The Jehovah’s Witness Who Knew Too Much
Joel Gunz

I really enjoyed your story. I too am an ex-JW and writer. Went through a lot of the same things. For me, the realization I would die was a bit of a relief, an acceptance that I was no better or worse off than billions of people. At least we don’t carry the baggage from fear of a nasty after-life ( though wouldn’t that be an ironic surprise?).

I even served at Brooklyn Bethel for five years, but over the years there were a number of things that put me off. I married a harridan who spent her time figuring out ways to make me miserable. I separated from her over domestic violence, but was marginalized to an extreme degree for not “saving” my family. I too was a rationalist (Paul’s appeal to logic and reason were big reasons I stayed) and had an over-arching unifying theory to how it all worked. I was really excited when the Isaiah book stated that the passage about lions and lambs was just meant to signify that the Israelites would be safe and not that all the animals would live in peace and thus we all have pet tigers. You don’t have to examine the natural world very far to realize that will never happen. I was disheartened a few years later when they went back on that.

For me a big breaking point was when my father and grandmother died. My father was schizophrenic and killed himself. He didn’t take the easy way out- to him it was the only way out of the extreme pain he was in. I believe he thought it was his only choice. But there were still some who disapproved of his funeral being held at a KH. I swear there’s a bunch of Witnesses who secretly hold onto a belief in hell.

My grandmother’s death really disheartened me. She was 93, and died an agonizing death of cancer. She was otherwise very healthy, alert, active and engaged. She shared in the ministry up until the last couple months of her life.

She had seen a lot in her time and had always been faithful. Like so many she expected to walk out of this system and into the next. She died.

You can only cry wolf for so long. When older elders I considered to be faithful confided in me that they fully expected to die and that the “last days” would go on for some time, I realized something was wrong. They still refer in glowing terms to the talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” as if that lie were some sort of gilded age. 1975 continues to be a huge embarrassment. Everyone makes mistakes, but at what point are you just another false prophet, reading the runes, engaged in your own mystical interpretation, Indiana Jones seeking treasure in lost temples? What makes them right, and everyone else wrong?

After fifteen years of marital and spiritual limbo, I had developed a considerable drinking problem. When my midlife crisis kicked in I kicked it up a notch and was disfellowshipped. I’m dry at the moment and grateful for that. If I’m going to die, there’s no sense in checking out early.

Like yourself and several of the commentators, I’m still learning slowly how to navigate a normal life. I still don’t know how to be normal socially. I have no idea how to be engaged in civic life. I’m a writer with a fly fishing blog that has been somewhat popular in that world, but have no idea how to expand that into a career (writing, photography and publishing are in chaos right now anyway). I graduated high school at the top of my class, but didn’t go to college because the end was nigh. A member of the school board even offered to pay for my college, but of course I just smiled and said no.

Thanks for sharing. It’s good to know others have had the same struggles and epiphanies.

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