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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Mallory

How One Religion is Trying to Wiggle Their Way Out of a Tough Spot

Updated: Apr 2

The day I made it one year alcohol-free, my sister in law texted me for the first time in over twenty years. She sent me a link to a zoom meeting commemorating Jesus' death, said she thinks of me often, loves me lots.

Well, that's weird. Nice, but weird. I shrugged it off and went about my day, maybe I'd text back a pleasantry, maybe not. I hadn't decided. That same evening, her husband, my brother, called. I hesitated to answer because usually conversations with him leave me feeling...low, less-than. I answered.

Apparently, the upper echelon of the Jehovah's Witnesses—the Governing Body (GB), the Fine Nine—rolled out some big changes. Well, big for them. It doesn't change anything for me. Actually it makes me even more averse to Witness culture. So, I guess something changed.

Socializing With Beards and Rompers

In short, men can now wear beards minus ties and jackets as long as they look well-groomed. Women can now wear pants under the same condition (I see tons of rompers being bought by JW women). But the main reason my brother called was to tell me that now, because the Fine Nine say so, he can say hello to me if I show up at the Kingdom Hall; my family can call/text to invite me to meetings, I can study the bible with someone before getting reinstated if I choose (yeah, no). Their disfellowshipping rules now state someone won't be booted after their first offense like in times past, minors who've “committed wrongdoing” can now have judicial meetings with their parents present, and they won't be callously excommunicated. An attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of current members? I think so.

Still, I have to wonder: it took the GB decades to tweak their level of cruelty? To realize that children, minors under eighteen, shouldn't be tried as adults and kicked out of their homes for rebelling, necking, smoking, or listening to Led Zeppelin backwards? When kids “engage in wrongdoing” (and that's subjective), they need love and guidance, not to be thrown out with the trash like I was. And why are minors allowed to pledge their devotion to an organization anyway? Would you allow your twelve-year-old to get married and move out? No? This is no different; who you are at twelve ain't who you are at thirty-two. Thirty-two has seen things twelve didn't know existed. Therefore, baptizing minors is pure tomfoolery.

Blinded by the light…(you know the song)

When I asked, “What prompted this change?” my brother's reply was, “Well, you know, the light just keeps getting brighter and Jehovah is showing his mercy.” Mercy? You call that mercy? I call it...I'll tell you what I call it...

Norway, I Love You

I call it: we're-losing-members-left-and-right-and-Norway-is being-mean-to-us. Norway recently refused to award the JW organization funds as they had in the past because the county governor stated their disfellowshipping practices encourage “negative social control”, is systematic and intentional (I went into great detail in my books—Train Gone and Mirrors Strike Back—about the negative impact it had on me and I used those exact words in both books), and violates children's rights (I know this firsthand). She further stated that unless the JWs rectify the offenses leading to these refusals, they'll lose funding. Is the timing of JW doctrinal changes and Norway's spanking a coincidence? NOPE.

I envision the Fine Nine scurrying feverishly—pushing papers around a conference table dotted with half-empty scotch bottles—to deconstruct their decades-long stance, tamping the fire out. After all, their livelihood is being threatened. The JW elder/spokesperson on this case stated “JWs only disfellowship unrepentant members and don’t force their congregation to stop associating with former members, whether they’ve been disfellowshipped or have left voluntarily; elders don't police the personal lives of congregants, or exercise control over the faith of individuals.” Um, whut? BULLSHIT; yeah they do. Still. And the GB routinely change their stance on things whenever they're backed into a legal corner. (Except when it comes to child abuse, they don’t budge on that one—meaning, those reports are dismissed. Google “JW secret database”).

The JW's attorney stated there's no evidence of harm, the state has no right to interpret biblical texts or infringe on their religious freedoms. Hold up. First off, Norway isn't the United States; they have laws on what religious entities can and can't do. So, they do have a right—since god knows how long ago. Second, Norway isn't saying Witnesses can't continue to exercise personal beliefs, freedoms, and do what feels right to their own personal consciences. You want to stop talking to your daughter because she abhors religious tyranny and emotional blackmailing? “Go ahead,” Norway says, “eat your heart out.” What Norway will not allow is the funding of such activity as it violates their Religious Communities Act.

Oh! And Japan is also peeking behind the curtain. As a result of Norway, Japan, and other countries dissecting JWs’ very sandy beliefs (as there's no solid foundation), J-Dubs will embrace their persecution rhetoric even more. “See? Governments are coming after us now! We said they'd come after the one true religion! We're right!” Babe, you're just feeding a self-fulfilling prophecy. You put yourself in this position intentionally and you're only whining now because Mommy took away your allowance. Again, Norway, Japan, and other countries are only saying they won't pay to support your wacky-ass “loving and merciful” guidance anymore because they're cruel, inhumane, asinine, and not biblically supported.

An Apology? Anyone?

Envision little me, sitting in a royal blue, cushioned Kingdom Hall chair, legs dangling while I tallied how many times I heard “Jehovah” and “Satan” during a talk to show I was paying attention. Little did I know—although I felt something was amiss even as a toddler—I was being groomed to fear so much. And the fast breath, fast heart, and panic-stricken thoughts swirling in my young mind day and night would become the very fiber of who I am now.

I know this because when I listened to the eighteen minute update on the JW website—where the brother giving the update coincidentally wore a tie the same colors as the Norwegian flag—I cringed the whole time. It wasn't merely disgust. It was the awakening of my fight or flight response. I didn't realize it at first and simply ignored the heart palpitations and quickening breath. I figured it was because I was simultaneously walking my dogs. But after I sat and processed all the “new light” during the week, I realized that my whole life (I am not exaggerating—I quite literally mean my whole life) I've been in a race I didn't mean to enter, where I'm running to catch up to myself only I keep petering out. The fast breaths, the racing heart are all recurring trauma. And trauma that I seek to reenact unwittingly whenever I workout, jog, or have too much caffeine. Why? Because it's the Devil I know. People don't recreate situations, or drama, to re-traumatize themselves on purpose; they do it because it's what they're familiar with. And often they don't even know they're doing it or why. But I do.

Jeffrey Winder, new GB member, not apologizing.

The thing I waited for, what I wanted to hear more than anything during this video update, was “Sorry.” Sorry for mistreating those who have been out for years. Sorry for weaponizing your family against you. Sorry for not relaxing some of our stricter guidelines decades ago. Sorry that some have ended their lives as a result of our fictitious man-made standards. Sorry for our ridiculous "two witness" rule, resulting in all the Child Sexual Assault (CSA) cases we swept under the rug. Sorry to all those who died refusing blood. Sorry for lying to you. Just...sorry. But there was no apology. Nor will there be. These men refuse all accountability, as you can see.

To my family, and I say this with love, I’m not “coming back.” Ever. My path is one of cosmic wonder, weaving in between supernovas and ultraterrestrial beings I've yet to meet. I am at more peace with myself out than I ever was in. It's just who I am, who I’ve always been. For every “come back” you toss my way, I will raise you a “get out.” I love you. I really, really do.

*And as a head-nod to all this “new light”, both Train Gone and Mirrors Strike Back are on sale! (I went as low as Amazon allowed).*

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