Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Born in 1952 second oldest of the family of nine children. As you see, my family was thoroughly Catholic. Dad was in the army.
Were you a born in or a convert?
Are your parents / family JWs?
Not at all. My father was quiet about my conversion. My mother hostile. Before Dad died in 2011 l had DA’d. He was interested in the matter that sent we out. Mom was simply triumphant.
How many generations have been JWs?
We failed to launch you might say. Two of my seven children were baptized but only stayed with it a few years and left. I never shunned them.
Did you hold any position in the WTS? (MS, Elder etc...)
Right. I am a woman. There are no positions in the WTS for women. ( Though l have seen a couple elders who seemed to act as surrogates for their wives. )
Did you *really* believe in the bible, in spirits (angels, demons)?
Remember, l began as an Irish Catholic girl nearly 66 years ago. I was primed for any story at all - we had swallowed every sort of gory saint story and miracle. If l was told it was in the Bible l did my best to believe it. Mind you,as a Catholic l wasn’t expected to read a bible. In fact the first time I held one in my hands was in 7th grade. A priest who marched in Civil Rights action down south was so moved by the strength of black Protestant ministers he made my catechism class buy our own bibles. I wrote my name in mine but never read it. I did read it in the late 70s about 10 years before the Witnesses knocked.
Did you get baptised? When and why?
Yes. In 1988, heavily pregnant with my sixth child.
I had a lot of things happen in my life that were hard to sort out. And my husband was not a person who could/would talk about these things. By the time l actually talked to Witnesses in 1987 l had been in several churches finding the Bible was only used in part. By now the pitch that had hooked me into a bible study was the universal brotherhood. And they had convinced me when l first studied that l could read the Bible freely and my understanding of the Bible would stand free of priests and preachers telling me what it meant. Wasn’t it all self evident? “ “Truly you will be with me in Paradise.” “By this all will know you are my disciples. By your love ...&”& &. Looking back l shake my head—but l believed it . I got baptized.
There are arguments that we don’t have free will because of the combination of nature and nurture within each of us..l would like to know how science figures that. If there is enough confusion and pressure combined with early religious indoctrination it is not easy to break free. I wasn’t a born-in JW that is true. But I was a born-in to a religion that held me captive.
What was the initial trigger that made you start questioning things?
The man-made burdens. How was I able to figure the difference? It’s true that they always had scriptures but they were things that I knew could not be true. I struggled to get to the weekday meetings. I know that everyone did. But we lived really far from the Hall, we gardened, had a milk cow and no running water and a lot of kids. It was crazy-making. Getting gas money was tough, it was rough on the car. No wonder my husband called my study conductor “the Dragon Lady” . He hated all of this .
The Awake told about the trials and tribulations of the African sisters going past lions , through crocodile filled rivers to attend far meetings, butchering chickens at conventions in order to eat. I read this stuff and knew they had to be meeting themselves coming and going. I did the figuring and knew the stories were kinda bogus. You couldn’t sustain that effort -three meetings a week and take care of family. Beside, l couldn’t fix worn out tie rod ends and ball joints from leaves and sticks.
l stored these things in my heart. I had other difficulties but we have to allow for human failure of course. But in watching how certain of my children fared with the Truth probably worked on me before the end came.
First were my oldest girls who were smart, serious responsible , hard working. Admired at school and in the congregation. The oldest slipped her JW collar soon enough to get herself in line for college and she left unscathed.The other got baptized around 14 and was a solid JW for two years. But she voiced a pointed complaint over the teaching about women’s subjection. She felt the heavy burden of it . And, WHAM, boy did she catch some fierce push back. They used the wrong tactic on a fine girl. It would take some time to describe what occurred, but it was disturbing. She was shunned when she dissented. My thoughtful child became suicidal afraid she would lose me too.When she graduated high school a few months after these events, took herself from home. She attended a convention in a far away state that summer making all her own arrangements to attend, and promptly wrote me that she did not believe the stuff anymore. I had respect for her struggle. She was genuine in her every act. She had been treated cruelly l thought.
But l still believed.
Ditto my one son of four who was baptized 10 years later.The elders hated to see him go. What a catch they thought! He had enrolled in a few classes at the University of Arkansas and quit to study with the JWs. He even learned to wash windows! But because he liked to drink and smoke-(an elder’s son who did the same advised him to do it on the sly.) But sly he isn’t nor would he give up a worldly friend—so he handed in his tie and suit.
Still l believed.
My youngest daughter too was heavily recruited because she gave sharp responses and had exemplary conduct. But I told my kids to resist pressure to be baptized. ( l had battled the Catholic Church over a person’s right to a baptism of choice ) She told the brothers,yes, she could answer all the baptismal questions but she didn’t have a relationship with Jehovah that merited baptism. And, no, she didn’t need to study with someone other than her mom . (By now he brothers were not pleased with ME)
Watching my children struggle made me look at the scripture “ Faith is not a possession of all people“ in a new light-one that lacked the blame and condemnation. My kids die at Armageddon? I couldn’t believe that— but still l believed.
l believed for 20 years —until Bethel showed its ass directly, definitively and personally.
l had long been troubled by the ugliness of Jehovah in the tale of Abraham’s Test at Genesis 22. (I will spare you the details) The concern l did take up with CO, Will Gorham. He was very respectful once he knew l had not been reading or talking with apostates- l til him that God could not violate three key teachings about Himself and be anything but a monster (Jah says : l don’t lie, l hate human sacrifice, l don’t tempt(test)anyone with evil). And since this story was the linchpin of faith for Christians Muslims and Jews on how to be His friend l had to figure out how to liberate God from this mess —and myself as well. I simply could not support God if he were really such an asshole.
