By “Shadow Elder”
Before I express my opinion to the readers and contributors to this website (www.ex-jw.com), I would like to explain who I am and to present my bona fides as someone qualified to comment on this website and Jehovah’s Witnesses in general.
First of all, I am an active Jehovah’s Witness living just outside of New York City. Being a large metropolis, New York has many Kingdom Halls located within the city and several more in surrounding boroughs, counties, and suburbs. This puts me right next to the Brooklyn Bethel headquarters, in an area where Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite active and well represented in the local population. If you want to know what average Jehovah’s Witnesses are thinking, New York and New England would be a good place to start.
I am in my early 50s, married, with four adult sons. My wife and I own our home and I drive an older four-door Japanese sedan – a perfect car to use for field service. I work as a manager for a national company connected to the food services industry. I earn a decent salary, but we are far from being rich. We get by, but it can be very expensive living in a large city, even when your needs are modest.
I have been a Jehovah’s Witness for most of my life. My parents were Witnesses and remained faithful in the Truth until they passed away a few years ago. My father professed to be of the Anointed class – my mother did not. I have been selected as an elder and have held ministerial servant and overseer positions at several Kingdom Halls.
Now that I’ve explained who I am, I would like to share some of my observations and opinions, not only about this website and others, but also about the attitudes of many current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I think that the readers of this article should consider it to be a “come to Jesus moment” for all of us. Hopefully, when I’m finished we’ll all see the light, recognize the errors of our ways, and take a new approach to jumping in on the ongoing debates over the teachings and lifestyle of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Debate over Watchtower teachings
I realize as an elder that I am speaking out against the very organization I try to faithfully represent, but I personally think that the Governing Body is wrong by teaching that only what they teach us, as printed in the Watchtower publications, should be considered to be “the truth.” They’ve made the expression of any personal opinions or group debates over their official versions of Biblical truths subject to disciplinary action – often leading to someone being disfellowshipped.
That is why I feel that I must keep my own identity somewhat anonymous. I don’t feel that addressing problems within the organization should be punished as long as it is done with good intent and an honest heart, but that is the way things are at this time. Until Jehovah changes the hearts and understanding of the Governing Body through his Holy Spirit and love for his Witnesses on Earth, I don’t want my family to suffer because I want to speak out. I’m not ready for that. I’m not sure I will ever be prepared to leave the Truth.
To be a faithful Witness of Jehovah, according to the Governing Body, you must accept what they teach without question and without debate. I personally know of several excellent and otherwise faithful brothers and sisters who have left the organization or have been disfellowshipped because they honestly questioned just a few details of the Watchtower’s doctrinal teachings.
I personally disagree with several current teachings of the Watchtower. My firm belief is that while we are trying to spread the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom and trying to live an exemplary Christian lifestyle, not everything in the Watchtower is totally correct. My choice, at least at this time, is to keep my opinions to myself when in the presence of other Jehovah’s Witnesses and hope that the Holy Spirit clears up what errors we might be teaching as younger, more thoughtful, and loving men take the leadership of Jehovah’s earthly organization. That said, I do have some serious issues with the credibility of the current leadership of the Watchtower Society.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom book describes the process of gaining full understanding of the truth as entering a dark room and allowing the light to shine brighter gradually until the room is fully lit. At the same time they wrote, “…Truth remains truth. Jehovah’s will and purpose, as outlined in the Bible, remain fixed…But their [the WT organization’s] understanding of these truths gets progressively clearer ‘at the proper time,’ Jehovah’s due time.”
It makes no sense that honest debate about the truth of certain beliefs can be treated as a sin against the Holy Spirit, while the final version of the “truth” is still being fine tuned. After all, the Governing Body VOTES on what new teachings will be published or presented at our assemblies. Does that mean that their debates and votes are also a sin against the Holy Spirit? If the Governing Body is acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t all their votes be unanimous? Are those who voted against the majority being influenced by Satan? After the vote is taken, why should that particular teaching ever be changed due to “new light”? Does not the Holy Spirit know what is true and what is not? Or does the Holy Spirit inspire the Governing Body to purposely publish incorrect information from time to time – just to keep us off-kilter? This entire concept of the Governing Body being guided by Holy Spirit is frankly ridiculous and inconceivable.
