in-law] for just a minute? This is very serious."
What could I do, except repeat that this was impossible? They finally left. At no point did they inquire about my brother-in-law -- the reason for his hospital visit, his recent illness, his chances for recovery. It was clear that the health of a suffering eight-year-old was not as "important" as their impromptu visit.
Anyway, the outcome of this is that a judicial meeting was held without my in-laws. At my daughter's birthday party today, the same two elders came by to inform my father-in-law that he and his wife were going to be disfellowshipped, and that they had one week to appeal this decision. My father-in-law was holding his son, who was coughing and wheezing, when he received this news. The elders never said a word to or about him.
Suffice to say, this is enough for me. I'm disassociating myself because I'm disgusted with this sort of behavior, and also because if my in-laws are getting booted for celebrating Christmas (read: celebrating family despite extreme hardships), I want out too.
For anyone interested, here is a copy of my letter of disassociation:
To the Body of Elders at the Plumtree Congregation:
I have decided to formally disassociate myself from the organization known as Jehovahs Witnesses. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
I know some people write long explanations for why they leave, but if I did that, I'd end up with ten pages or so, because it's impossible to adequately explain the totality of one's position in matters like these, especially when the people to whom you explain will deliberately misconstrue at every opportunity.
Anyway, there was then the problem of informing my devout JW father and brother. Again, for anyone interested, here is what I wrote to them:
Dad & [Brother],
I'm writing this e-mail to both of you to let you know that I'm mailing in my letter of disassociation this week. For a while it mattered to me, for a number of reasons, that I technically remain a Witness, if only an inactive, disgruntled one. Certain events have compelled me to end even that tenuous affiliation with this religion.
Probably this will cause a number of issues for you, but I can only say that I'm not doing it to hurt your feelings. It's a personal decision that actually has nothing to do with either of you, though you'll likely disagree with me on that. However, I'd prefer it if you'd refrain from telling me all of the things I've already heard from you, only because there's nothing new or productive that would come from it. I'm "unplugging" from protracted conversations on this topic.
Your involvement in my life is something you'll sent the tone for, which is really what you've each been doing anyway. Over the last couple of years I've become emotionally alienated from each of you, which isn't to say I don't love both of you very much, just that I'm resigned to the way things are. Neither of you is barred from seeing [my daughter] as much as you'd like -- however much you want to know her, you will. I suspect it won't be much, but that's the way our family is, isn't it? The conditions that have led us to this have been bred into us since I was not much older than my daughter is now. I know that it's unfair and even cruel, but I also know that's how it is. At least [my daughter] won't be affected by all of the senseless rules and doctrines that have confined and confused me for so long.
Again, I do love both of you. And that's the end of what I have to say about any of this.
I post all of this because I think people need to hear stories about the inhuman behavior this religion causes in some people. I post the letters I wrote because they might be helpful examples for other people thinking about letters they may want to write, or vindicate how others feel -- anyway, I know I've appreciated reading letters others have written.
How do I feel? There's a note of finality in it all, about which I feel ambivalent. Happy to be done, finally, completely, with my personal involvement in the religion. Sad that I'll probably be done with my dad, too. Well, so it goes.