Gorham said our literature was well researched. I added that l knew Holy Spirit guided the FS ( now l gag). He asked did l think of writing Bethel?
So l did. I researched laboriously :alternate texts, concordances, Hebrew, Greek and phrases in the OT where the words olah and zebach showed up. Cross referenced it and wrote it up. This took me a long long time.
Finally I wrote the local elders l couldn’t endorse the use of the word “sacrifice “ in reference to Genesis 22 because that was never used in the any Hebrew text of Genesis 22. I particularly condemned Abraham’s test in My Book of Bible Stories as a false and sick account. And asked if l could have permission to stick to the ambiguous and correct word olah instead of demanding to make God Be a psycho.
I realized then and now how comic l seemed. I was a janitor at the time. never had pioneered, barely maintained a ministry, estranged from my husband at that point and l was objecting to material that, should it be found valid, would mean massive book burnings.
One kind brother suggested l was suffering from my son’s DF. But a committee was called to the consternation of the brothers l held my ground. They let me know that a new C O was coming in.
Indee he did. I was by now fallen from friendly innocuous Sister Courteau to a leper that walked into the hall without an elder who would greet me when the CO arrived. There were unpleasant remarks made to me by the CO. The talk at the end of his visit remarked that women should have a care for their role in the Christian arrangement. And l sent my packet of research to Bethel.
I am going to jump past the interrogations that l had with elders while we waited to hear from Brooklyn. I hadn’t done anything wrong but think and tell them what l was thinking. They would not discuss the references.
I got mental. I worked, came home checked the mail, shut off the phone. Quit meetings. The shut down of friendship, discussion was drastic. The brothers said they called Bethel once to see what the status was. It even made me sick to hear their voices after a while.
The packet arrived with their response. No personal signature. It was not warm. It concurred with my research, send pages of duplicate definitions but found that my being stumbled was a matter l could overcome by referring me to various articles. And should this prove insufficient l could take it up with the elders.
It was absolutely weak. Sad in every way. They were perfectly happy worshipping a monster? Or not concerned with this massive fail? I wrote the elders that a Corporation that stuffed anarthous Greek predicates down my uneducated throat til l could swallow John1 as they pleased to have it no longer had standing with me to be content with their Monster. They met with me once more. I sent them a letter. I told them how shabby l had found the Corporation and did not believe it to be the Faithful Slave.
Where did you find information? Internet sites? Books?
While l waited for Bethel to respond l found a Times magazine article about Ray Frank. I googled him. DFd! GB! Apostate! Found his book on Amazon. To afraid to read it (l still believed) l read the reviews hundreds of grateful reviews. It scared and thrilled me. I ordered his book after Bethel’s response . Read it when l DAd. Found this site.
How difficult or painful was the process of leaving?
Was it a big dramatic exit or a careful quiet fade?
No drama at the end. I had already been through the wringer. The elder interviews were strange. I texted my one-time-a-friend elder to learn if l had been “announced”. “Yes” the text came back “two weeks ago”
Did you convince anyone else to leave with you?
How were your family relations affected by your decision?
Were you or are you still being shunned by those who didn't leave?
No family in. I work three days a week at our farmers market making and selling spoons. There are many stories l could tell about shunners and folks who mistakenly believe l sm still “in the Truth”
How long have you now been out?
Was there anything you looked forward to doing when you left?
Just relief. You always feel like you are falling short. O. This: l work for certain social causes : Many aspects of criminal justice and foster care need to shape up -for the money they take they give poor returns.
What are you most proud of achieving since you left
Getting counseling. In the immediate years following l had changing perspective on god, the Bible, my oldest son became an addict and alcoholic. Was arrested there was a lot of violence and if l had been a JW in that time l would have hung myself. Another son went to prison for selling marijuana.
This: l work for certain social causes : Many aspects of criminal justice and foster care need to shape up -for the money they take they give poor returns.
Is there anything you miss about life in the congregation?
I remember some good times, some good friends. Four slipped over to my town apartment singly secretly to talk to me. I miss them.
Red pill or blue pill? Do you regret waking up to reality at all?
No regret. It has been a wild ride. I really sm tired. But l do not want to have order in my life if it is only a lie.
Did you become an atheist or transfer your faith elsewhere?
l will never be a member of any religion. I like the work l see some churches do. But l would never get into the system again.
How do you now feel about religion in general?
Has helped some people . It has helped me at times. But theology will kill you .
