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      What sort of person does evil or stands by while evil is done? Last month the media reported on a young man who refused to stand by while a classmate was having an asthma attack and was suspended as a result: Anthony Ruelas watched for what seemed like an eternity as his classmate wheezed and […]
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Snowpacalypse!!

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 11.20.31 AM

We’re in the pink! Winter storm but not a blizzard

 

Woot! Woot! Woot!

It’s not actually that bad here in Pittsburgh. The snow is still falling but we didn’t get a white out, the cows ain’t freezin’ in the fields and the children aren’t stuck in the schoolhouse overnight.

But I’m not going anywhere today. I have Netflix and iTunes and Amazon Prime. You know, the three ingredients necessary for subsistence during a weather emergency. Also some fig and olive crackers from TJ’s along with a creamy feta cheese spread.

Maybe we should get together later and discuss Iowa and what’s really going on and why the Democrats are so hung up on the idea that perfectly reasonable people, who are also Democrats who are not Republicans, are still racists or something like that. There’s some obsessive thinking going on there.

I keep toying with the idea of a podcast and have a name for it all picked out. Anyone want to chime in about that?

In the meantime, check out this video by John “Cedars” Lloyd, on his critique of the Jehovah’s Witnesses latest broadcasting video. An apology in advance to my relatives who still believe this stuff. I just don’t know how they can watch this without a drinking game. Too funny. By the way, you don’t have to sit through the whole video. Just the first 4 minutes should be enough.

Take it away, John.

 

You know who you are

Some of you may be wondering why I go on and on about fundamentalists. Well, to be quite honest, it’s because my family has been ripped to pieces by religion in general.

My own beliefs are nobody’s business but I’m going to tell you anyway. Here’s where I stand on the matter: I’m not an atheist but my concept of god is pretty abstract. I could be called a panentheist, that is god is ineffable and exists beyond space and time and we exist within that god. My concept of god has been very steady since I was a little kid. Yep, all those years trying to convert me were a waste of time. I don’t believe in a personal god, or an anthropomorphic god and I don’t think prayer is very useful. Meditation is and there’s something to be said for mindfulness. Ironically, I’ve always liked Catholic mass a lot but will never attach myself to a church where half the attendees are second class. As for religious texts, I don’t have any but I have always been drawn to Tolkien who was a devout Catholic who also had a peculiar interpretation of religion and myth with a healthy addition of neoplatonism. That’s about where I am. I’m not a practicing anything and I don’t want to be.

So, when it comes to what tore my family apart, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Since my beliefs do not come with a religious text or tradition, all the world’s religions that do have traditions that are thousands of years old look pretty much the same to me. Worship of Zeus and the pantheon or the Nordic gods once made  a lot of sense and now look silly to Christians and Muslims. But Christianity and Islam and Hinduism are all premised on equally silly things to me. Nevertheless, if that’s what floats your boat, and as long as you don’t stick your faith in my face by either overt proselytizing or covert banding together to reinforce your beliefs and shutting

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Luther started it.

others out, I don’t have any problems. What’s in your head should stay in your head and what’s in my head should stay in my head and as long as we don’t insist on everyone else thinking exactly like we do, we should all get along.

Butcha know, it just didn’t work out that way in my family. I blame Martin Luther. Oh for sure, he had some very legitimate points, over 90 0f them from what I can remember. Yes, the Catholic church had become corrupt. Yes, there was a lot to be said about priests keeping the bible out of the hands of common people. But in retrospect, they might have had a point. As Julia Sweeney said in “Letting Go of God” when referring to the bible, “have you read that book??” Sure a lot of people find some wisdom in the bible but that book is also awful in ways that modern humans in this modern world do not approve. And yet, there are people who are willing to kill, shame, pass judgment, and lock into roles other people based on confusing, and brutal texts, taken completely out of context.

Anyway, it started with Luther.

For some crazy reason, there are still people in my family who think that the Pope speaks for all Catholics and they do what ever the Pope says, like mindless automatons. Oh, and priests do all the bible reading and interpretation for Catholics despite the fact that the printing press has been around for 500 years now and Catholics have pretty much given up the battle of keeping vernacular bibles out of the hands of their parishioners. Yes, dear faithful protestants, you can read the bible if you are a Catholic and are free to interpret that nonsense any which way you like. But Catholic masses don’t differ a whole lot from other Sunday services except there aren’t any women at the pulpit and there’s incense and holy water and the communion disks taste like wall paper paste instead of the neat little cubes of wholesome bread you get at a Presbyterian service. It’s all pretty much the same damn service at every mainstream church. Trust me on this. You might even *like* a Catholic mass.

