Tags: Book Review, Non-Fiction
When you go grocery shopping and you are in, let’s say, the laundry products aisle, do you scan all the products looking for the best price with the most volume or do you go to a specific product whether it is on sale or not? Most of us would probably say that we go to the specific product. That product is what our mothers used and that is what we use and, more than likely, that is what our children will use. That is the power of branding. Despite the fact that there may be better and cheaper products out there we will gravitate towards that one product regardless.
Tim Sinclair asks us why we can tell others about the products we use in an exciting manner but when it comes to Jesus we are boring? The answer: Marketing. We, as Christians, are intimidated by the “evangelism” so we get shy and embarrassed and our whole presentation loses enthusiasm. Tim Sinclair in a very conversational manner works us through the situation as it is and then gives us solid ground on what we really should be doing. “Branded” shows us that the way Paul did it when he entered a Gentile city is the way we should be doing it now. We need to show who Jesus is by what we do and say. This is a great book and should be read more than once. “Branded” will confront your thinking, might even make you uncomfortable but that is only for a while until you realize that you were challenged. This book will help change your thinking, your attitude and how you deal with others. I highly recommend it.
About the Author: Tim Sinclair is a radio personality on Mornings with Tim and Pam, one of the top Christian morning shows in the country. For over a decade, he has been helping radio stations and various other businesses creatively and effectively market themselves. His award-winning productions have been heard on more than 2,000 radio stations worldwide and recent clients include McDonald’s, Word Records, Moody Press, and the country’s most-listened to Christian non-profit radio station, KSBJ/Houston.
If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to www.kingdomhighlights.org where they are available On Demand.
To listen to 24 hours non-stop Christian music please visit our internet radio station http://www.kingdomairwaves.org
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Tags: Book Review, Non-Fiction
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Hannibal Books (May 20, 2011)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***
Formerly a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Joe B. Hewitt has dedicated himself to exposing the Watchtower’s false teachings and to helping Jehovah’s Witnesses ascend from mental bondage into Christian liberty. He has served as a pastor, evangelist, and missionary, and has received a bachelor of divinity and a master of arts in biblical studies. His first book, I Was Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, sold 45,000 copies in the English edition and was also translated and published in Chinese.
Visit the author’s website.
Learn how to rescue Jehovah’s Witnesses from their slavery! Though its members represent one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, the Jehovah’s Witnesses remain one of the most enigmatic and puzzling groups to many people today. Few people never have been visited by a “Witness”, but what exactly do these determined people actually believe? What makes them so different from other Christian denominations?
In this spellbinding look at the Watchtower Society, Joe B. Hewitt, formerly a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness who was indoctrinated by his mother and grandfather with Watchtower teachings, pulls back the curtain of mystery and exposes lies, the mind control, and the glaring contradictions of biblical truth behind the organization that has sent those smiling faces to your front door. His book contains heartbreaking stories of former adherents, including himself, who were betrayed by the JW’s. Joe says instead of evangelizing others, the Witnesses themselves need to be rescued from the cult-like organization. The book describes how people who know the real truth of Christ’s love can rescue the Watchtower’s slaves from intellectual and emotional bondage.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (May 20, 2011)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Rescue Is Possible
JW’s Drop Out because of Physical and Mental Exhaustion
As one trained from childhood by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I can show you how people fall under the complete control of the Watchtower and also how they can be rescued from the hold the Watchtower has on them.
As one of the early disciples of Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society before the turn of the 20th century, my maternal grandfather trained my mother in Watchtower doctrines. In turn my mother trained me.
In countries in which Jehovah’s Witnesses are active, almost every family suffers because one or more members are under control of the Watchtower Society. These individuals seem almost to be locked up in a prison—not a prison of stone but one of mind control even more oppressive than that of a dungeon.
According to Watchtower statistics almost seven million Jehovah’s Witnesses exist worldwide; each year the organization adds a quarter-of-a-million or more new members. Yet the net growth is nowhere near that much. So what happens to hundreds of thousands of active Jehovah’s Witnesses who each year slip through the statistical cracks?
People escape from the Watchtower by the thousands. During one decade alone—1975-1985—nearly one million JW’s dropped out or were tossed out.
