I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to receive your thoughtful letter. Thank you for your concern and for taking the time to write. I am responding immediately.
I have never lost my desire to maintain meaningful relationships with my family members who are still members of the Watchtower organization. It would make me very happy to be a part of your lives again. I love all of you very much. Unfortunately, my efforts to do so have gone largely ignored for several years -- since my family found out (by questioning me) that I have no intention of renewing any contact with the Watchtower organization. Even though you state your purpose in writing is a “plea to get your brother back”, your letter confirms your intention to continue having no relationship with me unless I return to the Watchtower organization.
As you probably know, I have never tried to talk any of my family members out of being loyal followers of the Watchtower organization or even initiated any conversations toward that end. When asked direct questions, I have given my honest and thoughtfully researched opinions. I continue to be a loving person and I am not motivated by anger. I have only the best wishes for all of my family. I have not treated any of you unkindly and I have not rejected any of you.
If my answers to my family members’ questions have been a source of “pain, dissention and hurt” as you stated, that has not been because my words were hurtful. I have never personally rejected anyone for remaining in that organization, even though I have been rejected as a result of my conscientious stand. Yes, my personal decision to leave that organization was a matter of conscience. In fact, it was much more a matter of conscience than when I officially joined it at the tender age of eleven years old.
Your guesses about why I am no longer a member of that organization are not accurate. I wonder why you never asked me instead of guessing. Over the years I had observed organizational conduct and rules and policies, which, in my opinion, contradicted the spirit of Christianity. Whereas this bad fruitage did prompt a serious investigation on my part, my decision to leave was not due to those observations, nor was it due to personal anger or pain as you suggested. Even though (Left-JWs-Wife) and I did go through a horrible ordeal as a result of (Left-JWs-Wife)’s harsh treatment by elders, who are supposedly directed by holy spirit, my decision was not an emotional one nor was it based on anger. My decision was a result of a very exhaustive and intense reexamination of how the Watchtower organization’s current and past actions, or fruitage if you will, measure up against the Scriptural standards that they claim to uphold.
I respect everyone’s right to worship or believe as they choose. One way that family members show respect for each other’s right to worship is by mutual tolerance. Rejecting a relationship with your brother over a difference of beliefs is not tolerance and, in my opinion, does not conform to Christian standards. It does, however, conform to the current rules of the Watchtower organization governing the situation. Since you chose in your letter to reiterate the Watchtower’s claims to represent the kingdom of Christ and based your rejection of me on my lack of loyalty to that organization, I offer the following by way of response.
The Watchtower’s rules regarding association with unbelieving family members have been reversed at least twice in just our lifetime alone. When the Watchtower said that it was up to family members to determine how much contact that they would have even with disfellowshipped family members, our immediate family began to freely socialize with (DFd-Relative) and (DFd-Relative), just as though there had never been any rules to the contrary. When the Watchtower reversed its position again, our family promptly began shunning them again. So, was the supposed “light of truth” as revealed by the Watchtower organization getting brighter, then dimmer, then brighter again? Was Christ in heaven supposedly changing his mind about a matter so serious and with such devastating consequences to the families involved? Others of their rules and scriptural interpretations have similarly flip-flopped over the years.
A similar argument can be made regarding the ever-changing Watchtower rulings on its prohibitions of medical usages of blood to preserve life. Many loyal members died honoring Watchtower blood policies, which were later changed. Had those changes come sooner it may have resulted in saving some of their lives. Most blood components are now approved for transfusion even though they may still not be taken together as whole blood.
If the blood policy is truly based on an accurate interpretation of what is supposedly a clear directive in the Bible, then why has the Watchtower policy become so complex? Where does the Bible say anything about what components of blood that Christians should or should not use? Obviously it doesn’t. Dietary restrictions on eating blood, which early Christians clearly understood those repeated admonitions to be based on their familiarity with the Mosaic law, are no more analogous to the use of blood as an organ transplant than eating someone else’s liver would be analogous to receiving that liver as an organ transplant. Anything eaten is destroyed, consumed and provides only temporary nourishment if any. An organ transplant is not consumed or eaten but rather continues living and supporting life. In my opinion, the transfusion of blood as an organ actually honors the life that blood represents by helping to preserve life, not casually tossing it aside as worthless. As you know, Watchtower policy does not currently forbid other organ transplants.
