Tag Archives: kingdom hall

Read Any Good Books Lately?

The_Giver_first_edition_1993

The last time I attended the meeting at the local kingdom hall (I think it was in March), I was chatting with one of the young men there, a high school student whom I will call George. I really like George. He reminds me of me when I was a highschooler. We’re both brainy, introverted, tall, klutzy; you know where I’m going with this–we’re nerds, ok? Anyway, we both like to read, and he was quite interested to hear me describe the book that I have written and will soon publish, a “dystopian” work of fiction. (If you don’t know what that is, think Hunger Games or any of the recent popular stories set in “ideal” but dysfunctional societies.)

So after hearing my description of my book, George said, “That reminds me of one of my favorite books.” When I asked him what that was, he said The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Being unfamiliar with that book or author, I asked him to describe it for me and tell me why he liked it. He said that it was about independence and thinking for oneself.

“Uh–”

Me, speechless.

George’s favorite work of literature has as its main theme a value that is explicitly denounced by the Watchtower Society. The literal phrase “independent thinking” is used as a negative buzzword in the literature and the kingdom hall talks. So when George said that, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I immediately decided that I needed to read that book. Not many days later I downloaded it from Amazon and read it. I was shocked and delighted that George valued the story of a boy who ends up questioning everything that has ever been taught him by the overbearing organization under which he and his family live. The parallels in the story to someone living as a Jehovah’s Witness are obvious. But the question haunts me: are the parallels obvious to George?

Is George’s valuing of this story an indication of his own questioning of the Watchtower? Or does he merely think it a cool story, making no connection between the life of the main character and his own? I’m drowning in curiosity, and can’t wait to talk with George about it some more.

Whether George is already doubting and questioning the WT, or whether interest in this story can begin to spark that “independent thinking,” the evidence indicates that God is at work in either case. What an amazing opportunity I have before me to talk with a young man about the freedom he can have in Jesus. Please pray for George.

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Ongoing Favor With JW Friends

There have been a couple of incidents that have made me concerned about my relationship with my Jehovah’s Witness friends. First, some humorous but concerning experiences at the local Kingdom Hall, in which I was brought into the boardroom for questioning about my motives for “sharing my opinions” with congregation members. (See my previous post about that.) In addition to that, I received a phone call from my friend Mark, who early in our conversation said that his elders thought that I was “trying to influence” my JW friends. I was concerned whether the jig was up–perhaps my cover was blown, and they were all going to cease interacting with me. My response to mark was simply to ask, “They said that?” I was trying to prompt him to elaborate further, wondering what exactly had been said, and whether Mark had been advised to cut things off with me. I was very pleased that Mark continued talking with me, hardly addressing the situation at all.

I had planned to go to the local Kingdom Hall, as I normally do about once a month, but was apprehensive about what kind of reception I would receive. My Wifey prayed for me, specifically that God would give me favor with the JW’s. With that, I left to head to the Kingdom Hall.

God answered my Wifey’s prayer. Everyone at the KH greeted me enthusiastically, asking how I was, saying that they were glad to see me, and other expressions of friendliness. There was no sign of shunning or defensiveness. In return for their kindness, I refrained from “sharing my opinions” with the members, instead only engaging in friendly conversations about life in general. Okay, I did “share my opinions” a bit, but so subtly that it could hardly have been detected. And the elders were listening (that is, very creatively eavesdropping) on my conversations with people. I was definitely under scrutiny. I encouraged a young man to continue to pursue his singing classes and developing that talent. And I encouraged another young man to continue his efforts at writing (which he currently does on the staff of his high school newspaper). These were very, VERY subtle statements of encouragement of career paths not normally encouraged by the Watchtower. College education is frowned upon, and so any skill requiring further education beyond high school is suspect. Yes, their parents have encouraged their efforts in the writing and singing arts, so they too are pushing the boundaries as well, which was surprising to me. My enthusiastic encouragement included statements about those abilities being given as gifts by Jehovah. This may seem like small potatoes to us, but with JW’s, sometimes our small potatoes are Big Deals to them. I’m sure the message was not lost on the young people and their parents. What the elders thought, I don’t know, but they raised no objection, and remained friendly towards me.

Bonus: My friend Aaron invited me to his upcoming wedding! Sweet. I’m honored that he considered me enough of a friend to invite me and include me in on that part of his personal life. And I can’t wait to attend and have more opportunities to talk with JW’s.

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A Tactical Retreat

Recently I attended the midweek study at the kingdom hall. The last time I attended was awkward, with the elders questioning my motives (see my previous post, Warning: You Might Get Kicked Out of the Kingdom Hall by a Donkey). They confronted me about sharing my opinions with the members, implying that my purpose was to plant doubt in their minds. (Truthfully, that is one of my sub-purposes, but my main purpose is to get people to think critically about the Watchtower claims, and to discover for themselves the richness of all the kingdom privileges available to them in Christ.) So, this time I was determined to be good in their eyes. I interacted in a friendly manner with everyone I met, and kept the conversation to innocuous subjects, while still affirming my joy in Jehovah, and my care and concern for them. I dutifully refrained from bringing up any controversial subjects, such as the denial of kingdom privileges to the Great Crowd believers, God’s real name (Yahweh rather than Jehovah), the fallibility of the governing body, or any other of a host of topics. It took great amounts of restraint to resist doing what I enjoy.

When I talked with my friend Aaron, I brought up my desire to meet with him again, and assured him that if it needed to be with one of the elders, that would be fine. I also asked whether we should, “in light of the awkwardness of the past,” do a Bible study together, in effect starting fresh. He seemed very enthusiastic about that idea.

This was a tactical retreat on my part. I envision the three of us going through What Does the Bible Really Teach, following their agenda rather than mine. That little book will provide plenty of opportunities for me to bring up some of my favorite subjects, asking them tough questions, and getting them to think and consider scriptures that are unfamiliar to them. I’m excited about the opportunity, and will report on the results.

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Warning: You Might Get Kicked Out of the Kingdom Hall by a Donkey

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.

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