The Antichrist pt2

Another example that the organisation use is that of Matthew 18: 15-17,  again this quote is taken from the witness print of the good book (The new world translation of the holy scriptures) and it states: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.”  This is clear counsel with regard to “helping those who have committed sins in the congregation, it all seems very sensible and would be considered by many the correct way to go about things.

If you look a little more closely, I believe that it somewhat contradicts the witness interpretation of the previous scriptures.  In the latter part it states “let him be as a man of the nations and as a tax collector”, the scripture in 1Corinthians 5:9-10 as previously discussed states: “9 In my letter I wrote YOU to quit mixing in company with fornicators, 10 not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, YOU would actually have to get out of the world.”  As far as I can gather from this it is then acceptable to have a degree contact with the sinners in the world, and then we are told by Jesus in Matthew 18 to let him be as a man of the world.  Yet again there is no mention of shunning them or even a distinction drawn between the two.  Somehow they have taken both of these scriptures and used them to justify the whole process of disfellowshipping.  The scripture at Matthew then states to treat them as tax collectors.  Anyone who has a basic understanding of the gospels will know that Jesus took meals with tax collectors, had the message have been to shun those types then surely Jesus would have had no contact with sinners at all.

So after a look at these three scriptures, albeit brief, I would be confident to say that it is fairly straight forward and obvious (to me anyway) that, nowhere does it have specific rules with regard to the treatment of those who have chosen by their own volition to leave that faith.  Neither does the bible advocate or specifically state that you should shun anyone who has taken that decision.  Yet despite all this and my mother being an intelligent person she chose to blindly follow the doctrines of the faith on this matter and lose out on potentially a lifetime of contact with her own flesh and blood!

Children reading Bible stories

Saul blinded by a light

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The Antichrist… pt1

As previously discussed, disfellowshipping is put in place by the organisation as a safeguard, designed to stop existing members of the congregation from being misled by wrongdoers who are still claiming to be members of the flock.  My mother made her decisions based on the principals that are set out in the Jehovah’s Witness publications, it took her and my father a long time to do so, but they made the choice based entirely on the interpretations of the Witnesses of these few scriptures.  I want to go a little further in depth about the reasoning behind this choice for two reasons; firstly, so that you as the reader can fully understand and ascertain just what the Bible and the faith say on the issue, allowing you the opportunity to make your own mind up.  I don’t feel that it’s my place to promote a judgement based on my feelings over the beliefs of others.  Secondly, this will hopefully help me get my head round this part of it.  As a result of this, I feel it is necessary  to split this up into a two part section, purely due to the fact that there is a lot of information and reasoning to cover in one blog.

The scriptures do offer advice on many occasions with regard to keeping the congregation “clean” in the eyes of God.  However as I have already claimed, it nowhere advocates such strictness in the matter, merely it gives sound advice with regard to dealing with problems in the flock.  It tells us that if there is a possibility of some kind of deception going on…Then to remove it from the congregation, to guard against it from leading others astray but, never does it say to completely cut off any form of relationship whatsoever.

Going back to the first scripture quoted from 2 John, This was a letter written to the first century Christian congregation.  Scholars agree that it was a warning against “the Antichrist”, effectively people who were deceiving the members of the congregation by suggesting that Jesus was not of the flesh, that perhaps the “Messiah” or Saviour was a state of mind, or even that he was still to come in some form.  Evidently this must have been something of a problem to the early followers of Christ.  At that time they were few in number and surrounded by Jews who refused to believe that the Saviour had come.  So this letter was a warning and an encouragement not to entertain these people, and as quoted previously “never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him”.  This is a very specific case and was referring only to those people who were advocating such ideas referred to as the Antichrist, it then fails to elaborate as to how this should affect Christians who were living or who had to work with such people etc.  I personally find it impossible to understand how this then translates into all the rules and regulations regarding the practice of disfellowshipping…

A wolf with a sheep's covering

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Biblical justifications?

The rules surrounding dissfellowshipment or shunning a former member of the faith are complicated, there are many of them and it is important to note many are not directly mentioned in the good book itself!  So I will try to keep this as brief as possible and endeavour to put it across in a manner that is easy to grasp…

The organisation use disfellowshipping as a form discipline for wrongdoers or people who have wantonly gone against the bibles teachings.

It was around 1952 that the organisation introduced disfellowshipping.  It then became practiced throughout the faith.  The following is a look at the Scriptural principles they base it on.  I believe it shows that there is no genuine Biblical justification for the extent to which the organisation practices this possibly unchristian form of manipulation.  There is Scriptural guidence to limit association with brothers practicing wrongdoing, however, the accepted application of disfellowshipping does deviate from Bible guidelines in a number of ways.

