By Terry Walstrom
The death of Ray Franz hit me harder than I would have thought.
I had to reflect for awhile…alone…and quietly.
After all, fine people die every day and some of them are indispensable, and yet we go on…don’t we?
But, Ray Franz was someone who can only be described by the phrase “sui generis” (one of a kind).
My task was to ask myself what it was that made Ray so singular, potent, and admirable – without a trace of scandal or ill will attached to his memory.
Now, I’m ready to talk about it. Call it “venting,” if you like. Or – “processing”…
Dedicating yourself to the finest work on Earth is noble. Ray, like the rest of us, signed on – by putting his energy and intelligence into his teaching work, no matter what the personal cost to himself.
It was in the course of research that something special in Ray’s character triggered a chain reaction.
Ray was assigned the work of writing articles for one of the Society’s new reference books. He committed himself to doing that job as perfectly as possible without a cursory “cut and paste” parroting of what had been done before. During the course of his research, Ray Franz found what amounted to evidence of dissonance in “The Truth.”
What Ray discovered amounted to doctrinal error. Immediately there was conflict between his rational mind and his religious loyalty!
The sum of a man’s life can come down to a vanishingly small moment. This was Ray’s…
What choices did he have and what would they cost him?
- Gloss over the discord between research and Watchtower “Truth”?
- Pass the buck to somebody higher and let them bear the burden?
- Let it go and “wait on Jehovah” to correct it?
- Raise hell and fight it out with naysayers?
- Write the facts and let the chips fall where they may.
Here was Ray’s moment of sparkling integrity. Ray Franz trusted the rational mind God had given him enough to write, speak, and live what was real.
We all know what came next.
Ray lived with it…
Ray Franz never lost his temper. Ray never hurled insults. Ray fought the fine fight of the faith quietly – but as solid as a rock.
Without grandstanding – or calling a press conference – or starting a new religious movement – Ray Franz quietly walked a straight line right out the door of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ temple of human error and into…what?
The pristine flowering majesty of a clean conscience – and an ordinary life!
His former “glorious” peers, with their impeccable credentials as Jehovah’s spokesmen, scrambled to plug the dam. The Governing Body saw their first duty as far different from Ray’s: they thought only about covering their collective asses and getting a little “payback.”
They found Ray Franz “guilty” of having lunch with a disassociated person – and sentenced him to die at Armageddon.
Sit back a moment a think hard on that.
Jesus taught us that The Good Shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to rescue the one that strays. On the other hand, the Governing Body “Shepherds” had other ideas, motives and means. They shot an arrow through the heart of their stray sheep – and then left him to die alone.
Shakespeare said it best:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
To their everlasting shame, the Governing Body bound themselves in the shallows and miseries. Ray sailed on – in the fair breeze of a clean heart.
Ray wrote Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom without rancor or hysterics. Unlike books written by many Ex-JWs, apostates, or so-called “Evil Slaves” – Ray Franz wrote calmly, assuredly, and with total commitment to fact. (No personal animus!)
The drip, drip, drip of powerful reality burning holes in Watchtower doctrine is where Ray Franz’s words have their immortality!
The power of reality is blast of pure white light! Ray Franz flipped the switch on a beam of light that would shatter Watchtower darkness once and for all.
We stand blinking into that light…even today. And for that bright knowledge revealing our entrapment – what we owe Ray is beyond value.
The Watchtower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses is no longer the “Eden of the Truth” we once held it to be. Ray Franz exposed it as a “Tar Pit of Extinction” that the unwary wander into – only to find themselves stuck – and then preyed upon.
The calm, unwavering solidarity of total faith based in reality, as opposed to unquestioning obedience to authority, is Ray Franz’s legacy.
We could all do a lot worse than to learn his lesson and walk his path. We can close our eyes on that final day knowing we’ve left this world a better place than we found it.
Ray, I salute you! I am in awe.
May the True God, whom you sought to serve, have mercy and loving kindness in store for you.
And may each of us find our own way…into that peace.
Now – each of us must face our own quiet moments of decision every day we are alive. Remember Shakespeare’s words…
“On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Some Additional Thoughts
The “tone” of Ray’s writings could only be described as modest and real.
The character of the person in the words really comes through. I think even the most rabid apostate-hater could see this if they took the trouble to read even one paragraph of either of his books.
Emotionally, Ray was solid because his personal values were clean, honest and without puff.
Terry Walstrom, Texas resident and frequent contributor to several Jehovah’s Witness discussion forums and websites, was kind enough to allow us to republish his comments about the passing of Raymond Franz on June 2, 2010. Terry is quite prolific and writes with a deeply honest and sincere style. We hope he will allow us to publish more of his essays here at Ex-JW.com in the future. Here is the link to the original version of the above article.