JW’s Drop Out because of Physical and Mental Exhaustion
Becoming a Jehovah’s Witness takes about six months of study. The newly baptized JW eagerly attends five meetings a week and spends at least 10 hours a month knocking on doors and witnessing to people. But that soon grows old; exhaustion replaces enthusiasm. Most of the JW’s emotional and physical energy is devoted to the theocratic ministry. The person has little time or strength left for family or work. The individual just can’t keep up the pace, so he or she drops out.
Like being out on parole the exhausted ones escape physically from the Watchtower, but emotionally they are the walking wounded. Part of their training sensitizes them to guilt. JW elders try to manipulate them back into the fold by pushing the guilt-buttons of the exhausted ones. The exhausted one feels as though she is an utter failure. She believes she has failed Jehovah God. Instead she has failed the Watchtower, Jehovah’s Earthly Organization. The guilt is overwhelming.
Then to make matters worse, the exhausted person is bombarded with telephone calls from and visits by JW friends to get her to return. These drive her deeper and deeper into depression. Of any religious group Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest incidence of mental illness and suicide among their membership.
Out of service for the Watchtower, the exhausted one’s mind still is captive; he or she still is convinced the Watchtower doctrines are true and that the Watchtower Society is Jehovah God’s earthly authority. She feels she herself is the evil one—the failure. While an active JW she never measured up. She always failed, according to the impossible standards set by the Watchtower. So she damns herself an admitted, utter failure who is doomed to die in the sudden destruction of Armageddon which she believes will occur any day.
The exhausted one lives a miserable existence. She may try to get back into good standing at the Kingdom Hall, the meeting place of JW’s. She can stand before the congregation and repent, confess her failures, and beg for reinstatement. She then may be put on probation and be allowed to sit on the back row. Nobody talks to her. After about a year she asks for reinstatement and goes before the board of elders. If she’s accepted back, she usually finds that she is marked and treated with suspicion. She lives with guilt and futility. Or she learns to lie to herself and convinces herself she really does measure up and joins the ranks of the self-righteous.
However, once a person has dropped out, most fail a second time and then a third. Finally the person gives up and adopts the attitude: If I’m doomed to die in Armageddon anyway, I might as well do as I please and leave God out of my life altogether. Emotionally and spiritually he still is locked up in the stone-cold Watchtower.
If on the other hand the JW is male and has not dropped out, he has the opportunity to progress through the ranks of publisher (a baptized JW in good standing), a servant, (equivalent to deacon), and perhaps even elder (member of the congregation’s governing board).
JW’s Are Kicked Out
The Watchtower Society would have you believe that all those kicked out are disfellowshiped for immorality. Not so. Many have been kicked out for smoking. Back when hippies distinguished themselves with wire-rimmed glasses and beards, JW’s were disfellowshiped for wearing those glasses, which the Watchtower considered worldly attire. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Watchtower, wore a long beard, but that apparently made no difference. JW’s still have been disfellowshiped for wearing beards.
JW’s also are kicked out for participating in independent Bible study, for questioning Watchtower dogma, for associating with a former JW whom they are supposed to shun, and for many other reasons ordinary people would find trivial or grossly unfair.
JW’s Leave in Disgust over Immoral JW Leaders
Some Jehovah’s Witnesses leave the organization when they see hypocrisy and double standards among members of the leadership. The most serious example is sexual molestation of children followed by organized cover-up. This blatant hypocrisy has pierced the hard shell of many JW’s and has caused them to leave the organization in disgust.
As with other religious organizations, child molesters flock to the JW’s, in which they can work themselves into positions of trust and have access to children. A familiar pattern has emerged. For years a priest sexually abuses children Somebody blows the whistle; more victims present themselves. The offending priest finally goes to jail. If he doesn’t go to jail, at least he is hauled off to a monastery in which he no longer has contact with children.
A pedophile becomes trained as a children’s worker or youth director in a church. He sexually abuses children. A child tells on him. The parent reports to the police; the pedophile goes to jail. After he gets out of prison, he is labeled and tracked as a sexual predator.
The JW’s, however, deal with sexual-abuse problems differently. They will disfellowship a person who disagrees with Watchtower dogma, who smokes, who wears skirts too short, or who engages in the catch-all transgression—worldly activity. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses protect child molesters in a cocoon of impossible rules and in an attitude that often punishes the victim.
