Saturday, February 12, 2011

Confessions of an ex-XJW

This is a message to all my brothers and sisters in the “XJW” community. I regret to inform you that, effectively immediately, I am no longer an “XJW.”

Last night I was “ruminating,” as I sometimes do, and it occurred to me that I cannot in good conscience continue to be an “XJW.” In reality, I haven’t been one for quite some time; given the fact that I’ve been a Christian for ten years longer than I was a Jehovah’s witness. I’ve been a preacher for more than 35 years, ordained for more than 33, and a Bishop for more than four years. Being an “XJW” doesn’t define me, any more – has not defined me for many years.

The fact is I’ve been out for so long that I no longer have a clue about what’s happening inside the Watchtower Society. Their doctrines have so long ago stopped making sense that I cannot even imagine anymore why anyone would ever follow them.
I don’t have any loved ones still inside the Watchtower Society; except my younger brother – whom I haven’t spoken to for more than 35 years, and a couple of cousins – whom I’ve also not spoken to since my mother’s funeral, in 1988.

I don’t harbor any ill feelings for the current leadership of the Watchtower Society. Most of the guys who were in charge when I left, in 1974 are dead now, as far as I know; and the fact is I didn’t harbor any ill will against them either – just pity.

I guess in the final analysis I just don’t care about that, anymore. I look at the shenanigans of the current batch of “XJWs” engage in, and find it rather silly: why go to their “Memorial?” If you have family members inside it’s an embarrassment for them, and I doubt that anyone has been convinced to leave because of your actions.
I do admire the work that whistleblowers like Bill Bowen have been doing, don’t get me wrong; but let’s face it Jehovah’s witnesses aren’t the only ones who have problems with pedophiles. In the end pedophiles are pedophiles, and they must be exposed regardless to their religious ties.

My biggest regret is that I haven’t given XJW-Central the chance to live up to its potential. We were one of the “pioneer” groups to come onto cyberspace, in its early years – and have been around before some of the frontline groups were even conceived.
In a time when Wiccans, and Baha’i, and atheists and other detractors were dominating the “XJW movement,” XJW-Central was the one place where Christians could come, without fear of being run off. But I lost the passion for the web site over five years ago, and didn’t have the time or resources to keep up with some of the “new kids on the block.”

And then last night, as I was “ruminating,” I read a blog entry by Gus Astacio – one of the Moderators of XJW-Central. He posted a flyer, under the heading, Best Tract for JW's ive ever seen!!!! Of the groups listed at the bottom of this flyer, XJW-Central doesn’t even get an honorable mention.

I hope we’ve done some good, these 13 years; and I hope someone will step up as Senior Moderator, to keep the list going – and perhaps lead it to its full potential. For me, I intend to slip into the background, as a sort of “emeritus.” I’ll still be around, and still contribute to the conversation from time to time; but it’s time to turn my attention to the Church – and to maximizing the exposure to the outside world of the events that are troubling the Body of Christ, here in China.

Keep the Faith

Help, Help! I'm homeless!!!

Growing up, we weren't permitted to ask anyone for anything. (well ... I wasn't. At the time this edict was first declared my sister was just a little lamb, not even in kindergarten) In my step-father's eyes, to ask for so much as a glass of water, at one of his friends houses, constituted begging.

I never had much respect or regard for my step-father; but two things about growing up in his house stuck with me for life: (1) he taught me a LOT about good barbecue, and (2) I have an almost paranoid obsession about not asking anyone for help. This may I admit have had a lot to do with my son and I having to resort to living for three months in a homeless shelter -- not to mention many other inconveniences I've experienced due to not being able to ask anyone for help.

At the same time, over a lifetime I've come to think maybe Albert D. Sample had a point. Every time I've broken the curse and asked for help, people have disappointed me: from people in the church, to friends, to family.

A few weeks ago I came to the realization that I could not escape reaching out, once again. After four years, the university here suddenly decided to do away with most of the foreign teachers, and replace them with Chinese. The short notice ruled out finding another post to replace that one, and repatriating is not an option at the moment, for a number of reasons.

But I'm a preacher! And I have a word from the Lord -- not to mention a story to tell about the mission field, here in China. It took me almost a month to get up the nerves, but I finally reached out to four of my good friends in ministry, to ask them to help me organize a crusade, in the States. No answer from any of the four.

I'm guessing each guy figured the other guy would take up the charge. Three weeks later, and neither of them has sent so much as a sympathy card.

Now my reason for writing this post is not to cast aspersions on these brothers -- or anyone else, for that matter. It just got me to thinking about where we are today, in the body of Christ. My friends are good brothers, who have for the large part joined the fraternity of preachers preaching messages loaded with words like, "deliverance," and "wealth," and "enlargement," and "destiny." But they are preaching to an audience in denial. They are preaching to a church full of people who are standing individually and collectively on the brink of financial meltdown.
They are preaching to folk, many of whom have to rob the proverbial Peter to pay the proverbial Paul. I know these people -- you know them too. They're the ones running to the front with their rent money in their hands EVERY TIME sosmebody calls a prosperity line. They're the ones with the litanyof politically-correct words condemning the very poverty that surrounds them like a blanket. There but for the grace of God go tomorrow's homeless.

Which makes me wonder: isn't it time that we preachers got back to preaching the Gospel. Isn't it time we took the mantle of responsibility for the poor in our community off the shouldres of the government, and placed it on the shoulders of the church, where it belongs? Shouldn't someone facing a financial crisis be able to take comfort in the fact that the church is there, because as long as the church is there the means is there for all of my needs to be met?

James said:
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup - where does that get you? - James 2:14-16, The Message

Now, there's an indictment. James message was an indictment against the spirit of self-centeredness. I believe today the church is plagued by this spirit, most bitterly. That's the reason, I think, that the message of the Gospel has been replaced with messages promising riches, and fortune, and even fame and success. Not that those aren't good things -- nor that our Father doesn't wish them for us -- just that that is not what we were commanded to preach.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to my brother by email; and I told him, "Be encouraged. This thing ... this episode ... God has already written the epilogue, and is busy with the next chapter. It only remains for us to se where He is going to take us." As many preachers as I know, I only reached out to these four because I didn't feel comfortable sharing my apprehension with anyone else. Their silence tells me God has another solution in store.

I ask you to sand with me in prayer, while He works it out.

Keep the Faith