Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays

Jehovah’s Witness Memorial: The Great Partakening

This is how it began: over a month ago, I informed Joel that I’d Googled “2011 Jehovah’s Witness Memorial” and that the smackdown was happening on Sunday, April 17th.

“Good. But let’s go somewhere well out of the way, so I can partake without anyone seeing me.”

I honestly had no idea what the hell he was talking about. I mean, I’ve seen him take communion at Foursquare and Imago Dei, so it didn’t strike me as a big deal. I figured everyone would be doing it, so why not him?


[Insert the sound of a 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses laughing at my ignorance!]

But no matter how often I brought it up (daily) or how cute I tried to be when I nagged him about it (very), I could NOT get Joel Gunz to commit to a Memorial Service location.

When the day of the service arrived and Joel still hadn’t technically picked a Kingdom Hall yet, we found ourselves randomly driving in a generally northbound direction. Finally he decided we were going to Longview and called a couple of congregations to figure out what time the Memorial services began. When it got too late and we realized we’d never make it that far in time, he decided we’d go to the Woodland Kingdom Hall. Then as soon as we got to the Woodland freeway exit, he wanted to keep driving up to Kelso. When he tried to find that congregation on his fancy newfangled brain-phone and couldn’t, I called BS, turned the car around and drove his indecisive ass back to the Woodland congregation.


Even then, we had to stop for a drink on our way to the chapel.

Bracing ourselves for the evening’s Armageddon

By the time we finally arrived (a MONTH later!), I thought Joel was doing pretty well. As we were walking up the front steps, he decided we were just innocuous reporters. “We’ll just tell them about the blog,” he assured me. “No big deal!” We were greeted with smiles and handshakes, given a couple of creepy Sing to Jehovah songbooks, and informed that it was, indeed, okay to take pictures as long as we didn’t disrupt the service. We took our seats and I thought we were all good to go.


Until I turned to look at Joel.

Who had turned as white as a sheet.

Let me just push pause here and say that “white as a sheet” is not a phrase I use carelessly. In fact, I don’t use it at all in my fiction writing because it’s not only a cliche, but let’s be honest, are your sheets even white? Mine aren’t. But more importantly, have you ever actually SEEN anyone turn white before? Because I never had until Sunday night exactly three seconds after Joel Gunz saw Joel Stangeland across the Kingdom Hall. At which point all the blood drained from his face, sweat geysers began erupting all over his beautiful bald head and I started praying to the God of Xanax to magically make a pill (or three) appear in my purse. My next instinct was to go all She-ra on his ass and lift him bodily from that green polyester chair, throw him over my shoulder and bravely drag us both out of the building in my four-inch suede heels.


But he didn’t want to leave. He wanted that stupid bread and crappy wine, even if it meant taking them directly from the hand of one of his oldest friends in the cult. A friend he hadn’t seen in almost a decade.

So we stayed.

The service itself was bland, largely unremarkable and without the cult-like flavor I was expecting. I did learn a few things, however, like how only 144,000 people will receive the afterlife and since those words were written 1,987 years ago, it’s a pretty safe bet that heaven is already full. It took me a few minutes to put it all together what with the speaker’s superfluous analogies about giving gifts to your cousin’s uncle and what if the wrong person got your gift or… something? It was too dumbed down for a non-believer like me to understand. I think he was basically trying to say that heaven is like a giant game of musical chairs. There are only so many spots and the music is getting faster and louder.


I also learned that apparently you can only partake of the sacraments if you actually believe one of those chairs has your name on it.

So, how do you know if you have a heavenly hope or calling?

I still have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it involves either psychotropic medicinals or virginity, neither of which apply to Joel Gunz. (All virgins go to heaven!)

Other jewels of knowledge I gleaned:

  • During the Memorial, the elders – exclusively men – all sit in the front row like members of the Men’s Wearhouse Mafia.
  • JW’s don’t get to celebrate birthdays or holidays, but they obviously make a mean potato salad because the average BMI in that Kingdom Hall was definitely over the legal limit. They might single-handedly be keeping Casual Male Big & Tall in business.
  • Of the 18 million people who attended the Memorial service worldwide in 2010, only 11,200 of them partook of the Lord’s evening meal, which is less than one percent (actually it’s .062 percent).
  • The JW’s really like to hop around their scriptures a lot. The talk only lasted about twenty minutes and here’s the list of passages that were covered: Romans 6:23, John 2:16, James 2:24-26, Revelation 14:4, Corinthians 11:23. After that I stopped writing them down because I was getting more than a little suspicious that they were cherry-picking verses just to make their points.
  • Also – if you want to follow along, you have to BYOB because Bibles aren’t provided at the hall.
  • The singing is so terrifyingly emotionless, you might find yourself looking around the hall for a blunt object with which to pop your own eardrum. Bibles won’t work. I tried.