If a child reports to an elder that she has been sexually molested, the elder will confront the accused. If he denies it, the elder tells the family that two witnesses must exist; otherwise, nothing can be done. The family members then insist that something be done about the child molester. They are told to wait on Jehovah. If they refuse to keep the matter quiet, the elders accuse the family of causing dissension in the congregation. If the family members persist, they are kicked out of the congregation, branded as troublemakers, and shunned. The child molester continues his dirty deeds but is careful to do nothing in front of two witnesses.
Another typical scenario is one in which a person of influence in the congregation is guilty of sexually abusing a child. Typically the child’s parents report the crime to the elders. The elders call the accused in to a judicial hearing. If no witnesses to the offense are produced, the elders refuse to believe such a charge against him and hush it up. Because of their power, influence, and role, the elders can do what they want. They may believe the influential offender is being persecuted; they may turn on the complaining parent. Usually the parents will continue to ask justice from the elders. As far as the elders are concerned, the case is closed, because no witnesses exist. If the parents persist, the elders have the authority to order the parents onto the carpet for a judicial hearing and accuse them of causing dissension among the brethren. This punishment of the victim often causes the parents to quietly leave the congregation. If they go and later unite with another congregation of JW’s, their file containing a record of judicial hearings and accusations goes there also.
An Australian JW congregation disfellowshiped Jan Groenveld because she blew the whistle on pedophiles and wouldn’t hush it up. She insisted that the elders do something about an abuser in the congregation. They refused. She went to the press. The JW elders declared her dead; she was shunned. The child abuser remained under the elders’ protection.
Because of so many cases of sexual molestation of children, including those by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Internet websites are devoted to telling the heartbreaking stories of victims and their families. Two of these websites are http://www.silentlambs.org and http://www.lambsroar.org.
The Love and Norris law firm of Fort Worth, TX, specializes in cases involving Jehovah’s Witnesses and sexual molestation of children. The firm says, “If you are a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a perpetrator in a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, we may be able to help you. Consistently, the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations have responded to an abuse outcry with concern for the organization’s loss of reputation or prestige, rather than concern for victimized children.
“Statistically, a known pedophile WILL abuse again. By failing to acknowledge the problem, investigate vigorously, and cooperate with criminal law enforcement authorities, the Watchtower Society has failed to protect its own children from sexual predators. By harboring pedophiles, the Society potentially becomes responsible for the damage suffered by abused children.” Google on the Internet lists 65,200 sources under “Sex Abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
A July 12, 2002, BBC report included a story about Bill Bowen, a JW elder in Kentucky for nearly 20 years. He said the Watchtower keeps a secret list of 23,720 sex offenders in the organization. The organization is well-aware of the problem but doesn’t want the public to know about it, according to Bowen. The Society reasons that by covering it up, only one person is hurt; by letting out the information, the image of the entire organization is hurt. The JW’s will take action against the sex offender only if two witnesses are produced or if the offender confesses. Even if a member of the congregation is convicted of child abuse, they keep it secret, Bowen told the BBC interviewer.
Bowen said when a sexual-abuse report is turned in, elders are instructed to call the Watchtower Society’s legal department. He said on one occasion he phoned the legal desk and asked how he should deal with a suspected case of abuse in his congregation. The Society’s representative told Bowen to ask the suspect again if the accusation was true. If the accused said, “No,” then
Bowen was to “walk away from it. Leave it for Jehovah. He’ll bring it out.”
The BBC report also contained the story of Alison Cousins, a young JW from Scotland. She reported to the elders that her father had sexually abused her. She later learned that he had abused her sister as well. The elders listened but did nothing. They sent her back home. For three years her father continued the abuse. Finally in desperation Alison went to the police. Her father was tried and convicted. The police had been the last to know about the abuse. It had been well-known in the Kingdom Hall but kept secret.
JW’s Escape Only to Plunge into Spiritual Limbo
I was one of those who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and went into spiritual limbo. Starting at age 10 I began my long journey. I stood on street corners in Wichita, KS, with the canvas strap of a book bag over my shoulder. I held up a copy of The Watchtower magazine and called out to passersby, “The Watchtower, Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.”
Most people just ignored me. Others would look askance at the little kid and his canvas bag of magazines. A few were hateful and rude. “If you don’t like this country, why don’t you leave?” Others pointed a finger and shouted, “Nazi” or “Jap”. In my mind I would repeat what I had been taught. They persecute us just like they persecuted Jesus. It shows that we are doing Jehovah’s will, I told myself over and over, but the unkind words still hurt.
