Us vs. Them

With the exception of sunglasses, polarization is a bad thing. It divides us, often leading to hatred, violence, even war.
It all starts when we stop seeing people as fellow human beings and start seeing them as labels. The labels can be ones they’ve chosen to wear, or ones we have assigned to them. When we deal with labels, rather than humans, we focus on our differences and ignore the many more things that make us the same.

In the U.S. one of the major pairs of labels is: Republican or Democrat. When someone starts a conversation by asking you if you are a Republican or a Democrat it’s a safe bet that they have firmly labeled themselves as one or the other, and are ready to verbally assail anyone wearing the opposite label.

In the field of religion, the labels are many, and are often more adamantly held than political labels. In our little corner of the world the labels we deal with are “active loyal Jehovah’s Witness” and “apostate” (or, seemingly even more at odds: “apostate atheist.”)

Now, don’t get me wrong; labels aren’t all bad. They are convenient: saving time in establishing where we are “coming from.” But, at the same time they can be counter-productive to reaching an understanding. They often carry negative connotations which may be false or misleading, and are almost always obstacles to seeing the real person underneath.

The Watchtower holds a diametrically opposed viewpoint on this subject. They delight in dividing the world into “us vs. them”: those “in the truth” (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses) as opposed to those “in the world.” But in the end we are all just people trying to do what’s right to the best of our understanding.

I have neighbors and business associates who are Witnesses, and we get along just fine, because we leave our labels at home and relate to each other as people. But, if they knew I was an “apostate” then their Watchtower training might kick in and they would view me no longer as part of “us” but as part of “them“: the enemy, and that would be the end of that.

I want to talk to the person underneath the Jehovah’s Witness label, and I want to talk to them as a fellow human rather than as an “apostate.”

As one human to another I want to say that while I respect their right to believe what they will, I do not respect the substance of those beliefs that are unloving. In particular I would warn them that trusting an organization to tell them what is right, wrong, and truthful is extremely dangerous, and in fact immoral.

Immoral“? Did you read that right? Yes, you did. It is immoral to pass off your responsibilities to another. You are responsible for your beliefs and actions. Surrendering that responsibility to another person or organization is shirking your duties as a human being on this planet, no matter what label you have loyally pasted on your forehead.

Finally, I need to convey to them that there can never be a valid excuse for any of the following actions (all of which are unloving and stem from the trust they place in the organization):

  1. Withholding life-saving medical care from your children.
  2. Shunning family members or friends.
  3. Allowing child abuse to go unreported.

When the Watchtower tells you that you must obey the organization even when their instructions run counter to your own sense of what is right, then the organization is acting in an immoral manner, and so are you if you follow their command and surrender your responsibilities to them along with your reason.

Now, some people love to be told what to do and what to think. They want to be absolved of all responsibility. One candid Witness wrote to me and said that if the organization should prove wrong, he would not be to blame for having faithfully followed “God’s organization.” (or at least what he was led to believe was “God’s organization.”) Clinging to that thought, he was prepared to listen to any and all criticisms of the organization with impunity without it ever crossing his mind that he should cease to place his trust in an organization that was clearly lying to him.

Don’t let that happen to you.

One thought on “Us vs. Them

  1. howyagoin • 3 years ago
    We’ll have to agree to disagree on the blood issue. In not too many years perhaps it will be a moot point as more and more hospitals put in bloodless units and have cell-salvage machines on hand for emergency rooms. But, you’ll never convince me that it’s wise when your that close to meeting your maker to choose that moment to break his command on abstaining from blood. I believe he has the right to restrict it’s use. But, I appreciate your viewpoint and understand it. Since you were once a Jehovah’s Witness, I won’t bother quoting the scriptures on the topic, except to say that this issue was decided for Christians in Acts when it went to their governing body to decide whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised and as a result, the governing body at that time decided although circumcision wasn’t required, there were four things still necessary from the Mosaic Law for Christians, and two of them had to do with blood–one was making sure animals were drained, not strangled, and the other was to keep abstaining from blood in general. I assume you don’t think Christians should have to listen to THAT governing body either, so let’s just agree to disagree on the blood issue.

