The Dilemma of One Young Witness
Growing Up in the Faith
 

Hey everyone,   I'm a male in my mid twenties, born and raised a Dub (JW) with an elder father and on again off again pioneering mom.  Both are career professionals too.  My family has been JW since my grandparents, giving me a strong "spiritual heritage" in the org.  Growing up I never had any reason to doubt the faith.  It had done my folks well, as well as many others I knew or I was oblivious to their problems.  I had a comfy lifestyle, prominent father in the cong., and I must admit that the TMS and reading all those publications as a kid helped me easily excel throughout my early schooling: I read and spoke much better than any of the kids at my school.  Then again, it was a pretty ghetto school district.

    I was still a very shy kid.  I had no fear in field service as a kid because my faith was so strong, of course nothing would go wrong because JEHOVAH was on MY side.  Still, I was timid in other settings.  I got stomach aches before school each day and before meetings, and was nauseated when put in difficult situations.  Situations like telling your classmates, "No, I can't hang out with you because your not my religion," or defending why I can't celebrate so-and-so's birthday, let alone my own, or any holidays for that matter.  "Well, you see, we can hang out if you come with me to MY church or MY 'holiday', the KH or Memorial."  

    But still no reason to doubt the faith... until I was molested by an older boy in the congregation.  He was the son of my dad's friend, and every time I was dropped off there I knew what to expect.  I couldn't say anything to my parents, what would they think of the trouble I caused?  I thought, "My father will blame me, whip me!"  "I'll ruin the parents' relationship!"  I'll smear the older brother's name!"  My disposition changed, I grew angry, confused, betrayed by G-D.  After all the good I had done, his spirit left me, as a young child, with it seemed no one and nothing to turn to, except him.  So, I never spoke of it after 2-3 years of the ordeal (ended when I was about 7) until I was 16.  At that point, it was a non-issue with my parents, just as long as I wasn't gay.  I bitterly submerged myself more and more into the JW lifestyle for refuge.

    As a kid after that incident, I became more removed from other children, a nerd in school that stayed in the books (which paid off) and at the meetings (I had no choice but it was my only social outlet).  I never felt worthy, no matter how much I prayed or repented or "tried" out in field service. 

    But still, I excelled in school and in the ministry.  Lots in the congregation asked if I wanted to go to Bethel, and I said I might.  My parents encouraged me to pursue it, but also wanted me to go get some education after high school to be able to take care of myself at least, if I didn't get in or got kicked out for some reason.  I think this was in the mid nineties, when the society was supposedly getting more lenient about college.  But still, to put "first things first" and encourage my spiritual needs first, the family and I took a sacred pilgrimage to Bethel, OH JOY!!!

   So my family and I went on a two week tour of the northeastern part of the U.S.  We did Jersey, NYC, Long Island, Connecticut, and of course a stop at the Bethel site in each place (Brooklyn, Walkill, and Patterson).  I got to meet some prominent people within the Society, something that was rare I was told later on.  I saw what the Bethelites did hands on, day in and day out.  I was in "Paradise on Earth"!  But something just didn't sit right with me.  I think this was a turning point in my spirituality in the congregation.  At this point I realized Bethel wasn't for me.  Granted I appreciated the brothers' (and very few sisters') sacrifices at Bethel, but the lifestyle was far from glamorous.  In fact, it was lame.  That, and it was a lifestyle from a faith that I was starting to doubt perfection in day by day.  I observed how the brothers hastily had to eat their food at lunch, 10 minutes then back out into the fields and unhealthy printing rooms.  They had no free time, shared living space with up to six strangers, had no privacy, and were freaked out about going into the city.

    I came back home a bit disenchanted with Bethel.  So then I thought, "Well if you're not going to Bethel, what are you going to do with the truth?"  I wasn't even baptized at this point so I started rebelling.  I guess I thought I was pretty hardcore as a middle schooler, like lots of 8th graders do.  I started hanging out with some pretty awful kids in the congregation and we started terrorizing the neighborhood.  [We were] JWs by meeting and forced field service, bad-asses by night and weekend.  My grades fell.  I started getting worldly girls' phone numbers and tried to get them to have phone sex with me... yeah I was a perv.  Yet my fellow 'brothers and sisters' didn't grow out of it, and by the time I was 16 most were either on the D-ship, on drugs, got someone pregnant or were pregnant. 

I figured that even if I decided to be worldly, I didn't need to throw my life away.  I started studying more in school and in the K.H. meetings.  I learned a lot about the religion, as well as facts about a lot of other religions, too.  I thought my faith grew stronger.  I decided I would go to college when I graduated H.S. with the blessing of my parents, and with mixed reviews from the K.H.

    A little about the K.H: When I first moved there it was thriving with young Ministerial Servants and pioneers, most between ages 13 and 22.  Shocking to see that many young people in a K.H.  Almost all of them were in homeschooling when I entered high school, and by the time I finished only two were pioneering and all the guys were either inactive, D-shipped or severely stunted in social skills.  Their parents thought that taking them out of the world would bring them closer to the organization and thrive,  but unfortunately the opposite happened in all of their cases.