But in my family, we must still believe that there is some gigantic chasm between the protestants and the Catholics, even though, there isn’t. The pope isn’t the dictator everyone thinks he is, most Catholics practice birth control and in many respects, Catholics have a longer history of intellectual thought that many mainstream protestant churches are still struggling with. They have saints and it’s still slightly pagan. And? That just sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy to me and so what? There’s still a thread in Catholicism that reaches back to seasons and nature. But ok, whatever floats your boat. Nevertheless, I’m not going to condemn Catholicism just because Luther uncovered some rather significant problems 500 years ago. As far as I’m concerned, the fight is over. And anyway, I’m just an observer. It’s not personal to me.

But it was personal to others. Religion in my family is like a game of one upsmanship. Lutheranism was superior to Catholicism but not as superior as evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is genuine, until it wasn’t and you had to become a Jehovah’s Witness because THEY had The Truth. But then you had to be born again because that’s where it’s really at. And only if you practice the right brand of Christianity and believe in the signs and condemn the lives of people wholly unconnected to you, can you prove to this capricious, angry, mean and stingy god that you and you alone are worthy to be raptured before the end where you can sit in the clouds and feel smugly superior to all those relatives who didn’t listen to you. Oh, and homosexuals who do all those nasty, dirty things with their body parts (never mind that quite a number of married heterosexuals also do those nasty, dirty things with their body parts, mean spirited hypocritical inconsistencies are required in this version of Christianity), well, they need to be set straight, in more ways than one and it’s the fundamentalists job to be vocal, rude and obnoxious and ruin other people’s vacations.

Like I said before, I don’t really care what you believe as long as you don’t shove it down my throat by either 1.) overt proselytization or 2.) ostracism because you can’t for one second have anyone disagree with you. Both of those things tear families apart.

How did it happen in my family? Well, I think it all began when one family member who was a Lutheran was forced to accept some Catholicism upon marriage. That person wrecked revenge by becoming a Jehovah’s Witness and then relentlessly pursued other family members until they too became Jehovah’s Witnesses. If the whole family had converted, this might have been a different story. But only half converted. Then, when the original Jehovah’s Witness decided to get out after Armageddon didn’t come, the other Jehovah’s Witnesses had to shun her. Yep, no more social gatherings, no more family meals, nada. Scheduling a family event now requires familiarity with GRE logic problems:

“Bob, Sheila and Terry are JW’s and Nina is a JW apostate. Florence is an Evangelical, Ellis is a panentheist and George and Sarah are lapsed Lutheran and Catholic respectively. Bob, Sheila and Terry can associate with Florence, Ellis, George and Sarah but not on any holidays when working people have time off. They can not associate with Nina. Nina is a vocal dissenter of George and Sarah’s gay relatives so inviting her to Sarah’s family gatherings is awkward. Florence can associate with everyone but can’t invite Bob, Sheila, Terry to the same event with Nina. If Nina is not invited to an event, George and Sarah won’t attend in order to protest the JW practice of shunning. Bob, Sheila, and Terry can’t go to the funerals of Florence, George, and Sarah because they will be churches. What day during the year can they all be together?”

I might think shunning is a really stupid and painful practice that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in order to manipulate people into staying in the religion when they otherwise might not but it’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting into when you join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Essentially, there is no unconditional love or grace with the Witnesses. This is the ultimate truth about Jehovah’s Witnesses that the rest of us have observed even if the believers are in denial about it. Their “friends” in “The Truth” will turn on them in an instant if they even think about putting their families first or decide they’ve spent much of their lives in too much self denial of, you know, just about every thing that brings a family joy.

It should be noted that of all the kids of three siblings that became Jehovah’s Witnesses, not one of us became Jehovah’s Witnesses in spite of the regime of fear mongering indoctrination.