    As for shunning, don’t you remember all the scriptures on that? There is no doubt it is a Bible requirement. If you want me to quote them, just let me know. But, the reason is because of love, Jehovah disciplines the ones he loves. To me, it’s loving to provide this discipline if it helps a person stay on the road to everlasting life, and having been in a religion and seen what it was like NOT to follow this, I like that Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowship. So, we may have to agree to disagree on that one, as well. But again, I appreciate your right to your opinion and also understand that you most likely are currently dealing with a lot of pain on the issue. The only thought I want to leave you with is to remember that you are always welcome back, but you make the first move. That may not be something you don’t ever anticipate ever wanting to do, but one never knows what this life will bring. Life can turn on a dime and throw lots of unforeseen occurrences at us. Although you might not appreciate me inviting you to come back at this time, I feel compelled to say it and hope you will forgive me if that irritates you. Best regards. Thank you.

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    howyagoin • 3 years ago
    The only thing I agree with you on is allowing child abuse to go unreported, as I personally strongly feel anybody who hurts a child in that way deserves the death penalty. But even then, it’s well-taught that Jehovah’s Witness elders cannot take the place of law enforcement because their hands are tied until there are two witnesses to a crime, whereas law enforcement does not have that restriction. My Son-in-law is a parole officer who oversees a team who monitors sex offenders after release from jail. No matter what the religion, nothing makes him more irate than family members who will go to their religious leaders before they go to the police! The religions are not set up to deal with criminals, but law enforcement is.

    Your blog would do better to help inform the public that no matter what religion they are involved in, those with wicked intentions can creep in. When someone is victimized, FIRST get them medical attention, because a rape kit and gathering evidence is so important. Even in the case of molestation, seeing a doctor will help verify the crime. Simultaneously, the SECOND thing they should do is call the POLICE. Ideally, it would be beneficial if the police could be on hand at the hospital to ensure there is no mishandling of the evidence, so the chain of custody cannot be challenged later on, if the case should go to trial. (Often, the accused will confess when confronted by police, but you want to act wisely in gathering the evidence just in case.)

    Only then should you THIRD, notify the leaders if the abuse took place within an organization of whatever sort, if the victim chooses to go public. At the same time, the family members/victim can warn other parents and children, if the abuser is still out there, IF they choose to go public. The reason you don’t want to waste time going to them first is that their hands are tied to a point, due to the fact that they are not law enforcement and have restrictions placed upon them. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is the “two witnesses to a crime” rule. However, if the abuse took place in a family, all they would need is the victim and one parent, for instance. Or the victim and a sibling. But without two witnesses, there is only so much that a Jehovah’s Witness elder can do. Other religions are similarly restricted. Even a group such as the Boy Scouts has “house rules” that restrict to a point. NEVER EVER should they be expected to fulfill the role of law enforcement.

    If the abuse happens within the family and the victim has no family support and is scared to call the police on their own, they should seek out another authority who is NOT restricted by house rules. Their religious leader is not the best place to go to help them report a crime, due to their restrictions. But, a trusted teacher, a doctor, someone in social services or a trusted extended relative would be a better choice. Don’t delay in getting medical attention and calling the police. Whomever you need to contact to give you the courage, do so. The tendency is to want to put it out of your mind and move on, but by reporting it to the police, you are helping to protect a future victim. Your religious leader cannot do this until their restrictions are met, so it is up to the victim or their family or another trusted person to report it. While your religion provides a valuable service in fulfilling other roles, spread the word that they are NOT the place to first report a crime. They can help you deal with it AFTERWARD, but go to the police, not to your elder, pastor, priest, or Sunday School teacher.

    The FOURTH thing to be done is to seek counselling. Victims of child abuse carry baggage for YEARS unless they are helped through it. Seek out a knowledgeable and compassionate well-trained counseler to help the victim come through this successfully.

    As for your other two accusations, non-blood treatment is more and more being PROVEN by the latest medical results to be the gold-standard of care; and “shunning” is a Biblical command only after a sinning one resolutely refuses to show remorse over a wrongdoing and has no desire to turn-around. It is an act of LOVE, not of hate.
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    Steve • 3 years ago
    “A moot point”!? Please read this correspondence from “Mary” who lost her son due to the Watchtower’s erroneous blood policy: http://watchtowerhelp.club/mail

    Now, imagine telling her that “it’s a moot point.”

    The bloodguilt of the Watchtower cannot be so easily washed off. Or is their former stance against organ-transplants now a “moot point” since they have lifted their ban? Tell that one to Gary Busselman whose wife died during the ban when she needed a bone-marrow transplant: http://www.watchtowerinform

    I will NEVER let the Watchtower or its Witnesses forget the lives they have ended, no matter what may happen in the future.