I trained in the Theocratic Ministry in the Kingdom Hall on the second floor of an old Wichita downtown business building. At age 11 I made my first public talk to an audience of 200. I faithfully went from door to door and distributed the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s magazines and books.
The Society helped enable kids like me to go door-to-door. Usually I went with an adult, but often, to get my 10 hours in, I would go alone. My equipment was a book bag with Watchtower and Awake magazines, a few booklets, and the newest hardbound book, a windup phonograph, and a yellow laminated testimony card. The testimony card introduced me as an ordained minister of the gospel and asked whether the person would listen to a three-minute phonograph message from Judge Joseph
Before I went out in the field service, I visited the Territory Servant’s window at the Kingdom Hall and checked out a territory card. One side showed a map of the area, usually two or three square blocks; the other side had addresses and blanks on which to record attitudes of the residents. If one was interested enough to listen and perhaps to accept a piece of literature, that person received the highest rating—“Good Will”. If a person reacted rudely or tried to rebut the Watchtower teachings, we were instructed to write “Goat”. That person, we believed, would be separated on Judgment Day from the righteous “Sheep” and would be consigned to destruction.
Some doors slammed in my face. A few rude people shouted at me, “Get off my property.”
Some cursed me. One man turned water sprinklers on me. But all that made me feel justified. I was persecuted as Jesus had been. To be kind many people accepted the literature. People typically said, “I’m a Catholic. I’m not interested.” Or, “I’m a Baptist” or “Methodist” or “Presbyterian” or just plain “I’m not interested.” I had been taught that all those church folks worshiped Satan because they didn’t pray to Jehovah. If they prayed to “God”, Jehovah would not accept their prayers, because Satan, too, was a god, so Jehovah would send their prayers to Satan. I did what I was told. I did not realize I was on my way to a spiritual limbo.
Obvious Double Standard Encourages JW’s to Defect
I went to the five meetings a week required of publishers. I prayed daily to Jehovah. I tried to think moral thoughts and to behave as expected. Of course I failed and felt continuous guilt. Yet I saw other JW kids my age who didn’t measure up as well as I did who apparently weren’t bothered by guilt. Some, especially children of the elders and other leaders in the congregation, were downright mean and could get away with anything. The double standard existed among the children, too.
My Uncle Al Gordon rose to be one of the most prominent leaders in the Kingdom Hall. He claimed membership in The Elect, the 144,000 who held exclusive tickets to heaven. Ordinary
JW’s looked up to him with awe. To me Uncle Al was as mean as a snake. He expressed kindness to my mother, his youngest sister, but I never saw him show kindness to anyone else. He was rude to his wife and daughter and heaped verbal abuse on his step-granddaughter. He kept the 16-year-old step-granddaughter so cowed, she moved in nervous jerks. She was afraid to speak or move.
I saw the double standard among influential JW’s and in Uncle Al’s hypocrisy. Those contradictions bothered me but not enough to make me doubt the Watchtower Society, Jehovah’s earthly organization.
I have talked to many ex-JW’s who told me the same story. They saw double standards and hypocrisy that started weakening the cold stone of the Watchtower. Without consciously realizing it, this realization enabled them to begin their escape. Some escape the Watchtower and go immediately into Christian liberty. Others, as I did, go out into spiritual nothingness.
After Reading the Bible in Context JW’s Begin Their Escape
A violent beating led to my reading the Bible in context without Watchtower aids.
Kids in my school knew that I refused to salute the flag. When people asked why, I had a canned response. “We respect the flag and what it stands for, but the Bible tells us we should not bow down to any graven image.” That meant the flag was an image; to salute it would be the same as to bow down to an idol and worship it, according to the Watchtower Society, our official interpreter of what things meant.
One sunny afternoon when I was 15, a group of six boys surrounded me in the gravel driveway of the neighborhood convenience store, at which we hung out and drank sodas. On a stick one boy held a dirty little U.S. flag. “You’re going to salute this flag,” he said as he held the flag in my face.