I sat there for much of the service trying to imagine Joel up there giving the talk because I know he was on that path when he was a Witness. Then my thoughts turned (as they so often do) to that thing we had done in the rapture of our drunken debauchery the night before and it broke my brain. The idea of Joel Gunz ever being a Man of God just does. not. compute. (Thank Jehovah!)


So when the plate of sacramental crackers was passed through the pews and no one in the dozen rows ahead of us partook of it because they deemed themselves unworthy of a heavenly calling, the irony of Joel’s intent was not lost on me. It wasn’t until I received the plate of emblems directly from Joel Stangeland’s hand and passed it to my Joel that the magnitude of what we were doing finally hit me.

Joel was about to piss in their cornflakes.

In public.

While I took his picture.

Which is pretty much what he did.

Silence fell as the plates were passed amongst the pews, so when Joel took that first bite, everyone heard him crunch down on the cracker and a ripple of shock and awe went through the hall. I hid my red cheeks behind my enormous camera and snapped the glamor shot.


In which my crackah eats a cracker!

I’ll be honest: this is where I started to feel of two minds about what we were doing. Going in, I thought partaking was something everyone did – or at least the men. I had no idea that Joel had never done it before, not even when he was a good boy Witness, or that he would be the only one partaking at the Kingdom Hall that night. I had no idea what a Big Freaking Deal it was and that we would so blatantly be disrespecting their traditions.


In fact, we’ve gone out of our way so far to be as respectful as we can. I don’t like stepping on toes. I’m even shy about picture-taking during the services because I feel like it’s pretty rude, even when we’ve gotten permission ahead of time. And here we were intentionally disrespecting everyone in the room!

At the same time, I could completely understand what this meant for Joel. The enormous cojones it took for him to go through with it. The years and YEARS of therapy he endured to get to a place where he could even walk into a Kingdom Hall, much less partake of the sacramental emblems while his worldly blond girlfriend took his photo. I was so proud of him I could spit. And the chunk of my heart that belongs to him expanded like a Peeps marshmallow chick in the microwave.


I admit I was still having trouble shaking off our duplicity. That lasted right up until the service ended and I saw that Joel’s old buddy was making a beeline directly toward us. We took a pit-stop by the water cooler for a minute and ended up separated by the throng of people in the lobby. When I got back to my rightful place at Joel’s side, I arrived just in time to hear one of his oldest friends utter those dreaded words:

“I think you should leave now.”

Joel said something self-deprecating like, “I can respect that.”

He then introduced me, which was when I stopped feeling ashamed and started feeling ANGRY.

Because good Joel Stangland was ridiculously kind to me. He shook my hand and smiled and told me of the fond memories he had of Joel at Bethel and how he still had some of his wacky high school poetry.


So here’s what I don’t get and don’t think I’ll EVER get: Why am I okay? Heathenous, ignorant me! She who can’t find a bible passage to save her life. She who legally took her porn name and uses it to write erotica in her free time. She who plans to live in sin forever (or until it’s legal for her lesbian sister to get married). She with the cigarette in her hand in the masthead! They’ll kick you out of their cult for smoking (literally thousands of Witnesses are disfellowshipped every year for that alone), but it’s perfectly okay to be nice to ME because I just don’t know any better, right? Because I haven’t seen The Truth yet.

Well, I call BS. The truth is that at least Joel Gunz TRIED to be a good witness. He worked his butt off, gave his entire life to the organization and nothing he did was ever good enough for them. All because of ONE REASON: He always told the truth. He never lied about his sins or tried to cover them up, even at the cost of his own salvation. I don’t think there’s a witness alive today who can say that about themselves because if they COULD, they would have been disfellowshipped already.


And that’s not the only beef I have with the organization!

This is one of the poems Joel Stangeland was talking about. Joel wrote this in high school. At age 17.

The Five Minute Romance

I stood at
the crosswalk
on North Lombard and Greeley
waiting for the light to change.

A small maroon
fastback turned left
and in the passenger seat
a blue-eyed girl quicked a look at me
(or the dress in the shop behind me).

Her glance stayed with me all the way downtown.

Lovely, isn’t it? And here’s the rub – this is his biography in the back of that book of poetry.

Is a senior actively involved in the television and newspaper programs. He is also a drummer in two bands: Eastwind and the Jefferson Jazz Combo. He was a winner in the 1983 NCTE writing competition and was a participant in the writer-to-writer program at Lewis and Clark College. He is currently working with his mentor, Gary Miranda. Joel is not planning on attending college.