    There is no command from “your maker” to abstain from blood. The Watchtower made this up, just like they made up the command to abstain from vaccinations and the command to abstain from organ transplants and the command to abstain from blood fractions.

    Your referencing the Scriptures (as if I hadn’t thoroughly shown how they’re not applicable) shows me that you haven’t read our 8-part series on blood — even though you commented on it days ago.

    Yes, some men got together in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and wrote a letter to the congregations about how they thought it best to appease the Judaizers. One of the appeasements given in the same breath as “abstain from blood” was later shown not to be a law incumbent upon Christians for all time, but simply something to be observed in case it should “stumble” someone who didn’t know the “freedom of Christ.” (I refer to eating meat sacrificed to idols, and you can find the references in our 8-part series on blood: http://www.jehovahswitnessb

    The Bible also has a command that says you shouldn’t wear poly-blend clothing. Do you still follow that today? No. Why? Because it was a law for a certain time and place, and applicable only to the people to whom it was given. In other words, you consider the context of the verse. You need to also consider the context of the verses in Acts.

    Sure, I remember the Scriptures trotted out every time someone displeased the elders. Do you remember the Scripture where Jesus reputedly says something like: “All the commandments are summed up in this one law: love God and love your neighbor”? Do you follow Christ or Paul?

    Let’s say that back when I was a Witness I disagreed with the teaching that the people who were alive in 1914 would still be alive at the start of Armageddon. Say I believed all the other nonsense, and attended meetings, did field service, etc., but I disagreed on this one point. I could’ve very easily been disfellowshipped for such “apostasy.” All of my “friends” would’ve stopped speaking to me and treated my like a leper. And you’re trying to tell me that this would’ve been an “act of love” — even though according to “today’s truth” I would’ve been right, and today I’d be disfellowshipped if I DIDN’T disagree with that (now “old light”) doctrine!

    Personally, I was never disfellowshipped to my knowledge. What category or label they assigned to me in their little world after I left Bethel I have no clue or interest in knowing. But I have known people who were disfellowshipped. The policy (particularly of shunning family members) has ruined lives. Some have committed suicide. Shunning is not loving. It is only cults that teach otherwise.

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    howyagoin • 3 years ago
    Steve, I’m glad you agree with encouraging ALL to call the police. I don’t know what it was like when you were in the truth, but the elders DO encourage us to do that now.

    Also, perhaps you aren’t aware, but MOST religions are restricted to a point when it comes to reporting crimes, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. For some it’s the confessional restrictions, others also follow the two witness rule, etc. So, please help spread the word that no matter WHAT religion you are in, or WHAT organization you are in, reporting to them is NOT the wisest first step. Better to get medical treatment for evidence and immediately call the police. Thank you.

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    Steve • 3 years ago
    Good advice, Howyagoin! I hope our Witness readers pay heed to what you have said rather than going first to the elders (who have been instructed to take the matter up with their branch office rather than the police!) You are so right: the elders are “restricted” from doing the right and decent thing: the thing that anyone — with the exception of a criminal or a morally degenerate person — would do: Call the police! But that’s what comes from being a loyal member of a mind-controlling cult. I truly feel sorry for all concerned.

    But my question is: why would anyone stay in a religion where the “shephers of the congregation” are restricted from doing the right thing? by their leaders? Why would anyone then go to them for spiritual guidance, or advice on how to live a moral life? The only sensible response I can see is to leave such a religion.

    Yes, non-blood treatment is great when its applicable to the situation (for instance: when someone is NOT bleeding to death and has already lost a lot of blood) and the technology is available to the patient at the time it is needed. When it’s not, then no one should be scared off from the simple, low-risk medical procedure which has PROVEN itself for decades capable of saving lives.

    It’s highly debatable whether shunning is a biblical command; my Bible says “Love is the law’s fulfillment.” It’s simply not loving to shun someone (especially a family member) for politely disagreeing with your beliefs.

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    ONE2XU • 3 years ago
    Indeed…. a very good article. Great job Steve…Thanks! Keep ’em coming.

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    Ivayne Payten • 4 years ago
    Great article!

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    Hal Gerber • 4 years ago
    Nice article. Keep up these blogs, as we enjoy them.

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