Read this book! You too could be homeless

My wife has little or no interest in reading books about the Bible, religion, or anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses. She thinks I’m obsessive in my research about the history and teachings of the Watchtower Society. Her eyes will start to glaze over about thirty seconds after I bring up the subject of my past life as a Jehovah’s Witness.

On the other hand, she loves to read. She’ll read for hours before going to sleep at night, and always urges me to read the books she finds interesting. While most of her favorite books are not to my taste, she has been able to point me to some really good novels and biographies that I’ve enjoyed reading over the past few years.

I can suggest that she read a book by Richard Dawkins or Bart Ehrman, but she never does. I was shocked when she agreed to read Kyria Abrahams’ JW memoir, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed. She read most of it, but lost interest about 2/3 of the way through when Kyria changed the style and mood of her story. But like me, she really enjoyed reading the first half of I’m Perfect…

I can’t even remember who it was that first turned me on to Brianna Karp. Other than the fact that Brianna grew up in Southern California, I really had nothing in common with her. Look – I’m a retired grandfather living in Oregon with one foot in the grave – and she’s a young, vibrant, hot chick from “The OC” with her whole life ahead of her. The only thing we seemed to have in common was that we were both raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Someone’s tip pointed me to her new book, The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness. At first I thought – uh, a girl’s guide? Homelessness? Probably not a book for me. Not really interested. OK, she was a Jehovah’s Witness at one time – that might be interesting to read about. I could read the JW part and then toss the book or give it to the Goodwill. Maybe, like Kyria’s book, my wife might be interested in reading parts of it. But this was Miss Karp’s first book – and first books by non-writers are usually very, very bad.

And yet, for some reason I found myself intrigued by what I had read online about her book. I decided to contact her and ask if she had an advanced copy that I could borrow. If I liked it, I’d write a review for her. Because of her past connection to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I told her that it might get a mention here at Ex-JW.com.

We exchanged a couple of emails and she agreed to send me a pre-publication ARC version of the book. I promised to read it quickly and then return it to her. Sure enough, a few days later an advance copy of the book arrived in a plain gray postal envelope.

At first glance the cover really didn’t grab me – a young woman sits on the arm of a chair in the middle of an empty parking lot while dark gray storm clouds brood in the background. It certainly was not very “Jehovah’s Witnessy,” and at first glance, even a bit foreboding. Oh, no! I hoped this wasn’t another book about some depressed chick that drowns her troubles with drugs and alcohol because she thinks “no one loves her.”

I grabbed the book and found a comfortable seat – you know, one with a hole in the middle and the little handle on the side – to give myself a relaxed ten minutes or so to get acquainted with the book.

An hour later my legs had gone completely numb from sitting so long. From the very minute that I started reading it, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to call my good friend, author Richard Kelly. “Dick – you’ve got to read this book by this JW girl who lives near Riverside. Let me see if I can get her to send you a copy. This is really good!” I think he knew I was on to something unique.

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Confronting Misinformation

By Richard E. Kelly

I am currently writing a sequel, The Ghosts from Mama’s Club. It’s an autobiography of my forty-seven years of life after leaving the Club. The “ghosts” in the book are dysfunctional behavior patterns, toxic residue acquired from the time my family and I spent as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The most haunting “ghost” for me and my wife, and most people, is the prodigious amounts of misinformation acquired wittingly and unwittingly while we were in the cult. Therefore, the biggest challenge to leading a full, happy life after departing will be confronting misinformation.

Shedding “things a person knows that ain’t so” can be very daunting. Some “ain’t so’s” manifest themselves as phobias. So before nagging untruths induce debilitating behavior, it’s important to clearly identify what they are. When a person is consciously aware of their “ain’t so’s,” they can easily quarantine them. Were I to leave the Club today, my recovery plan would include reading the following six books, in the following order, and why:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. The author gives a moving account of his life in Nazi death camps and his discovery of logotherapy—a positive approach to the mentally/spiritually disturbed person. His treatment focuses on the freedom to transcend suffering and find a meaning to one’s life regardless of circumstances.
  2. The Source by James A. Michener. A great bit of storytelling based on factual data about early civilization in Israel, debunking JW myths.
  3. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Okay, he’s an atheist, but a person coming out of a group like JWs will appreciate and relate to his hard-hitting, factual observations about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and the dangerous rise of superstition in today’s world. (This is a good book to test your ability to hold two opposed ideas in your mind and still retain the ability to function.)
  4. Jesus, Interrupted – Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible by Bart D. Ehrman. Jehovah’s Witnesses are completely in the dark as to what scholars have been saying for 200 years about Bible history, forgeries, and contradictions. Whichever side a person sits on biblical inerrancy, this is an eye-opening read.
  5. The Sins of Scripture by John Shelby Spong. This book exposes the evil done by people who use the Bible like weapons in the name of God. It points out texts that have been used to discriminate, oppress and distort the truth of Christianity, casting doubt on God’s love.
  6. Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne. I hate the title, but after years of hearing non-scholarly JW evolution rebuttal, this well-written explanation by a knowledgeable scientist gives the reader a fresh, nonthreatening perspective of how old our earth is and how new species evolved from previous ones. And, it makes a good case for the fact that God is not a micromanager, as JWs claim.

If people who’ve left the Club will read these books, they will be amazed how refreshing and energizing basic science and honest history can be. Not only will they have confronted the “ghost of misinformation,” it will be like getting a good, Liberal-Arts-101 college education at a bargain price. For it to coalesce, they’ll need to get outside of themselves and cogitate about the new things they’ve learned. It will also help to take walks, meet new people, do random acts of kindness, volunteer for charitable work, enjoy a hobby and be a friend if they want to lead a full, meaningful life.

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Opinion: Raising kids as Witnesses

I can speak from experience: being raised in a Jehovah’s Witness family can be tough for many children and downright disastrous for others.Normal kids playing ball at the park

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a JW family in the 1950s when many of the Watchtower’s restrictive rules had not yet been fine-tuned nor enforced the way they are today. I also had the good fortune to have a father who loved sports and wanted my brother and me to participate in organized athletics such as Little League and high school teams. Dad would often want to play catch and even join us when we’d play in pickup games with our neighborhood friends.

My father was an exception to the JW rule by letting us play on Little League and other sports teams. Even back in the 1950s and 1960s, most of the other JW kids were not allowed by their parents to participate in team sports or to join in on other school activities. JW children were supposed to be spending their spare time at home studying the Watchtower or out “in the field service,” knocking on doors trying to “place” the Watchtower Society’s magazines and books.

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