The original instigator went on to become Born Again and watched Jim and Tami Faye Praise the Lord!, which to some of us looked like jumping from the frying pan into the fire but we just had to put up with it. This sibling was the one labeled “Most likely to end up a Buddhist” and, you know, that would have been a relief. But Buddhists are too soft and accepting. No, for this sibling, nothing but the most harsh and demanding fundamentalism would do. We put up with relentless pressure for decades to voluntarily lobotomize ourselves, admit that evolution was a lie, and embrace the end times. And some of the targets of this campaign did eventually give in and became belligerent, judgmental shadows of their former selves while the family continued to atomize. Now, that GRE question has a part B that affects a whole new generation.

Now, one half of us can’t speak to the other half. If we’re not actively shunning because our organization demands it, we’re shunning because the non-believer, and at this point, it looks like I might be the only one, still maintains that women are equal to men, evolution is in fact the way the world works, gay people are born that way and that, in general, all people, even poor ones, should be treated with dignity and respect. For some reason, that makes me the bad one. Well, that and I don’t think the bible is the inspired word of god (“Have you read that book??”) Thus, I am ultimately the one person who can unite the rest of the family in mutual distrust of the heathen.

Let’s face it, you can be a decent person, don’t do drugs, don’t steal, don’t kill people, put up with years of crazy and abuse at the hands of some very selfish people who hide behind their religion and never ask for a penny from anyone but if you do not believe that THAT BOOK is the inspired word of god, you are a baaaaad person and people will feel that it is Ok to not be nice to you.

That book, is subject to their interpretation, whoever they happen to be at the time. They can all contradict each other and ridicule each other’s interpretation, and they do, regularly. But they all agree that That Book is the ultimate authority. Of everything.

This is not mainstream Christianity. I can hang out with Catholics and Presbyterians and even some Methodists and never feel baaaaaad. No, it’s the fundamentalists who absolutely cannot tolerate any dissent. In the US, we don’t do honor killings. But it’s perfectly Ok to demonize anyone who is independent, who thinks for themselves without reference to that book, and who by their very presence threatens to tear a hole in the perfect fabric cover that protects the believer from the anxiety over whether they are good enough to survive the wrath of a god who seemingly does not appear to possess self control. This is a god that throws temper tantrums if gay people get married and smites innocent dying people who accept transfusions to save their lives. This is a god that demands that we disavow the laws of nature and choose deliberate ignorance over intelligent understanding. This is a god that would prefer that women suffer their entire lives for forgetting their oral contraceptives. This is a god that insists that we shame and dehumanize women so that their lives and the lives of those who would help them, are at risk of being snuffed out by a person vulnerable to speech that is nothing but an invitation to do violent things.

That book is not the cause of the problem. The problem is that as herd animals, some of us are still not able to tell when the herd is headed off a cliff. And some opportunists and politicians are all too willing to take advantage of that to attain power. They’ve spent the last half century dragging this country back. Where women are concerned, they’ve been very successful, because fully raw cannibals will have equal rights before women do. They’ve not been so successful when it came to gay marriage, probably because there are more powerful men with money backing that. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing but it does show what you can achieve if you’re male and have money. The fact that lesbians also benefit is just icing on the cake.

Recently, the Mormon church delivered a killing blow to any progressive Mormon who thought the church’s stance on homosexuality was softening. This new guidance from the quorum of the twelve Mormon apostles says that not only will married gay couples now be subject to disciplinary councils and expulsion for apostasy, their children would no longer be baptized or blessed. Yes, gay mormons do exist, probably in greater numbers than we think, and because the church strongly emphasizes marriage and families, some gay mormons have been compelled to marry heterosexually and have children. Then when they can’t deny their authentic selves anymore, and marry a same sex partner, their children are instantly ostracized from the church. Imagine what kind of message this sends to LGBT teenagers. Don’t tell, don’t step out of line, because we don’t want you here and your families will be condemned. Furthermore, your children will need to disavow your lifestyle when they become adults if they ever want to become members of the church.

John Dehlin at Mormon Stories has interviewed quite a number of people in the wake of this decision. Some people think this is a legal technicality to prevent the church from being accused of alienation of affection from parents because of its strict condemnation of homosexuality. But the only explanation that rings true to me is that the ultra conservative churches have won the battles but are losing the war. They are now circling the wagons, getting less inclusive, forcing out all dissenters, doubling down on the mean and the judgmental and the fundamentalism because that is what distinguishes them as different and purer and better than anyone else. In fact, making themselves more exclusive in some ways polishes their prestige. If you can endure this demand for perfection, conformity and hard edged faith, no matter how ridiculous that faith might be to the rest of the world, then you know the church must be true. You’re the only ones who see it, you are persecuted by the state for these beliefs and you’ll go down fighting all the way.

