I have received a very kind invitation from JJ to contribute to this wonderful website, and it occurred to me that I would be remiss if I were to neglect making some kind of introduction. I then realised that introductions are considerably difficult, if not impossible, when done so anonymously. Like many who frequent this website, and like JJ himself, I am a free-thinking “inactive” publisher. I live in fear of being unmasked as somebody who disagrees with a significant percentage of the teachings of the organization I grew up in and once loved.
Having grown up in the faith, a significant portion of my family are also Witnesses, and I know that if my true feelings were unveiled, I would be deprived of any meaningful interaction with them for the rest of my life. That is a truly awful thought, and almost inconceivable given that I am a grown man living in a 21st Century western society – and yet such is the grip of the Society’s teachings. For this reason, as much as I would love to give my name, and talk in detail about my family and upbringing etc, I must temper my enthusiasm to do so. I know full well that anything that would identify me could potentially be used against me by the kind of people who think that any who disagree with the Governing Body or its teachings are “mentally diseased”.
Here is what I can say:
I am in my thirties. I have a wonderful and extremely patient wife, who I will continually refer to as “Mrs Cedars”. Her doubts about the Society aren’t quite as advanced as mine yet, but we agree on a great many issues. I have no children, although I am increasingly open to the idea of having them some day soon. I come from England. As previously mentioned, I was raised as a Witness. You might call me a “third generation” since my grandparents on one side were Witnesses. I have briefly served as an elder, and I have regular pioneered for almost a decade in total.
My personal struggle began in my late teens when I started to look into bible prophecy. I had a friend, who was quite a bit older than me, and I can still recall sharing some of my doubts with him during the time we shared together on the ministry. At the time, rather than seeing flawed prophetic interpretation as being evidence of a clear lack of ‘spirit direction’ on the part of the Governing Body, I took it upon myself (in my juvenile over-exuberance) to immediately seek to find alternative explanations of prophecy, some of which were just as implausible as those that had caused my doubts in the first place.
My ministry partner didn’t know quite how to react to all of this. He was fairly new in ‘the Truth’, so he often gave me the benefit of the doubt. He took me very seriously to begin with, and at one point he asked me to contemplate whether I was a member of the ‘anointed’, which I could never bring myself to do. As our conversations continued, I noticed him become gradually more defensive of the Society’s literature. Finally, we stopped discussing my doubts altogether, and I’m sure it was no coincidence that shortly thereafter I was approached by our COBE (or Presiding Overseer) regarding my wild theories. Our Presiding Overseer, a very kind man, listened to my doubts patiently, and showed me a great deal of sympathy. Once I had finished he asked me this: “Tell me though [Cedars], do you still believe in 1914?” “Of course I do!” I answered. “Well that’s all that matters!” was his reply, and the discussion ended.
After everything that has transpired since then, and my fairly recent revelations that there is a whole lot more wrong with the Society than simply its prophetic interpretations, I still think back to that conversation with some bewilderment. In many ways it seemed to typify the approach that has been taken by the Society over many decades, which is to start with the presupposition that Christ began his kingly rule in 1914, and that he subsequently chose the Watchtower Society as his faithful slave class in 1918. Every prophecy is then moulded, or “shoe-horned” (as I like to call it) around that doctrinal starting point, however flawed the original doctrinal understanding may prove to be with the passing of time.
In order to cement their authority and maintain a ‘sense of urgency’, the Society needs to have something that bridges the near-2000 year gap between the passing of the Apostles and current events – however unfeasible or doctrinaly shakey their reasoning may be. They are not the first to have done this, and they most certainly will not be the last. What disturbs me is the way in which the need to extend the longevity of the Society and the legacy of Russell and Rutherford is placed first and foremost above everything else, including the sacred need to keep families together (1 Tim 5:8).
The ironic thing is, if Russell and Rutherford were somehow miraculously resurrected today and refused to lay aside their original beliefs – they would be disfellowshipped as “mentally diseased” apostates quicker than you could say ‘Great Pyramids of Giza’! That is how much the Society’s doctrines have changed since these men were alive. I find this thought utterly disturbing, especially considering that these figures, both of whom had questionable characters, are elevated to near godlike status whenever the Society’s history is discussed in the publications or digital media. Nobody stops and thinks that they were not Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least not by today’s standards.
So where does that leave me? Like my hypothetical ‘resurrectees’ from the previous paragraph, I do not have the luxury of being able to consult my own conscience, arrive at an alternative opinion, make this opinion known to others openly, and still call myself one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The chief requirement for salvation has long been, not simply belief in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but unwavering loyalty to the Governing Body – however much their teachings and doctrines may fluctuate. For this reason, I must hide under the pseudonym of ‘Cedars’, and do my very best not to have my identity discovered. What I cannot bring myself to do, no matter how hard I try, is simply lie down and allow this to happen to me without at least trying to do something about it. That is why I will do all I can to help others in my situation, including those who feel lost and don’t know what to think about the Society anymore. My intention in doing this is not to draw off followers after myself. I neither seek nor desire followers of any kind. My desire is simply to help those who are trapped in this struggle, and try to accelerate the coming of the day when this completely unwarranted ideological oppression no longer affects me or my family. That will truly be a day when I can declare that I have found my spiritual paradise, a day when it is okay to believe differently, and there will be no painful repercussions for doing so.
Until that day comes, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me here on jwstruggle.com! Hopefully we can all help one another out, and struggle on together.