I feel that the Watchtower Society is totally wrong by holding this unsupported position. After all, very few of the teachings of Russell and Rutherford are still held to be “truth.” Where was the Holy Spirit prior to Rutherford’s death in 1942, back when almost every Witness was considered to be a member of the Anointed remnant? Who was guiding the leadership of the Watchtower Society back then?
I feel that the only honest position to be taken is that the Watchtower Society is still, like the rest of us, studying the Bible and trying to find the real truth of God’s Word. Until that is finally achieved, if that should ever come to pass, honest debate and personal study of the Bible should be encouraged – not treated as an act that deserves punishment and banishment from the rest of Jehovah’s people.
Support of Watchtower teachings by current Jehovah’s Witnesses
As I read the comments sections on this and other so-called “apostate” websites, I see many responses that have been submitted by those who are studying or consider themselves to be faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses. My comment to them is that they may be doing more harm than good in the way they respond. Let me explain:
Learn how to write! How can you support the Watchtower’s position that getting a higher education is a waste of time – time better spent in Kingdom service – if you can’t spell, punctuate, and develop a well-considered thought? For Jehovah’s sake – learn how to use your spell-checker. Even Yahoo and Google mail have built in spell checkers. Before you submit your comment, write it in a word processor or as a draft email – then spell-check and grammar check it. Your comments do not have to be perfect, but writing like an ignorant 8-year old hillbilly is not giving Jehovah the good representation he deserves. (If you are either an 8-year old or a hillbilly, please accept my apology.)
Many Witnesses will deny the facts of a story that’s been printed and then make statements that details presented were untrue or that the article writer was lying. Take funerals for example: There have been many descriptions of Witness funerals on this website and others, especially connected to the Michael Jackson stories. I have to be honest with you – they quite accurately describe what happens at a JW funeral. The writer on this website even provided a link to a funeral talk outline as supporting documentation. His descriptions, I’m sorry to say, were right on the mark.
I’ve given funeral talks and have used an outline that is very close to the one shown on the link. I’ve counseled families before the talk began to please control themselves and to hold their emotions until a more appropriate time, preferably in the privacy of their own home. If there were ushers assigned, they were told to politely hush or escort out anyone who might seem to lose control and cause a disturbance.
Most accurately described was the fact that the speaker is very restricted as to how much he can say about the deceased. If the family insists, then we ask that they hold any additional memorial presentations until after the talk is over and the mourners have been excused. We suggest that they handle those remembrances at the reception, or in their own home later, but not during the funeral program.
The family will often ask to play a favorite song of the deceased before or after the talk. If it is from the Kingdom Song Book, then we could allow it to be played. If it was a secular song or instrumental then I was supposed to deny their request. What possible harm to anyone could result from the playing of a beautiful secular classical piece or movie theme music? When the son of a deceased elder, a professional musician, asked to play a song of his own for his father’s funeral – his request was denied. I feel the Watchtower Society does its members a severe disservice by not allowing a faithful Witness to be properly remembered and mourned.
For a Witness to access this, or any other website, and then try to deny the truth of what really happens during a Witness funeral, a Watchtower study, an assembly or convention, or even what we really do during field service – is in itself promoting a lie. What happens when new people actually do come to the Kingdom Hall or go to a Witness funeral and realize that what was written on an “apostate” website was really the truth – and that the comments by Jehovah’s Witnesses were lies?
What about the question of “shunning?” As Jehovah’s Witnesses we all know what the Society’s rules are about the treatment of disfellowshipped and disassociated former members. To get on one of these websites and then deny that we shun anyone, especially family, is clearly misstating the facts. When is the purposeful misstating of facts not a lie?