Fine. Just do it somewhere remote.

Leave the rest of us alone.

The shooting at Planned Parenthood is just the latest outcome from the barrage of hate and dehumanization that emanates from the mouths of Rush Limbaugh and fundamentalist churches and patriarchs and the politicians they support. It’s also the result of wishy washy Tut-tutting from the likes of Barack Obama who can’t seem to bring himself to stand with Planned Parenthood because he’s the father of two females. I find that almost as disgusting as the overt foaming at the mouth fundie speech. The most powerful man in the world either feels no confidence challenging the money fueled consensus reality or he’s just another conservative guy pretending to be a progressive. Either way, he’s no champion of females, not even his own daughters.

And then there is the media that doesn’t want to piss off the religious contingent by telling it like it is: we have spawned our own religious fundamentalist extremists right here in America.

Those of us who don’t have a dog in this fight see very little difference between the Islamic State and the right wing patriarchs in Arkansas who pick their daughters’ husbands so they can churn out “Christian Soldiers” who pray that they will one day enforce biblical law on the rest of us.

It’s not benign. It imposes suffering on people every day from family members to people whose lives are nobody else’s business.

If this is the last charge at the end of the war, then I can not wait for it to be over. And I believe it will eventually end. But not before it has wrecked destruction on our families and ruined what should have been love, support and friendship for some of us for most of our lives.

If there is a heaven, they have a lot to answer for before they get in.

 

 

 

 

There’s a Bathroom on the Right

We’re on the eve of destruction according to Mormon author Julie Rowe. According to The Guardian:

Well, while we wait, let’s all sing-a-long to CCR’s prophetic words:

Book Review: Salvage (Or what Jill Duggar should have read before her wedding)

I was looking for a good cleaning/renovation distraction story when I saw Salvage by Alexandra Duncan in the Editor’s Picks section of Audible.  It sounded like an interesting sci-fi story about a girl from space stranded on earth.  In this case, it’s less Ursula LeGuin and more Young Adult but intriguing in it’s own way.  In fact, it brought back some old memories but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Salvage is the story of Parastrata Ava, a “so-girl” on a deep space merchant ship who commits an unpardonable sin.  A so-girl is something like an assistant manager but in this case, Ava can only manage other women.  That’s because the deep space merchant ships have been in operation for so long that each one of them has become its own little polygamous tribe.  Think of it like a cross between the Taliban and the FLDS church traveling the Silk Roads of the galaxy.  Every now and again, two merchant ships will dock at a space station above Earth for some genetic swapping, er, marriages.  This involves sending some young 16 year old girl as a bride to the other ship.  She has no idea who she is going to marry or whether she will be a first, second or fifth wife of her husband.  There’s no choice in the matter and she’s not supposed to ask questions.  Virginity is highly prized and, as you can imagine, sometimes these weddings go disastrously wrong.  Without giving too much of the plot away, this is what happens to Ava and she is forced to flee the space station or face an honor killing via the airlock.

In spite of the fact that Ava has never been on earth before and has no cardiovascular conditioning, she manages to survive her abrupt introduction to gravity.  Ava’s story starts to resemble many hero narratives complete with a wise guide character who teaches her some basics and then dies tragically, leaving her to figure the rest out for herself.  Ava has been raised in a fundamentalist religious society but it’s remarkable how quickly she manages to discard all of that indoctrination.  I think it’s the fact that she is forced to survive on her own that makes it so easy for her to see how useless the religious dogma is to her new circumstances.

One such revelation occurs when she tells a young earth friend one of the foundation myths of her ship.  It’s about a ship on a voyage that was trying to hide from a marauding ship in the vicinity.  One of the women was singing and the men on the ship told her to shut up or she would attract the attention of the pirates.  But the woman said that was nonsense and kept singing.  Sure enough, the pirate ship found them and havoc ensued.  And that’s why women on deep space vessels were forbidden from singing on penalty of death!  Ava believes this story like it’s Eve’s curse until her young friend points out that her science book says that sound doesn’t carry in space.  Then it dawns on Ava that the myth was just another clever way to blame women for everything and keep them in their place.