They all shouted at me, “Salute this flag.” My little canned speech made no difference. They continued to shout and started shoving. I was surrounded by flailing fists and kicks. I would have let them kill me before I would salute the flag; for a while I thought they might. They beat me down to the ground. I’ll never forget the taste of blood and gravel in my mouth as they kicked me. I never knew what caused them to quit kicking and leave. Too groggy to get up I lay there awhile. Beaten and bloody I slowly rose. I hurt all over.
As I limped the half-mile home, my heart hurt more than my beaten body did. Again I questioned God. I knew the boys had done wrong. No justification existed for their rage. But still I had a dilemma. I loved my country; I loved God. Why couldn’t I be loyal to both? My faith needed to be strengthened.
At home I went to my Bible. At that time JW’s used the King James translation. I looked up the Scripture I had quoted, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (John 18:36).
Then I read the whole verse in context. It didn’t say at all what the Watchtower claimed. Jesus explained why His disciples didn’t fight His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, “. . . if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews . . ..”
Suddenly, the possibility that I had been lied to hit me harder than did the boys’ kicks in the head.
The realization that the Society had lied to me began my escape from the Watchtower.
In an attempt to strengthen my faith as a Jehovah’s Witness I had gone to the Bible. I didn’t consult anyone. I did it on my own. If I had asked my mother or stepfather or one of the congregation leaders, they would have given me Watchtower literature and books and would have assured me that this literature contained answers to my dilemma.
Physically and emotionally I was hurting. For a change I didn’t use the Watchtower sieve as a filter for what the Bible said. I just believed what the Bible plainly said.
For sure I had been lied to. The Watchtower had misquoted Jesus, taken His words out of context, and applied them to something entirely different. The Watchtower told its young men to refuse military service. If they already were in military service, the Society instructed them to refuse to salute officers and obey orders.
I looked in the Bible to see what Jesus said about soldiers. Jesus had contact with soldiers but never told them to desert. He never told them to refuse to salute their officers. Jesus never told anyone to refuse military service.
I decided to see what some of the disciples said about military service. In the concordance in the back of the Bible I looked up John the Baptist.
John the Baptist likewise never encouraged soldiers to rebel against their superior officers, shed their uniforms, and refuse to serve. Rather John told the soldiers to be honest in the discharge of their duties and to be content with their wages.
The apostle Paul likened Christians to soldiers. He spoke favorably of their dedication to duty. Paul never told Christians to refuse military service. He did not tell soldiers to quit obeying orders and to go to prison; rather Paul told Christians to obey civil authority.
If I had announced to the Witnesses my discovery and told them that I believed a Christian was permitted to serve in the Armed Forces, even if I accepted all the other Watchtower doctrines, I would have been disfellowshiped and consigned to death in Armageddon. On no point of doctrine can a Witness disagree with the Society.
I studied further the apostle Peter’s attitude toward military service. He went to Caesarea to see Cornelius, a centurion and officer in charge of 100 men in the Roman Imperial Regiment. The Bible calls Cornelius devout and said he was a man who feared God, gave generously to those in need, and prayed. Peter preached to Cornelius, some of his soldiers, and his household. They became Christians and were baptized.
If Peter had been a JW elder, he would have told them all to quit the army and go to prison or worse. Peter did no such thing. Rather, according to history, Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire largely because so many soldiers believed in Christ and shared their faith as they were transferred to other posts.
Then I decided to examine the rule against saluting the flag. I looked more closely at Exodus 20:3-5, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”
I could not see how it could apply to the flag. If it applied to a flag, it also would apply to a photograph, a painting, or a map.
The Witnesses thought photographs, paintings, and maps were OK. But they taught that to salute the flag was to bow down to an image. I could love my mother without worshiping her. I could have a picture of my mother without worshiping it. I could love my country without worshiping it. I could salute the flag, which stood for America, without worshiping the flag.
But I didn’t salute the flag. I kept these new convictions a secret. I still went to the Kingdom Hall. I gradually quit the Witness Work. That was obvious because my weekly reports turned in at the Kingdom Hall showed no time spent in field service.
I continued to read the Bible with an open mind. I read in the New Testament that people who heard the gospel and became converted were joyful. This wasn’t the same picture I saw in the Witnesses. New Believers in the New Testament time seemed as though they were people who were released from bondage. New Jehovah’s Witnesses seemed as though they were those who went into bondage.
After the Watchtower Society lied to me and other JW’s, we repeated those lies.
