My experience Tuesday night at the Kingdom Hall was strangely serious and hilarious at the same time. I’m still reeling from it. How do I even begin to recount the surreal event? Well, I have to try, so here goes.
Let’s begin with the letter that I sent to “The Branch” (JW headquarters). The answer came in the form of a visit by an elder (let’s call him Carl) and another JW, who failed to answer my question (see my previous post about the letter). So I wrote again, asking for an answer directly from the branch. The answer came again in the form of a visit from Carl, this time with my friend Aaron! But they came during the day, while I was at work, and my wife told them that I was planning on attending the meeting at the kingdom hall that night (Tuesday).
So I arrived at the kingdom hall about 15 minutes before the meeting time, and immediately Carl and Aaron wanted me to meet with them in the boardroom. “Uh oh,” I thought, but obligingly joined them in the boardroom. Carl explained that it was about my letters to the branch, saying that the answers would only continue to come in the form of visits by locals. THEN he dropped the bomb. He said he had noticed me sharing my opinions at the kingdom hall about a number of things, and that I seemed to have very strong opinions about certain things, especially the subject of being adopted as Jehovah’s son. “We don’t want you sharing your personal opinions in the kingdom hall,” he said. I politely defended what I had shared on the grounds that it was only what I found in scripture. We politely debated back and forth a little bit, but were interrupted by the beginning of the meeting.
The meeting included, among other tedious presentations, a “Bible Study” about Mary and Joseph’s travels both before and after the birth of Jesus. Mention was repeatedly made of the donkey that was used for Mary to ride on. Numerous comments were made by those participating in the congregation about “how difficult it must have been to ride on that donkey!” I raised my hand twice, attempting to share a comment. I was not called upon. The “Bible Study” also included mention of many apocryphal details that have been added to the story by Christiandom.
After the meeting, I met several folks, and one man asked me what I had raised my hand about. I told him that the Bible does not mention a donkey in the stories, so they may not have had that luxury, possibly making their travels even more difficult, and that I greatly admired Mary and Joseph’s dedication.
I had no idea how hard that donkey would kick.
Carl had overheard the conversation, on purpose I’m sure. He came over and asked about what I had shared. I explained again. He said that there was indeed a donkey in the account. I politely disagreed, even conceding that I could be wrong, but I hadn’t seen one in the scriptures. Carl was only able to show me mention of the donkey in the “Bible Study” literature. I asked whether that “fact” came from scripture, or was it from an apocryphal source. (Please note that I did all this with a polite, genuinely inquisitive, and not sarcastic demeanor.)
But bam! I was ushered into the boardroom again, this time with Carl, Aaron, and another elder. At first they spent some minutes searching in vain for scriptural mention of a donkey. That was the comical part. Then when they couldn’t find a donkey in the scriptures, Carl showed me (again) mention of the donkey in the “Bible Study” article. He then asked me, “Are you questioning the Faithful Slave?” I wanted to say “Duh, yeah!” But instead I asked, “Well, aren’t there corrections made, that is, adjustments whenever there’s new light?” “The light keeps getting brighter!” was Carl’s cheerful response. My response: “So do you expect there will be more adjustments in the future?” Nods all around. “So some things being taught now are incorrect, right?” Uncomfortable squirming and no real response.
Carl asked what my purpose was in coming to the Kingdom Hall. Was I there to cause doubts in the minds of the members? I countered with my wanting to be like the Bereans, comparing everything I heard with scripture, and that they must understand that it would take a long time and a lot of effort on their part to convince someone like me, who had been steeped in the the traditional doctrines of Christiandom for a long time. “You can understand that, yes?”
I could tell that they were conflicted between mistrust of me, and wanting to give me the benefit of the doubt. I agreed that in the future I would not share my opinions with the members, but would bring my questions to the three who now stood in the boardroom with me. That seemed to calm them down for now.
Many more words were said in our conversation; you’re getting the condensed version. The practical result of it all is that I’m not allowed to tell the members how excited I am to be adopted as Jehovah’s son, at least not in the Kingdom hall. Meeting one-on-one with Aaron is now disallowed. But I will be able to meet with him with an elder present. And I’m okay with that. In fact, I plan on actively pursuing that.
But the whole encounter was just so bizarre! If the governing body says that there was a donkey, then there’s no need to check the scriptural account, it must be in there somewhere, because the GB says that it’s so. I get the impression that if the GB said that Jesus had a beard, the members would automatically assume that the Bible says so. Or if the GB said that Jesus had no beard, they would consider that to be supported by scripture, even though the Bible doesn’t say one way or the other. I have heard them use the phrase “Don’t run ahead of what’s written.” Apparently that doesn’t apply to the GB, who is free to add phantom donkeys to the scriptural account.
Before I left the kingdom hall I jokingly said to my friend Aaron, “I never would have thought that a donkey would get me into so much trouble!” He awkwardly tried to assure me that I wasn’t in trouble. Hmmm. Seemed like it to me. All over an imaginary donkey.