In spite of the fact that school counselors encouraged Joel to apply to Yale because he was a shoo-in, he did not go to college.

Why is that, you ask?

Because his devout Jehovah’s Witness parents forbade it. They promised to disown him and never speak to him again if he went. Because JW’s don’t believe in higher education. In fact, it’s church policy. The best and brightest kids in the congregation are encouraged to go to the church headquarters at Bethel in New York City, where instead of reading the great philosophers and learning to expand their minds beyond the bubble of their church, they sweat over printing presses and mop floors and go door-to-door doing Jehovah’s work on the ground. They basically train their young men to become janitors.


I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. The April 15, 2008 Watchtower, page 4, says:

“What, though, of higher education, received in a college or a university? This is widely viewed as vital to success. Yet, many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah’s service. (Eccl. 12:1) Perhaps it is not surprising that in lands where many have received such an education, belief in God is at an all-time low. Rather than looking to the advanced educational systems of this world for security, a Christian trusts in Jehovah.”

To be honest, I’m glad Joel went to Bethel. I’m glad he was a Witness because it led him down the road to becoming the man he is today and I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but he’s a pretty spectacular guy. The part that angers me is that because he left the Witnesses, he hasn’t spoken to his family in nearly nine years. His own 19-year old son won’t even speak to him! What’s worse is that I’ve met Max, Joel’s son. I’ve even had the honor of reading some of his work and if you think Joel was a talented teenaged poet, it’s only because you haven’t read Max yet. He’s already a better writer than Joel and I put together.


And because Max is a Witness, he not only refuses to speak to his father, but he refuses to go to college. The idea of all that squandered potential ENRAGES me. Not to mention all that squandered LOVE. Joel would kill for an hour in the sunshine of Max’s company, but the kid can’t talk to him because it’ll get him kicked out of church. Of course, Max can talk to me all he wants because I’m not an apostate, but his OWN FATHER? Not a chance.

That’s what makes this a cult.

It’s also what makes what Joel and I did on Sunday perfectly okay. I’m not at all sorry if we offended good Joel Stangeland or the rest of the cult keepers. I doubt it, but maybe they’ll look at our actions and think twice about their own. I don’t know much about how God’s love works, but I do know this: THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG.

As for Max (who will likely read this in horror), I want you to know that your dad saved that cracker. It’s serving its time in the left pocket of his favorite dinner jacket. He might not know it yet, but he saved that cracker for you.

Comments read comments(107)
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Joel Gunz

posted February 13, 2012 at 8:47 pm

BTW, Dave, Im so jealous! You got to read the Secret Elders Manual??? Although I, too, was an elders son, I was too afraid that Jehovah would smite for doing such a thing!!

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Joel Gunz

posted February 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hey Dave,

Thanks for getting in touch. Yeah, regarding college I hear a lot of conflicting stories, and it seems to vary from one area to another. I hear that some Witness kids are going to college full time and arent getting any flack for it, while others are being discouraged from doing so. Thats just my observation, though.



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posted February 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Ex Witness here – Thankfully it’s not quite as bad with college now as it was when your partner was growing up, my parents did encourage me to go. Now I’m out on my own and living on campus. But really I’m one of the lucky ones who escaped the cult at a young age. So many don’t realize the opportunities they’ve passed until it’s way too late to do much about it.

Thank you for touching on the hypocrisy, because my own family knows I used to smoke cigarettes even after I was baptized, but they never told the elders and so they still talk to me because they are allowed to. If the elders had even a little more evidence against me, or just knew what my parents know, I’d be disfellowshiped. If I didn’t understand exactly how to tip toe around them from reading the Elder’s Manual, they’d have brought me in for questioning even after I’d been gone for 2 years. The hypocrisy is absolutely sickening, they are only sheep with no real morality.

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posted August 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I’ll admit I’m a Witness but I was sprinkled as an infant Methodist, and baptized as a young adult Baptist. I first saw Jehovah’s name when my Baptist minister directed us to a scripture dangerously close to Psalm 83:18 in an old king James bible. Upon actually studying the bible I became a Witness. I’ll even admit I don’t think we have everything right Yet (gasp) But I do see us as closest to the Truth of the Bible when I look around at the other churches that have developed since the Protest of the centuries long state-run, quite literal bastardization of Christendom that burned people at the stake for even possessing a copy of God’s word in a language the common man could read and understand. I deeply respect the organization’s humility in making corrections in doctrine as “the bright light is getting lighter and lighter” and the things “sealed up until the time of the end” are revealed. Prov 4:18 Dan 12:4 I do truly empathize with those whose families are separated by disfellowshipping, however this only occurs over one’s own rebellious and unrepentant attitude and I must remind you of Jesus’ words at Matt 10:34-37 “I came to put, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…he that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me, and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.”