    Needless to say, the friends were surprised I made it through H.S. at the top of my class, and got BAPTIZED???  I decided to get baptized my senior year of H.S., in an attempt to please my parents and longtime friends, and under a false hope that this would "save me" from the dangers of my college years to come.  I cried so much on my baptism day.  I couldn't believe that I was doing this, but still had remote faith in Jehovah that I was doing the best thing possible.  The most religious I have ever been was that year of my baptism.  Yet I was seldom happy afterwards.  I was discouraged in service and started to not see the point of forcing my beliefs on others.  The more I studied the Bible aids, the more pointless everything became.  Now that I was no longer "a babe needing milk", I started digging into deeper truths-lies and becoming more confused.

    Confused about what the relevance was of the 144,000, and why women could go to heaven and rule but had no place in the organization other than as wives and pioneers?  Why did the Society change its mind on so many issues, just to change its mind again (like college and organ transplants)?  Is the light too bright for us to ever get?  Why did God hate Sodom and Gomorrah so much?  They seemed like cool party cities to me, kinda like New Orleans or San Fran.  Are the preaching work and disfellowshipping as they are done in the cong. effective or even right?  Am I judged by God more on the basis of my character or by how many hours I can pump out in Field Service?

    Still, I stuck with it, and in early 20xx I went off to school.  Very atypical where I'm from.  If you DID go to college, you were expected to stay home and go to the local Junior College or rarely the University.  But people had faith in me because I was baptized and had never done anything incredibly wrong.  Plus my dad's an elder. Their faith was misplaced, ironically.

    The first place I went after moving into my dorm was the local K.H.  The conversation with the Elders that followed was something like this:   So, you new in town, brother?

  Yes, I am.  I plan on being here for a while.

  What brings you here?  Your job, or did you just want to resettle here?

  No, actually I'll be going to the university down the street.

  COLLEGE???  OH NO!

    I listened to the silence as I looked around at everyone eavesdropping on my conversation.  The brother turned pale, as if he shat his pants on the podium giving a public discourse.  He told me everyone who had moved there for school failed spiritually, and told me I should go back home and help my own congregation.  I received minimal support from the congregation after that, from a few nice friends, but most treated me like a leper whenever I went to book study or the meetings.  I was used to being used in the Hall, but I was never given a talk or even asked to hold a microphone.  Oh, what a slap in the face this was, and I was regular at the meetings and in Field Service!  But everyone just knew I had to be up to something bad since I was going to school. 

    Its not like I didn't try to be a good Dub, it was just that I wasn't given a chance when it could have made a difference.  I'm glad now, though, that I wasn't allowed to like being a Witness too much because it made me look at the faith from a more objective viewpoint.  If anything I was frustrated more and more with the rigidness and close mindedness that many dubs have, including myself until I confronted my own self doubts and self righteousness.  I got into fights about everything going home to see mom and dad.  Things ranging from my slacking field service to my worldly acquaintances.

    Later in my freshman year my Witness girlfriend from home cheated on me and I became a recluse.  I didn't talk to anyone on campus, and barely anyone at the hall.  I was so sad and angry but couldn't figure it out.  I went to freeminds.org and read stories about people like me that I could relate to, and knew that I wasn't alone and didn't have to be.  I looked on this board and was encouraged to do my own research, and slowly things started to make sense (and non-sense).  I began to make more friends at my school and spent less time going home, or to the meetings.  Field service became non-existent.  I pursued things I enjoyed, like theater and community service.

    My sophomore year I was accused of interfaith after participating in a charity event to 9/11 victims.  I never went back to that Hall.  Going back on breaks I went through the motions of meeting attendance occasionally but was never gung-ho about it.  As for the rest of college, it was great!  I made lots of friends, partied (moderately) and graduated.  But my dilemma now...?

    Well, due to financial constraints I had to move in with my folks until I get back on my feet after 4 years of unemployment.  They are glad I'm done with school but want me to put it behind me, that and all the friends I made.  They say, "Well, now its time to settle down in the congregation, and set more spiritual goals for yourself", things I just can't and don't want to do with them.  It's kinda scary.  The brothers back home are already starting to talk about me getting on the Ministerial Servant path in about a year, and I'm still inactive!  That can't be Jehovah's holy spirit, can it?  Also, there are some sisters that want to date me, but I know that it will only lead to broken hearts down the road because they're in a faith I can't see myself practicing 10 years down the road if they don't make some serious changes.  How can I live a somewhat normal life in my parents' abode while not completely pissing them off by not going to meetings or out in Field Service?  How do I go about not completely selling myself out to the religion?  What's the best slow but steady exit strategy?  Your feedback is welcome.  I'm tired of lying to them about who I hang out with and what I REALLY feel about the faith.  Its a shame that a 20 yr old man is scared to tell his parents where he is going and who he will be with, and I'm not doing anything illegal or dangerous!  Perhaps by being somewhat active, I'll rediscover what it is I hate so much about the faith.  But whatever the case, I'll keep doing my homework, so that when the time comes to make my case for leaving, I'll be more than ready.

    Well, I appreciate everyone listening.  Feel free to lay down some advice or send me a message to my profile thing or whatever.  Till next time,

    undecided (used by permission)  


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