A couple of months ago I received a hand-written letter in my letterbox from a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), inviting me to their special annual meeting to celebrate Jesus’ death, with an accompanying special talk, ‘Have you found a pearl of high value?’ It brought back memories and prompted me to respond.
But first I need to step back in time (to a very long time ago) when Marilyn and I inexplicably (well, explicably really, but that’s another story) got caught up with this minor Christian sect. This led to some years of stress and misery as we struggled to be ‘good Witnesses’ and comply with the oppressive and tedious beliefs and practices that were foisted upon the JW ‘brothers and sisters’. I’ll spare you the details here, but an even cursory online search will reveal a disturbing track record.
Both Marilyn and I each in our own way found it difficult to live as JWs, culminating in a conversation we had while out driving when we admitted to each other that we were preaching something we didn’t believe and would later conclude to be utter bollocks. It was tricky to leave, not in terms of any doubts, but with respect to forsaking JW friends and family, again another tortuous and difficult story, especially for Marilyn.
We were ably rewarded though, both in terms of the tremendous sense of relief and freedom, as well as the support and friendship we received from neighbours and others. It was wonderful to be back in the real world. And to be honest, I don’t often admit to having been a JW, being acutely embarrassed to have been taken in and having lost what should have been some of the best years of my life – Marilyn and I referred to them as the wasted years.
Getting back to the letter, at first I was going to bin it, but then I thought that it gave me an opportunity to perhaps sew a seed that might eventually lead the writer to the freedom we found. As you probably realise if you’ve even taken the time to engage with JWs (or any other fringe religion), you’re not going to change their minds with a heated (or even cool) exchange on the doorstep. So here it is:
Hi Trish,Thank you for taking the time to send me a personal note concerning your upcoming special event. Since you went to so much trouble, I thought it only fair to respond.It must have been frustrating for you and your group over the past year with respect to your proselytising, as you’ve been unable to knock on people’s doors (or maybe a relief?!). Though, given my knowledge of JWs and their practices, I assume that you can count time* for letter-writing.The title of your talk is ‘Have you found a pearl of high value?’. I guess you think you’ve found yours, and I’ve found mine – freedom. Or more specifically, free-thinking. That is, we should all be free to assess situations and beliefs from the viewpoint of a free mind, and come to our own conclusions.Let me be frank: I had association with JWs about 50 years ago, and after a while found their beliefs and behaviour severely wanting. I left, and must admit it was like a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders. I have never regretted that decision – my only regret is the few wasted years being caught in the trap.Interestingly, at the same time as your letter arrived, an article was brought to my attention concerning a fine that JWs were given in Brussels for their abominable behaviour to members who leave the group (https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/160238/jehovahs-witnesses-given-e12000-fine-for-incitement-to-hatred-against-ex-members-ghent-correctional-court-unia-shunning-policy/ ). Read it and ponder it well – is your behaviour truly that of a purported Christian group? Methinks not.So, my advice to you is to think freely about your religion and all that it entails. If it comes up short, leave and live a good life.Best wishes,David Murphy