It also dawned on me that there are a lot of silly myths that women are supposed to swallow without question even today that are intended to keep them in their place.  The Genesis creation story is just one.  The biblical obsession with virginity is another.  Maybe 3000 years ago it was important for inheritance rights, because, after all, you could only be sure of who your mother was back then and even up until blood typing, you could never be 100% sure who your father was.  But in the 21st century, we have genetic testing to keep everyone honest.  The notions that a woman must guard her virginity or be considered worthless coupled with all of the societal baggage that goes with being a female just seems antiquated in the light of new technology and contraceptives.  It does make you wonder who it is that fundamentalism is trying to protect. It also makes me cringe when I see even women on the left who claim to be feminists consistently deferring to men, ignoring their own concerns.  The indoctrination is very, very deep.

Anyway, I immediately thought of Jill Duggar, Duggar family valedictorian, now Jill Dillard, when I read this book.  As many of you may know, she is the first of the Duggar girls to get married.  She and her hubby tied the knot on that non-Christian holiday, Midsummer’s Night Eve, and they saved their first kiss for the altar.  A lot of people think that’s correct and virginal and special but I think that saving such an intimate thing as a kiss for a spectacle in a church full of a 1000 people who all but “hubba-hubba!” and cat-call in the pews, is a bit on the obscene side and looks like a violation of their privacy. Rather than looking uber Christian and sacred, it reminds me of something pagan, barbaric and tribal.

Yeah, I think the so-called Christians out there should know what some of us see during these Quiverfull weddings.  We have a completely different interpretation of what we are witnessing and it’s vaguely horrifying, not spiritual.  What did we miss?  The parading of the blood stained sheets the next morning?  Was there a contract to return the bride to Jim-Bob if Jill’s hymen turned out to be too easily ruptured?  Why not actually watch to make sure the marriage is consummated like royals did thousands of years ago?  These people are way too involved in their children’s private lives.  A Duggar wedding, while preceded by a chaste courtship that’s supposed to be all about getting to know your future spouse’s character, turns out to be focused almost entirely on sex and not companionship.  It seems strange and the reverse of what most everyone we know does these days.  We know that when it comes to relationships, the thrill is gone all too quickly and it’s only when you decide there are other things to keep you together that you get married.  That’s the sacred that the Duggars seem to miss.  And it’s not like the Quiverfull movement doesn’t have it’s share of miserable marriages and those that end in divorce.  Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering is a testament to the failure of these unions and the destruction they wreck on the young people forced into them.

I remember when my Jehovah’s Witness friend H. got married at the tender age of 17.  She and her boyfriend B. abstained until their wedding night but we all knew that the reason they married so young was because they couldn’t be normal unmarried teenagers and do even a bit of snogging without getting disfellowshipped.  Two months later, she was sitting in my living room with her head in her mother’s lap, suffering from morning sickness.  She was a changed person in every way and no longer the happy, confident friend I knew.  It was shocking.  Her youth was spent in just a few weeks.

Parastrata Ava turns her back on all of that and focuses with laser like intensity on the future where she controls her own destiny and whether or not she even wants to have sex and with whom.  What I really regret was that Jill didn’t get a copy of this book smuggled to her before the wedding so that she knew there was something out there besides a life of never having a minute to herself and babies and men telling her to stop singing all the time (even if her hubby, Derick, does look like a reasonable guy who might even let her wear pants someday).

Recommended.  4 sponges.  There are some parts of the middle that drag a little bit and the ending, while satisfying, could have been more satisfying and ended all too soon.  Hoping for a sequel.  This character has earned one.

The Pledge

Some of this pledge hit a funny note with me.  Because my mother was a Jehovah’s Witness when I was a kid and JWs are in to making their kids instant targets of childish affection in the classroom, I was not allowed to say The Pledge when I was in school.  The first day of class, someone from the office would pass the note to my homeroom teacher that would instantly condemn me to a year long club of my very own.  I don’t know how my sister and brother handled it but since they seem to be better adjusted, I’m going to assume they ignored the note and said the pledge.  Well, as long as there weren’t other JWs in the same homeroom class to report on you (and that was kinda their job), you could probably get away with it.

I never said the pledge.  I just stood there.  My mother put me in a difficult situation, especially when we lived in South Carolina and I didn’t know that I was supposed to stop in my tracks during Reveille (yes, they actually played it) and then recite the pledge no matter where I was standing.  I got my little 8 year old ears chewed out by the Vice Principal who followed me down the hall one morning when I returned to my classroom after an errand to the office and didn’t stop.  I was a totally clueless transfer student from hippy dippy California.  His attitude did not improve once he saw the note from my mother.  I could see it in his eyes.  That dude was out to make my world a miserable place to live in.