Once again this is wholly my opinion, and whilst it may be shared by many all I can do is put forward my feelings on the matter based on my own personal experience.  2 John 10 says:  “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” The organisation uses this  scripture  and a few others to support not saying hello or acknowledging a disfellowshipped person and the subsequent shunning of them. 1 Corinthians 5:13 talks about removing the wicked man from your midst, in fact from verse 9 onwards the whole thing seems quite confused and perhaps contradictory: “ 9 In my letter I wrote YOU to quit mixing in company with fornicators, 10 not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, YOU would actually have to get out of the world. 11 But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do YOU not judge those inside, 13 while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves.”

None of the above makes a huge amount of sense, in my mind it effectively says that you are able to mix with the world’s wrongdoers, however those in the congregation who break the rules are somehow deemed to be worse than those of the world.  It yet again fails to legislate for someone who stops believing by realising that the faith is in effect unbelievable to them and tries to just leave quietly.  It only has application to those who commit sins whilst remaining in the congregation.  In my case I had not committed any sins or wrong doing and was not planning to continue on in the congregation.  To me this passage also at the latter part surely advocates judging your fellow man, something the bible in other places states is wrong!

As I have previously stated, I had at this time stopped calling myself a brother and had effectively removed myself from their midst, so according to this scripture would it not be logical to put me in the category of those of the world, and treat me as the passage directs?

At no point does it give any advice or legislation regarding family members having to cut you off and terminate relationships.  Rather I feel that this was a safeguard put in place to protect members of the Christian congregation from the wrongdoers amongst them.  So just what is it that justifies the sunning of a member of the Christian congregation and more importantly what is it that justifies a mother making the heartbreaking decision to cut off her own child…?

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Bad associations spoil useful habits!

In order for me to have remained a witness and been able to have a relationship with my now Wife, under the rules of the organisation she would have to first become a witness also. The organisation has strong thoughts on this matter. They use the bible’s advice to justify their reasons in dissuading its members from having association with someone who is not of the faith!  They use scriptures such as: 1 Corinthians 15:33 which states that:  “Bad associations spoil useful habits…”  They believe that people of the world are bad associations and if they don’t hold the same beliefs they can lead you to ruin.  They then continue to reason that, if this is the case would it really be a good idea to get involved in a relationship with someone of the world?  The important thing to understand at this point is that the witnesses feel that although people may believe in “God” and have very similar values, they are followers of “false religion”!  They firmly believe that they worship the “one true God” and all other aspects of Christianity are set up by Satan to mislead the masses, so whilst people think they are following God, according to the witnesses, the antithesis of this in actual fact is the case.

So, after meeting my Wife the whole idea of remaining in the witness faith would have been out of the question as far as the organisation was concerned.  The only thing for it was to follow my heart and indeed my head and make the seemingly difficult decision to leave the faith…

This was ultimately quite an easy decision to make.  I soon realised that as discussed in previous blogs, the idea of there being nothing beyond the witness faith was simply not the case.  I ended up with a good group of friends outside of the religion and ultimately a loving wife.  The only thing that was going to be awkward was my parents disappointment in my decision.  As I have already explained they brought me up with the highest of hopes but evidently it was not to be!  My only hope was that they would respect my decision and also the reasons for making it. My parents are on the whole, respectful and level headed people they are pretty normal to acquaintances who know little of the religious side of them… So you would assume that they would be perhaps not thrilled about the whole thing, but in the long run would be accepting of my choices…  Yet again this was not entirely to be the case…

Soon after I had made my choice known both to my family and my then friends, the congregation elders decided to get involved.  They visited where I was living and began to make a huge issue out of what was going on.  From my point of view I felt this was wholly un-necessary.  They get very protective over the good name of the religion, this again is only fair, as no one wants their good name besmirched in any way.  They have a religious discipline in place in the form of disfellowshipping, this is designed to safeguard fellow believers and also to avoid any damage to their name.  However, in my instance I had told everyone who was involved just what my feelings were.  I was at that time no longer telling people that I was a member of the faith, so from my perspective I was in no position to do any damage by my actions or otherwise to the religion, plus the fact that I had no intentions of doing anything the religion stated was a sin.  Despite all of these factors they felt it would be appropriate to disfellowship me!  It is crucial at this point that you know a little about just what disfellowshipping means and the subsequent implications…

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Necessary reason!

Some form of catalyst would have had to enable me to realise that there was an alternative to just drifting along, something, or rather someone would need to give me that necessary reason to take that rather large leap of faith (if you pardon the expression).  That catalyst came in the form of my now wife…

I met my wife around the time that I had started to really question my life so far in the witness faith. We had been at college together some years before and had “friended” each other on Facebook. She had noticed that I was at that time playing in a local band The Trash5, and wanted to come to a gig, I happened to mention that we had just finished recording an E.P. And asked if she would like a copy, she agreed to pop round to where I was living and pick it up.  That evening we spent hours talking about this and that and catching up, we got on so well that we agreed to meet up for a coffee again soon. Neither of us was looking for a relationship at that point but as is so often the case people find love when they aren’t looking for it.