Are we to believe that Christ himself is responsible for these ever-changing blood policies over the years? Why would he allow his faithful followers to die needlessly until he finally got around to revealing all of the approved components of blood for transfusion? If one believes the Watchtower claims to be a spokesman for Christ himself and that Christ reveals “new light” to them when needed and in his due time, then one must accept that Christ is personally responsible for those needless deaths -- as ludicrous as that sounds. So what then is the truth about their authority and their relationship with Christ?
If Christ is not personally responsible for those needless deaths, then the Watchtower organization is blood-guilty. I cannot conscientiously be a part of such a blood-guilty organization, with such a cavalier attitude toward the very lives of its members.
There is increasing pressure on the organization internationally because of their blood policies, which may threaten their very legal existence in some places. Because of this, I believe that the organization will eventually, in an effort toward self-preservation, declare all medical usages of blood to save life a matter of individual conscience. There will likely be more lawsuits by family members who watched their loved ones die as they honored those changed policies. In anticipation of this, the governing body members have wisely removed themselves from the legal corporations of the organization. There is plenty more information available on this subject should you care to research it. In fact, much of the pressure on the organization to abandon their blood prohibitions is coming from anonymous organization members worldwide who have formed the Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses for Reform on Blood (www.ajwrb.org). Since your life and possibly your family members’ lives could be affected by blood policies, I encourage you to make a full examination.
Over the years, some who have dared to voice conscientious objections to organizational positions that were then later changed to conform to those very objections have been disfellowshipped for apostasy. Those disfellowshipped ones were then offered no apology and no offer to rejoin the organization, even though the organization later embraced their very objections.
My point is this -- either the organization is the earthly spokesman for Christ or it isn’t. Since they have admitted to being wrong in their interpretations and the “new light” that they have published, then they have no legitimate basis to shun as apostates those who disagree with them over their admittedly imperfect interpretation of doctrines – as though that one were disagreeing with Christ himself! The fact that many members immediately accept such reversals of interpretations and immediately change their behavior accordingly, is evidence that they are not following their own conscience, but rather simply conforming to new rules handed down. That is not surprising in view of the harsh reprisals and potential loss of family and friends if they dare voice disagreement. There is no freedom to disagree without devastating consequences – an essential characteristic of cults.
Christ did not empower any earthly organization to rule over his disciples (with its potential for abuse). Christ came to replace imperfect earthly organizations because of the very suffering under them that you mention in your letter. He also never manifested a harsh spirit to those who disagreed with him. In fact, he was tolerant and loving. His anger was directed against those religious leaders who knowingly misled their followers and burdened them with oppressive rules for their own selfish reasons -- including holding on to their power and positions. Research the hard facts of the Watchtower organization’s conduct toward their own members worldwide and their un-Christian policies and decide for yourself whether or not Christ would take a similar stand with the leaders of the Watchtower organization.
I have only mentioned a couple of the Watchtower doctrines that, in my opinion, disqualify them from their claim to have the power and authority of Christ. I spent several months researching these and many others. I made an in depth search into many scriptural interpretations including the “faithful and discreet slave” and whether or not there is any organization or power structure implied by those words. Ironically, Charles Russell was opposed to organized religion when he founded his group of Bible students, which later became a victim of the very evils he despised. Christian brotherhood is a support group, a ministering to the needs of others. It does not need a human power structure, which is why Christ said that he was the only Leader. That is how he made the yoke of his disciples lighter, by freeing them from oppressive man made rules. The Watchtower organization reminds me very much of the rule-obsessed, self-righteous Pharisees.
You and I were raised hearing only the Watchtower indoctrinations from our earliest memories. We were taught not to question their authority and to accept everything that they said as from God himself, although we have already seen first hand that that is not the case. That makes it very difficult to embark on an objective analysis of their fruitage and their teachings. They encourage newly interested persons to make such an evaluation, but most interested ones never do. Now there is no shortage of materials available to make that research much easier.