Do you feel any guilt celebrating xmas or birthdays or doing any other JW "no-no"s?
Have you attended any face-to-face meetups of ex-JWs?
No. lt would be fun. Believe it or not l used to have fun.
Describe your circle of friends - mostly other ex-JWs or regular people?
Lots of regular people. Friends l had before l became a JW were still there. My husband and l had mutual friends and many of my children’s friends have stayed in touch with me. I fed kids in the neighborhood, took care of some when their family life fell apart (lord! Anyone desperate enough to come to us really needed help)l have a real wealth of friends but oddly the trauma of being all in for God for most my life (Catholic counts too) and then not.. it maybe has me lopsided
Do you tell people about your JW past?
Hell yes. When l am shunned at the market l tell bystanders what’s up. And advise when appropriate “never ever accept a fre home bible study from JWs
Do you feel animosity or pity toward current JWs?
Pity for most. But for my favorite elder? I hope he was a PIMO who couldn’t put himself. Once during those miserable interviews l thought he was coding some odd encouragement. If he was-maybe l really am pissed at him.
How do you respond to witnesses when they call at your door?
Places where l live they tend not to knock. Once a young elder and his wife whom l knew came by. He stepped out into my yard as l worked and asked about my leaving. I told him everything. He said he would see about my status. Never came back.
Storm the barricades or tend to the wounded? (do you favor activism or support)
It’s delicate. I remember how careful l was. I know why l tell anyone why to avoid theological madness. Everyone has their part.
What do you think is the most effective approach to reaching people still in?
Love the ones who will let you. Ignore the rest. About six months ago l drove unannounced to an old pioneer sister who is near 85. I wanted to tell her how much l loved her. She had been my friend. I hollered from the car. She stared through her screen door for a minute she unhooked it and we split a beer! Of course she had to tell me “time is short” when l left. Lots later Another sister wanted to buy a spoon from me at the market. We both knew what was up. We wept and hugged. Life has not been easy for her either.
Find out where your own core is. And live true to it as you can. Go easy on yourself too. Really go easy on yourself. Live without shame. There are ways that that reaches people.
Do you think the WTS can or should be destroyed, will continue on as-is or grow / change?
There are so many people who will be caught. It would be great if it changed so it wasn’t the WBTS anymore. I despise what it does to people . How it separates and makes folks afraid to talk.
How has your life been impacted by your JW past?
I don’t know how to assess that. My counselor said to me one time “your family has so many moving parts” which is to say a lot of my life is been such a cluster fuck that I wish I could figure some of this stuff out. I do know this considering how backwoods our life had become , My daughter is definitely appreciated learning the kind of order and time management that was necessary to success in college. And they did peculiarly learn independent thinking – – but not in the way the watch tower approved.And considering some of the troubles in my family, I am profoundly happy that I was not a JW when the worst of it occurred.
Are there things in your life you blame the WTS for?
Losing precious time. .Having my sons disregard some good sense teaching from mom because “ she a JW” .
JW upbringing - a protection or a curse?
The girls got some good.
How do you fill your time now it's not filled with meetings and field service?
I probably answered that. I am a grandma now and l make and sell wooden spoons.
Do you still have an interest in JW beliefs and doctrines?
The ones that really hurt —yes. The Bible makes me tired now. I always say truthfully that Jesus’ teachings saved my life. This is a crude statement l know. But there was a time in my life that the simplest kindness attributed to him gave me the clarity l needed to live. I don’t even care who he was or if he was.
How much of your time is still spent on JW related matters?
Just here. I have gone through four distinct levels on this board. I am going through s rough patch again and decided l would “den up” on the board while sort through this go around.
What do you think of the ex-JW community?
Some times it is a swirling bunch of badgers! Other times an oasis of thoughtful care. But family is like that sometimes. On the other hand, we can’t be family unless we know each other’s back story a little. Thanks for this interview format. My profile reads like a tall tale.
Do you see yourself still being associated with the ex-JW community in 5 or 10 years time?
I want to know how things go. This forum is where l watch others sort out the threads of their lives (and me too) if l am still kicking l will be hanging around , more or less.
Do you fear the future?
No. There is suffering but there is also morphine lol . but we humans are doing a human mess of the earth. I hope we realize that is the only thing to fear.
I fear dying before some of my family troubles get to a better place. I have son who shuns me. I would like that to end before l die —for every one’s sake.
What advice would you give to anyone starting the journey of leaving the WTS?
Everyone else has better things to say about that than I do. There is a lot of collective wisdom on this board.
What would you change in your life if you could go back and talk to yourself?
Really? Born an Irish Catholic girl in the fifties? I wouldn’t know. It has taken me a life time to move a few inches
Do you have any regrets about life since you left?
Nothing l can’t forgive myself . I regret the length of my post ;-)
Can we read your life-story anywhere? (links to online or books)
There are bits and pieces that float around . Nothing particularly flattering- My three daughters are writers. The only thing that is sort of biographical of myself is a piece that was published in the Atlantic Magazine in a spring issue in 2001 I think. Titled Chicken 81 . It begins “My mother is a killer...”
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