We spent more and more time together and found that we have a lot in common and both thought about many things in the same way.  After a good while of seeing each other I came to the realisation that I had to make a choice!  This was nothing to do with my wife being against my religion, the contrary was the case.  She would have been more than happy for me to have stayed with the religion at the time, as she is religious herself and was brought up in a deeply religious household.

Her parents brought her up the way they felt was best.  Her mother is a Methodist and her father is a Catholic, although I now am not religious in any way I can see that a religious upbringing as far as mainstream Christianity is concerned is a good thing. I cannot comment on any other upbringings as I have no experiences regarding this. However, if you look at how my wife and her siblings are as people then her parents did a great job and a religious background cannot be harmful.  The harm comes into play if any of it is forced or there are “scary” consequences attached to leaving a faith. Her parents always gave them freedom of choice and have never tried to suppress any study of alternative thinking.  They have never told her or her siblings that to read a book by Richard Dawkins or someone who promotes publications not in keeping with biblical teachings would be akin to taking a meal with Satan himself as in my experience! Rather, they have been fair and respectful and taught their children to be the same, so as you can gather from this that she and her family would have been more than happy for me to remain a witness.  So what was the driving force behind the need to make this decision?

A man and woman moving in together

A married couple washing dishes together

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Honesty

Being brought up in the faith I was taught from an early age that honesty was a very important value and trait to have, here is what the witness website says on the matter: “The righteous is walking in his integrity,” states Proverbs 20:7. An honest person is a person of integrity. He never cheats or deceives his fellow man. Is that not how you wish others to treat you? Honesty is basic to true worship. It is an expression of our love for God and neighbour. By being honest, we show our desire to follow the principle of conduct expressed by Jesus: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:1222:36-39.

At this point we are given a clear understanding of the religions view of honesty and integrity. This was what I was taught as a youngster.  I had no idea however that I would fall foul of this rule in the future.  The website continues:  “To be honest at all times may have its price, but the clean conscience that results is worth far more than anything it may cost. In the long run, being honest and upright pays the richest of dividends. The truth is that a good relationship with Jehovah is priceless. Why damage it by resorting to something dishonest in order to save face or gain some illegal advantage? Whatever challenge we may face, we can have confidence in the words of the psalmist: “Happy is the able-bodied man that has put Jehovah as his trust and that has not turned his face to defiant people, nor to those falling away to lies.”—Psalm 40:4.

So at this point I had made up my mind, I was living a lie! By allowing people who I respected think that I was a believer in the faith surely I was deceiving them?  So I decided to exercise my “integrity” and no longer cheat and deceive my fellow man! I decided to just tell them that I no longer believed it!  According to the above quote “in the long run, being honest and upright pays the richest of dividends”.  This, it soon became apparent was not the case.

What pushed me into such a decision, as it would be at this stage the easiest thing to just carry on as always. Being the type of person I am, or at least was, to just drift along wouldn’t have been the worst thing, plus when you factor in the “fear of the unknown” into the equation, it would have most definitely not have been the worst thing to do at that point!

A woman purchasing an item

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Punishment!

So, coming back to my point of the witnesses having a subtle form of control over their followers…  They do this by means of the concept that, if you turn away from God after having already learned of him and understanding his requirements of us, then you will ultimately not make it through Armageddon and into the new system of things on a paradise earth, where they tell you all your family and friends will be waiting for you.

This is the first point at which the fear begins to set in.  If you make a mistake and are unrepentant then the consequences would be dire!  Also if you decide to leave the faith after you have been baptised then you face the situation I am presently in, where none of the people you grew up around will acknowledge you.  When you have grown up in the faith and your entire world revolved around it, to the point that you have no actual life or friends outside of it, then it would appear to be a daunting prospect! Effectively there is nothing for you outside the organisation of the witnesses. This makes you frightened of leaving as you stand to lose so much!

The parallels between this and the Middle Ages way of thinking to me are startling, they are just a little more subtle in the delivery, where the church in the past may have tried to gain from the fear in a financial way or to gain domination over others, the witnesses use the fear of forsaking everything to stop people from leaving, it is almost as if they do not respect the reasoning for making your choice.

So this was why it took me such a long time to get around to actually leaving the religion, I had the fear!  By leaving I stood to lose everything, my friends my family and effectively my life to this point.

There is no provision for someone who makes the well-educated informed decision that the various beliefs and doctrines of the faith don’t ring true with them.  If you believe the religion and do something that breaks the rules then maybe you arguably do deserve some form of punishment. However if you are honest and tell them the truth; that you do not want to follow the religion due to lack of evidence or a problem with how they interpreted the bible, they ostracise you anyway!

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