How do you tell your story? The story of who you are and how you came to be where you are.
Often, we Former Fundies simply choose Not to tell our story. The process of recognizing indoctrination, facing cognitive dissonance and committing to the task that is faith deconstruction are not topics especially suited for banter at barbecues or office functions.
Also, people tend to look at you with incredulity and/or pity when you explain that you’ve lost years/decades of your life adhering to nonsensical rules so that you could lead sinners to Christ, or in my case, so that I could live forever after God’s Armageddon genocide and pet the heads of docile lions.
But what happens when you want to live authentically? When you want to be understood? It is difficult to explain who you are in the present without first explaining who you have been.
Let’s be honest. If you’ve spent decades subscribing to the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses and especially for those of us who were reared in the religion, there are tells. Just as a skilled poker player can spot another player’s sweaty brow or trembling fingers, a former Witness can often suss out another former Witness.
Often, it’s the language that lends itself to an Inigo Montoya moment. All of those loaded, special Witness terms that once made you feel unique but yet connected.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Elders, sister, brother, truth, pioneer, service. Kingdom hall instead of church. Faithful and discreet slave.
Or, your utter cluelessness will give you away. Acquaintances will mention a pop culture reference that literally everyone your age would recognize. A dance. Movie quote. Song lyrics. But you can only stare blankly unable to explain that your clutch pick up line between district convention sessions as a teen was, “Brother, care to share a cheese danish?
My tell is the gap in my resume. The inexplicable decade and change between high school graduation and the time when I finally completed college in my thirties. I usually address the chronological gap with cultivated vagueness. Often, acquaintances will fill in imaginary details that I do not refute. Perhaps my education was interrupted by a teen pregnancy that never happened, or a serious accident or illness.
When I interviewed for law school admission, the professor reviewing my resume asked me point blank. “But, what were you doing during that time?”
Door to door proselytizing tenets that I wasn’t sure that I believed in did not seem like the response most likely to help me to get accepted into a law school charter class.
For other recovering fundies, I would really like to know, how do you tell your story?