Anyway, well into my teens, I didn’t say the pledge.  But I started to realize that the people around me were just going through the motions.  They had no idea what they were saying or weren’t really thinking about it.  When they said the pledge, this video is what I heard.

Which explains a lot of what goes on in politics and public discourse today.  People tend not to think things through.  They like the comfort of repeating what everyone around them is saying.

I guess I should thank the JWs for making me realize that but oddly enough, I absolutely despise every thing about them.

Monday: Women need religion like a kick in the head. Literally.

Yesterday, I wrote that the VastApostateArmy of former Jehovah’s Witnesses was starting to take direct action against the Watchtower Society. Now, some of you may be wondering why they are even bothering with a church that has rejected them or vice versa. Why not just “LEAVE THOSE WITNESSES ALOOOOOONNNNE!”. After all, they aren’t bothering anybody. It’s rude to protest at a Kingdom Hall where the good people of East Bumfuck are worshipping quietly and not making any trouble. At least they’re not out going door to door, right?

The problem with the witnesses is that there’s something very rotten at the core of their organization and the country’s movers and shakers might be taking lessons from high control groups like the JWs, but I’ll address that later. The one thing many people don’t know about JWs is that once you are baptized, if your family is also a part of the religion, anything you do that causes you to get the attention of the Watchtower Society could potentially separate you from your family for the rest of your lives. Many adolescents who were raised as witnesses are pressured to become baptized before they really understand what this means. Essentially, it means that you can never grow up because if you do, and start making your own decisions about how you want to live, what you can force yourself to believe and who you marry, your ties to your family can be severed by the elders at your Kingdom Hall if your decisions fall outside their very strict rules.

Now, why is this important? For women witnesses, submission to their husbands is the most important thing in marriage. And unless a spouse can be shown to have committed adultery, there is no divorce or remarriage. A divorce for any other cause than adultery is grounds for disfellowshipping. He says jump, you say how high. With that in mind, take a look at what is in the upcoming Watchtower on Feb. 12, 2012. It’s hard to believe this is the 21st century:

Note where the Watchtower’s Interests are.

Of course, this is a religion so who are we to judge, right?

Violence against women, not just for the Taliban anymore.

Update: Here’s a video from Vast Apostate Army member, Danmera, who was a domestic abuse survivor.  She went to the elders for help.  They told her to give her husband more sex.  I’ll let you guess how that turned out.

This video has more of the text of the February 12, 2012 Watchtower but it also contains some disturbing (but effective) images.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Witnesses

I’ve been spending the last couple of days looking back on my years of association with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  There are several sites where ex-JW’s try to get over their PTSD.  I wasn’t even baptized and only one of my parents was a JW.  Unfortunately for me, the other parent was at sea for most of my childhood so in many respects, I got the full JDub treatment including the no holidays routine and all of the crazy forbidden activities at school.  I did sing in chorus and was in a few plays but being brought up a JW even if you aren’t one, is a pretty austere existence with superstrict rules on just about every topic.  For example, did you know that JW teenagers are discouraged from getting a higher education?  Yep, don’t waste your time on college.  The world is going to end soon!

Those of you who are interested in this kind of thing, and there might be people out there who  are voyeurs for religious experiences that are not their own, might want to download Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk by Tony Dushane to see what the full JDub experience was like.  Religion and horny adolescence has never been so funny.  Dushane describes a culture that will sound so bizarre to most “worldly” people that you would swear it was a cult.  Um, it is.  The most hillarious part of his story involves eavesdropping on the distress call of a  married couple to his elder father.  The couple had “accidentally” done something in bed that was on the forbidden list.  Ok, maybe hillarious isn’t the word for this.  Maybe creepy comes a bit closer.  What adult couple confesses the most intimate aspects of their lives because they are afraid that Jehovah will blink them out of existence over one transgression?  And how much detail are you entitled to if you’re an elder?