Many different things cause JW’s to begin to read the Bible in context. For me a beating spurred me on. For Helen Ortega suspicion and mistreatment by fellow JW’s influenced her to start with Bible-reading.
I met Helen Ortega at one of the Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jesus conventions in New Ringgold, PA. A lifelong Jehovah’s Witness, Helen had a good reputation as an active publisher in the Kingdom Hall and was highly regarded as theocratic (an active, moral, and obedient JW). In private, however, Helen started something forbidden. She read the Bible on her own without the Watchtower’s guidance. She became increasingly interested in what the Bible had to say. The idea of heaven fascinated her.
Even the Watchtower’s Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), for the believer contains promises of eternal life in heaven. The JW guide, however, will explain that heaven is only for The Elect, the Little Flock, the 144,000. Still, Helen couldn’t get heaven out of her mind. After months of private Bible study and prayer Helen found only one answer for her deep feeling about heaven. She must be one of The Elect.
At Passover time when Kingdom Halls around the world celebrate The Lord’s Evening Meal, Helen attended but not as usual. At this most important meeting of the year JW’s try to get all their members there; they even invite visitors—those they consider to be people of good will studying with JW’s. As usual the elders passed the bread and wine. As usual no one partook. The bread and wine were only for The Elect. In the vast majority of Kingdom Halls none of The Elect show up. But that evening Helen took the bread and wine. Gasps arose from the congregation. What is Helen doing? If she is of The Elect, someone must have fallen. Afterward members and elders surrounded Helen and fired questions at her. She explained her convictions about heaven and that she now believed she would go there. After that event her lifelong friends began to regard her with suspicion. Some avoided her. The elders confronted her. They demanded to know: Is she really of The Elect? She explained how she had understood the Scriptures about heaven, which revealed to them that she had been reading the Bible on her own. They ordered her to quit reading the Bible on her own. Rather than obey them she read the Bible more and more. Eventually she decided the doctrine that only 144,000 could go to heaven was not scriptural. When she told the elders about her conclusion, they disfellowshiped her, branded her as an apostate, and shunned her. Even her family turned against her.
She continued to read the Bible. She realized that salvation is by grace alone; she trusted in Jesus Christ and claimed His promise of a home in heaven. After months of emotional conflict with her family members who remained loyal JW’s, they eventually saw her Christian joy and sense of liberation from the Watchtower; they, too, trusted in Christ.
Helen Ortega was willing to accept, believe, and live by all the Watchtower dictates except one. The elders chose to reject her.
In 1983 Paul Blizard, a third-generation JW, phoned me from Brady, TX, He had read my book, I Was Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and recently left the Watchtower. Paul had become a Christian. He told me the heartbreaking story of his betrayal by the Witnesses.
At insistence of the elders, who believed Armageddon would arrive in 1975, Paul dropped out of high school to devote full time to the witness work. A bright young man, he rose quickly in the local congregation. Then he was promoted to the prestigious position of a Bethelite—honored to work without pay in the printing plant at Watchtower Headquarters in Brooklyn.
After several years in Bethel he left and married a JW and former missionary. Paul and Pat had two boys and longed for a girl. Finally in 1980 Pat gave birth to their daughter, Jenny. The baby had a blood disorder and became so anemic, doctors said she had to have a blood transfusion.
The Blizards refused to allow the transfusion. They sadly surrendered their beloved child to die. However, the medical team notified authorities, who took legal guardianship of Jenny. Because JW’s, to prevent a blood transfusion, routinely took children away from hospitals, a judge issued a restraining order that would not allow the Blizards to take the child away.
Paul and Pat secretly felt great relief that their baby would be saved. Their consciences were clear. They had done everything they could to obey the Watchtower dictates, but now the situation was out of their hands. JW elders didn’t agree.
In the hospital the elders approached the Blizards and presented a plan to slip into the hospital and kidnap Jenny. Paul and Pat refused to disobey the court order; they knew to do so would doom their daughter to death. Paul explained that if he pulled the plugs on devices that kept his daughter alive and if he removed her from treatment, he might be charged with homicide. The elders told him he would have to take the chance. At any cost he had to prevent the child from taking blood.
Fed up with their callous disregard for his daughter’s life, Paul ordered the elders to leave. As they left, one elder called back, “I hope she gets hepatitis from the blood.”