What about the facts surrounding the failed prophecy of 1975? To say that the Watchtower “never said that Armageddon was going to come in 1975” is also a dishonest and misleading statement. There is printed proof, YouTube videos, and published articles in major newspapers and the Society’s own publications that prove that 1975 was the central theme of nearly every book, magazine and public talk from 1968 to 1975. I was very active at that time and I know the truth. What do you gain by denying it and saying that it never happened?
So be honest with yourself. Are you really doing the right thing by denying the truth? What impression does that leave with those who are on the fence about joining us in preaching the good news? Is it not better to remain silent than to deny the truth? Does Jehovah really need or want you to lie to protect his earthly organization? Can we not admit the truth of our past mistakes and just move on?
Critics of the Watchtower – Are you being honest about your motives?
At one time or another I’ve probably seen most of the so-called “apostate” websites. I have to say that by far the majority of them are junk – poorly written, angry, and ridiculous. Many websites are poorly laid out, hard to read, and out-of-date. Ever try to read a sentence in 10-point type that goes clear across the entire page on a wide-screen monitor? Many ex-Witnesses apparently felt the need to get online and publish their angry tirades in an attempt to hurt the Watchtower and make Jehovah’s Witnesses look like fools. After a while they lost interest and never updated or modernized their websites. My suggestion to those persons is to just take them down – they are only detracting from your message and hurting the reputations of other serious and well-designed critical websites.
Likewise, I have to admit that there are many nicely presented and well written websites. Besides presenting their arguments in well-written formats and in clear language, several of them contain a lot of good documentation that is no longer available from any other source – some even acceptable for use by active Jehovah’s Witnesses – such as old Watchtowers and the early writings of Pastor Russell. I’ve seen some very impressive apostate videos showing up on YouTube that have professional graphics and narration that are comparable to the productions of major TV and online news outlets.
Unfortunately, too many of the apostate sites have been set up to promote and support the teachings of some other religious organization, church or personal ministry. I’ve seen several that are clearly evangelical or mainstream Protestant in tone and in teachings. Believe me when I say there are enough negatives about the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses to be discussed on your website without trying to convince your readers to once again believe in the doctrines of The Trinity, Heaven and Hell, or some other fable of Christendom. I’m sorry, but you are wasting your time and your website won’t draw any real interest from Jehovah’s Witnesses if you attack their core beliefs while supporting the archaic and rehashed orthodox teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and major Protestant denominations.
I suggest that if you want to run a successful anti-Watchtower website you use the examples of this one (www.Ex-JW.com) or Randall Watters’ www.FreeMinds.org . Concentrate your fair and truthful arguments against the history, culture and teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on one website. Then link to a different website where you can present your own personal religious beliefs – whatever they might be. Keep your websites focused on their main purpose and leave the doctrinal debates to another time and another website.
Advice to Bloggers and Apostate website editors
To the critics and apostates who create and publish blogs and websites, I offer the following advice with all seriousness:
Stop being stupid and amateurish; unless you are a professional comedian, you are not funny. Stay away from satire or parody if you don’t understand how to present them properly. Don’t create videos or write on your blog after you’ve just finished off a six-pack or a joint. Get rid of the stupid baseball cap and shave if you are going to appear in your own videos. Speak and write clearly in acceptable English; lose the slang and profanity. You do not help your cause by becoming a stumbling block to the very people you are trying to reach because of your obnoxious use of language and bad behavior.
That’s all I have to say for now. I thank the editor of Ex-JW.com for allowing me to present my arguments even though he and I hold very different opinions about the Truth as preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe someday I’ll even send him another article.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally sent to me by email. The writer wasn’t sure if this should be a comment to an existing article or sent separately. I asked his permission to publish it as a contributed article. He agreed as long as he could disguise his identity a bit to avoid any problems for him and his family since he is currently an elder in his congregation. He allowed me to edit the article for readability and organization, but the words and thoughts are all his. I think his presentation is fair-minded and balanced and might represent the thinking of many active Jehovah’s Witnesses. I invite other Witnesses that would like to contribute their personal stories or opinions to submit them to me. Please contact me by email or through the use of the contact form located elsewhere on this website.