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To Everything There Is A Season

How many of us received invitations to return to a Kingdom Hall to attend the one religious sacrament that our JW family members and friends are allowed to recognize? More precisely, how many of you were contacted by JW family members who have ignored or actively rejected you, perhaps for years, with the cheery invitation, “We miss you; hope you will attend the Memorial!” as if we’ve moved to a distant country instead of simply changing our belief system?


I’ve had two decades of intermittent, predictable emails from my father, but somehow, for me, the spring of 2024 communique hit differently.  


My Oldest Baby:


Please accept the enclosed invitation to attend the Memorial of Jesus' Death this year at your location:

Additionally, I think you will find our latest update interesting:

You're dearly loved; you're in our constant prayers and still considered very much a part of our family. We look forward to your return.

Dad

 

Ah, gaslighting, let me count the ways:


1.     The “update,” the Governing Body’s “kind” decision only actually permits Witness members to say hello to shamefaced excommunicated POMOs who slink into Kingdom Halls to show their repentance. This new direction is neither kind nor enlightened. (On a scale of 1-10 do you find the kinder, gentler JW rebranding to be more or less absurd than the “new light” that permits adult men to grow beards or that allows adult women to wear pants to meetings?)

2.     Firstly, the “new light” on speaking to ousted JWs (not conversing with them to understand their perspective; just relaying the slightest greeting) just so happens to coincide with the legal cases that the organization just lost in Norway. In Norway, JWs have lost the right to perform marriages and, more importantly, they have lost the right to claim a tax subsidy, in large part, because of the practice of shunning that splinters families. Suddenly, shunning is costing the organization money. It's time to oust Tony Morris and rebrand.

3.     The worst gaslighting is having family members who should love us unconditionally fail to comprehend that choosing to reach out to us only after the self-appointed 9 (many of whom are suddenly bearded) tell them it’s o.k. is weird and hurtful. It is similarly hurtful when those same relatives then condition their future relationship with us upon our returning to a belief system that we left because we found it to be abusive, or restrictive, or simply patently absurd. You can have a mom or dad or sibling again, but only if you subscribe to our belief system. How ineptly manipulative and insulting.

4.     Then, there is the difficulty of trying to explain to the people who are now our people, but who have never had this experience, why our family acts this way; why they have chosen dogma over normal familial relationships. This very nuanced toxicity is difficult to unravel.

If I am completely honest, the actual reason that these Memorial communiques are disturbing is that they rip scabs off of painful wounds that we have worked diligently to heal.


For me, it hurts that my dad is now 78, and I must accept that I might never have an authentic conversation with him. He has no desire and/or ability to appreciate how hard that I have had to work to ameliorate the impact that an upbringing in a high control misogynistic, white-centered, controlling, fundamentalist religion had on my identity formation. He cannot be a grandparent to my beautiful, free-thinking, independent children because he does not understand boundaries, especially boundaries established by a woman, namely, that neither he nor mom will get to proselytize to them with the intent of sucking them into the abusive vortex that I fought so hard to escape.


To anyone who is struggling to build an authentic, healthy life as a former fundie, I recognize and empathize with your struggle.


If you have created a life that allows you to reach your full potential, you are a warrior!


And even if no one else has told you this year, you deserve to be treated better than our indoctrinated relatives treat us on the rare occasions that we hear from them. Prioritize self-care. You are under no obligation to allow yourself to be re-traumatized simply because cult leaders implemented a policy change to win an appeal and get tax subsidies.


May your springtime be a time for healing; for new beginnings and regrowth.

 


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