Paul Blizard was willing to accept, believe, and live by all the Watchtower rules with only one exception—the prohibition of a blood transfusion. He objected to that only in special circumstances. Too bad. The elders still regarded him as an outcast.
Years earlier Paul and Pat had obtained a New American Standard Bible, which they studied in secret lest a JW report them to the elders. Paul knew well about the network of informers in the Kingdom Hall. He had been one himself; he thought part of his theocratic duty was to root out weak and straying members.
Paul’s own father had turned him in. The elders convened a judicial hearing and found Paul guilty. With the threat of excommunication looming over his head Paul repented of his unauthorized
Bible study and confessed.
The JW’s make a big deal out of confessing and use it not only to purge an individual’s conscience but also as a subtle weapon to implicate other people by mentioning their complicity in the repentant person’s wrongdoing.
After Paul’s trial and confession, he promised to obey all the Watchtower rules. The elders stripped him of all duties at the Kingdom Hall. Now Paul had a record. His file, with all that damning information, would follow him to any Kingdom Hall wherever he went.
After the hospital showdown, Paul and Pat remembered their secret Bible studies and the humiliation that followed. They had disobeyed the Watchtower and were personas non grata anyway, so they went back to studying the forbidden Bible. Paul also remembered another forbidden book, Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave by William J. Schnell. Possession of that book or my book, I Was Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, means immediate expulsion from Jehovah’s Witnesses. Years earlier Paul secretly had read Schnell’s book and discarded it as apostate propaganda. (Jehovah’s Witnesses consider as an apostate any ex-JW who speaks against the Watchtower.) After the traumatic experience with
Jenny and the elders in the hospital, Paul’s mind searched back for pieces of the puzzle. He remembered what Schnell in his book had said. Paul, too, had been a Watchtower slave. The pieces fit. The truths he had read in the New American Standard Version (NASV) of the Bible returned to him. They fit as well.
In the Bible Paul and Pat learned that Jesus is The Truth and trusted in His grace. When the elders learned about Paul and Pat’s decision to trust in Jesus Christ, they disfellowshiped them; Paul and Pat then were shunned by old friends and family. But they rejoiced in their newfound Christian liberty.
When I flew in for the first Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jesus convention in New Ringgold, PA, Alex DeMayo of Runnemede, NJ, picked me up at the Philadelphia airport. On the ride we got acquainted and traded accounts of how we got out of the Watchtower.
For 18 years Alex was a faithful Witness. Several people reported to the elders that his daughter’s skirts were too short. Elders forced him to stand “on the carpet” before them and be reprimanded. The humiliation hurt his pride, but he continued on as an obedient JW. Later, after he had forgotten that incident, for no particular reason he bought his wife a dozen roses. He just wanted to express his love for her. He didn’t realize Mother’s Day was just a few days away. Someone informed the elders that Alex celebrated Mother’s Day. Elders summoned him to another judicial hearing. The elders accused him of worldliness because they said he had celebrated a pagan holiday. The callous cruelty of the elders made Alex, for the first time, realize that just maybe the Watchtower could be wrong in some instances. He began to think for himself and with an open mind began to read the Bible in context.
Now believing that the Watchtower possibly could be wrong, he accepted an invitation to attend a Christian church and hear Bill Cetnar speak on the errors of the Watchtower. Just to set foot in a church was a major move, because the Society taught that to do so would mean he immediately would be demon-possessed.
Bill Cetnar had been a high official in the Watchtower organization and had escaped. He knew the innerworkings of the Society and the duplicity, hypocrisy, and manipulation of volunteer labor that went on at Bethel (the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn). Bill Cetnar talked about Jesus, Who claimed to be ego aime—the I AM. That prompted Alex to delve more deeply into independent Bible study. Soon he escaped from the Watchtower’s domination and accepted Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.
“For 18 years I knocked on doors and witnessed to people. During that time I failed to bring one person into the Jehovah’s Witnesses, no matter how hard I tried,” Alex told the people gathered for the convention. In the two years since his conversion to real Christianity, he had helped several people, including his wife and daughter, trust Christ as savior.
People do escape from the Watchtower. The way of escape is like a big funnel. The big end is a crisis of belief brought on by unjust actions or lies by the Watchtower or congregational leaders. These accumulate in the big end of the funnel and are concentrated toward the little end. There the Word of God corrects the theological errors and provides a way of escape.