Facing up to the reality of what I found was very traumatic for me. But it was also very necessary. My soul and spirit were suffering under the harshness and hypocrisy of that organization, even though I counted many loving persons among them as close friends. I miss them all, not the least of which are my own family members, which now want nothing to do with me.
I have to mention that I was very saddened when, after witnessing first hand the horrible spectacle of September 11, 2001, that none of my immediate family who are still active members of the organization, even bothered to call and ask me how I was coping with the horrors I saw. I know that Christ would not approve of such a shocking lack of love.
You stated of me “You say you have the truth. I want no part of your truth.” I no longer smugly claim to have the “truth” since leaving the Watchtower organization. That is your claim. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. No one does. But I believe that it is much more satisfying to have the right questions and to keep seeking than to accept without question half truths and lies by those who would attempt to control the thinking and lives of others.
The search for truth and spirituality must by definition be a personal journey if it is to be meaningful to oneself. To simply accept without questioning what others say, often just because they say they speak for God, is not of true value to the individual. In fact, it is dangerous.
Organizations, which would have its members believe that the unbelievers are not “saved” and/or should be shunned or killed, or that God will murder them in his due time, are not only missing the point of spirituality, but in my opinion, make a mockery of it and poison it. And their claims to represent God are thereby invalidated. God reserves judgment to himself, where it belongs. Such organizations play upon people’s insecurities and fear of death. By making them feel singled out by God as the chosen faithful, they give them an artificial sense of self-importance and permanence in an uncertain world fraught with danger, illness and death. But the price that they demand for their phony gift of “salvation” ranges from the plundering of their wealth to the extremes of total control of members thinking and lives, with the threat of abandonment to those who think of leaving.
I do understand the almost overwhelming desire for easy answers about life and death. That is why religions and cults will always exist. However, the more that I study and learn, the less inclined that I feel to abandon my journey to another imperfect organization.
There was a time not many years ago when I would have written a letter very similar to yours had roles been reversed. I have been a good student of the Bible and of Watchtower doctrines even longer than you have. I had a good heart then and I have an even better heart now – with less judgment and more tolerance. I am overall a much happier and content person as well. I consider myself a more genuinely spiritual person. When the cognitive dissonance that I experienced as a member of the Watchtower organization finally demanded that I get to the bottom of the many things that troubled me then I found the reasons for them. I now feel as though my life began only after I recognized that the Watchtower organization does not speak for God.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly told that they are “the happiest people on earth” as you said, the reality is that they are not. They suffer with a higher incidence of depression and mental illness and personality disorders than the general population. This is not uncommon among cult members and is exacerbated, if not caused, by the harsh demands of the organization. The unnatural choices that are forced upon them, such as shunning loved ones, causes much suffering for all involved.
As my brother whom I love, I wish you happiness. I trust that when you personally need to know more about your beliefs and how it affects your life that you will, just as I did. Those who are raised in it from infancy often suffer the most. I know that I did. I think that you and I are similar in that we do not do things half way. We are very conscientious. That is no coincidence, as our father was also that way. I have very little doubt that if our father had had access to the information about the Watchtower organization that is now widely available, that he too would have a made a conscientious break from it and never looked back. Regardless, it rightly is a very personal matter and should be respected as such. I do not begrudge your continued membership and I do not hate you for shunning me. I do continue to feel a sense of loss for what we could have otherwise.
Remember that your beliefs and worship are always your choice to make. We are all personally responsible for our beliefs and the choices we make. We cannot rightly abandon this responsibility to an organization and then blame them if our beliefs turn out to be baseless or cause us to act in an unloving manner.
You have made your current position very clear in your letter. You reject any relationship with me unless I renew my loyalty to the Watchtower organization. You are forcing me to choose between following my conscience and your friendship. That is not a choice that anyone should have to make. I love you and I miss you, but that is something that I cannot and will not do for anyone. I have placed no ultimatums on our relationship. If you change your mind please let me know.
I remain sincerely your loving brother,