Dushane’s style feels like an open chord.  His narrative is spare.  There’s not a lot of descriptive detail and the plot jumps ahead years without warning.  I would have liked to have learned a bit more about some of the characters but there’s enough there for the reader to fill in the backstory with his or her imagination.  It’s a good thing Dushane can look back on his life as a JW and not see it as a total loss.  I guess therapy helps.  Or maybe it’s that so many JW children don’t know any other life and what they’ve been told about the lives of worldly children makes everyone outside the Kingdom Hall seem depraved.  What comes as a shock for so many who eventually leave is that they can no longer turn their consciences off to the depravity of what goes on within it.

There is a much darker aspect of the religion that they don’t tell converts at first.  The reason why so many people stay in it long after they’ve seen the light is because you can lose your entire family if you step out of line.  JW’s practice extreme shunning and they are particularly hard on apostates and those members of their community that make the organization look bad.  Such is the case of Barbara Anderson, who is a hero to many JW’s who survived childhood in the cult.  She was once one of the highly esteemed JW’s who worked at Bethel, the name of the American headquarters of the Watchtower Bible and Tract society.  I didn’t realize this until last month but you can see their building from the Brooklyn Bridge, which means they saw the OWS batsignal because it was pointed right at them.  Oh, the symbolism is so thick you could cut it with a knife.  Betcha there was a lot of praying about Armageddon that night.

Anyway, Barbara and her husband joyfully submitted themselves to 10+ years of slave labor for WBTS in Brooklyn when their JW 19 year old son decided to dedicate his life to Bethel.  Barbara’s husband was a plumber and he helped Bethel with their many building projects, for $114/month stipend.  Did you know that the WBTS owns a hefty chunk of tax exempt property in Brooklyn in the same way that Trinity Church owns much of the land in lower Manhattan?  Yep, the JW’s are as rich as Croesus.  Barbara worked at several jobs.  She was good at administration and accounting.  Then she got assigned to the writing deparment where she wrote some of the Awake! magazine articles.  That sometimes required her to go back to the stacks to do research and while her untapped gifted and talented mind was rummaging through the old documents, she stumbled upon a wealth of evidence of documented physical and sexual abuse of children from various Kingdom Halls.  The JW’s had a Catholic priest problem.  She tried going through normal channels to get the governing body to take action on these cases but they just wanted to settle out of court and make the problem go away.  Eventually, she went back to regular JW life outside of Bethel and her husband became an elder.  But she started to hear from other JWs that the congregation she was in had some well known pedophiles.  After years of being a submissive women and getting nowhere with the patriarchy of the WBTS, she decided enough was enough and gave an interview to NBC news.

She was promptly disfellowshipped.  That meant that no one in her congregation or her family was allowed to associate with her, including her son, daughter in law and grandson.  They cut themselves off from her.  Her husband tried to defend her at a judicial committee hearing within the congregation, pointing out that she couldn’t let the abuse go on any longer and they disfellowshipped him too.

In the meantime, Barbara has gotten hold of court documents of cases between abuse victims and the members of the WBTS and has published them online.  Now, Barbara gets emails every day from abused former JW children from around the world.  I’ve heard a couple of interviews with her. (Once you get over her somewhat floopy voice, you find that she’s an excellent storyteller.  Her recall, detail and narrative skills are riveting.)  In fact, it sounds like she’s heard and read more than anyone should read in a lifetime.  The details are really heartbreaking.  Unfortunately, the WBTS is still covering up for pedophiles and hasn’t required their elders to promptly report such cases to the police in every state.  Surprisingly, there are states that don’t require clergy to do this.

One other thing I’ve found out from the Jehovah’s Witness Recovery site is that the JW’s are really good at creating atheists.  When kids finally do leave after a whole lifetime of regimentation and the terror that accompanies the feeling of not being good enough to survive Armageddon and constant fear of public reprimands for the tiniest infractions, the LAST thing that they seem to want to do is worship a god.  They’ve done enough worship for a lifetime, thank you very much.  Many of them describe feeling free once they let go of god.   As in emancipated.  As in slavery to the thought of having to work your way into a paradise where you would have to spend eternity without sex and surrounded by other Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The JW’s don’t believe in Hell but that right there has always sounded pretty Hellish to me.  I made up my mind when I was about seven that there was no frickin’ way were they ever going to dunk me.

They also seem to be a lot savvier about how cult manipulation works.  Check them out if you’re ever feeling bad about your Catholic upbringing.  After a few threads, you’ll realize how lucky you were.

And you’ll never respect any politician who says you need religion in your life.

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