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K h o a r u p c h u n n

posted August 23, 2011 at 2:09 am

Being a multi-generational witness i personally have an issue with the lack of question everything that the witnesses use to to do. some how its changed if you dont follow so blindly u see the side road your gone. sorry but in reality that will get you killed. now i dont like what joel did and do argree its disrespectfull, i can agree on the terms of it to show you what they are like. I never lied while being one, be i never voletold all the infomation either. i have issues with some of the backbone princables that they forcefully keep people together. even if the wife is in a drunken abusive relationship. she isnt suppose to leave. for that reason alone they lost a member from birth that knows its ins and outs. now i do agree with joel they do teach a few admirable qualities but one doesnt realize how to use them until ur the one being aimed at. i dont have a problem with misconstrude calculations or what ever. its with the social workings of the organization bc you can no longer ask an intelectual question.

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posted August 22, 2011 at 7:19 am

Learn how to respect others beliefs

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posted August 19, 2011 at 2:42 am

Kind of a side comment but just had to say it. I hadn’t met another straigth person refusing to get married until gays have the same rights. Bravo and well done.

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Joel Gunz

posted June 23, 2011 at 2:23 am

Wow, “Love”, that’s a kind, Christian, thoughtful, upbeat response.

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Rachel R.

posted June 23, 2011 at 1:34 am


Didn’t you read the blog and comments? Most of the commenters and one of the bloggers are ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses whose lives have been torn apart by the JW’s policy that the disfellowshipped be shunned by family and friends. I’d say they have a right to judge this religion.

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posted June 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm

RIDICULOUS!!! (Do you understand that) We will see in the end :)

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Joel Gunz

posted June 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Bahaha! I “LOVE” what you said.

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posted June 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Gah, I made grammatical errors right and left trying to preserve the essence of Love’s statements while at least correcting sentence structure.

Two glaring errors: ‘Lives’ should have been ‘life’ in the penultimate sentence or thereabouts.

‘Than’ should read ‘then’.

I take no responsibility for the disjointed argument. That is all Love’s.

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posted June 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Love, as a teacher I just have to give you some writing tips. Unfortunately, I cannot help rearrange your paragraphs, but it will at least be a start. Here we go!

I think its ridiculous that are blogs like this.
Should read: I think it’s ridiculous that there are blogs like this.

If you don’t believe what Jehovah’s witness believe WHO CARES!
Should read: If you don’t believe what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, who cares!

At the end of the day they are not worried about non of you Apostates and ignorent people.
Should read: At the end of the day, they are not worried about what apostates or ignorant people think.

Its direspectful PERIOD! To go to any religions service and purposely disrespect their beliefs.
Should read: It’s disrespectful, period, to go to any religion’s services and disrespect their beliefs.

If you don’t like what they believe you don’t have to believe it and there are evil people who are any every religion, Jehovah will judge everyone by their hearts.
Should read: If you don’t like what they believe, you don’t have to believe it. There are evil people in every religion, and Jehovah will judge everybody individually by the qualities he sees in their hearts.

So people can say and pretend to be whatever they want but God knows who they truelly are.
Should read: People can say whatever they want, and pretend to be whatever they want, but God knows who they truly are. (Isn’t the best sentence structure, but I think people would get your point)

Jehovah’s witnesses is not a cult, they don’t make you do anything they teach you about the bible than you decide if you believe it or not. HOLY RUN ON SENTENCE, BATLOVE!
Should read: Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a cult. They don’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. They teach you about the Bible, then you decide if you believe it or not.

They don’t drug you, threaten you, force you to do anything.
Should read: They don’t drug, threaten, or force you to do anything against your will.

They believe that Jesus is Gods son and that Jehovah is the supreme ruler so all these comments are irrelevant cause none of you are Jesus or Jehovah.
Should read: They believe Jesus is God’s Son and that Jehovah is the supreme ruler of the universe. Only they can judge the hearts and deeds of mankind. Because of this, none of the judgments you have drawn against Jehovah’s Witnesses carry any weight with anyone but yourselves.

I’m not even a witness but I was disgusted by the prejudice and disrespect of the blog SMH! *HINT* Love, JWs refer to themselves as ‘Witnesses’. If you are trying to go stealth, don’t use that term.
Should read: I’m not a member of this religion, and I was disgusted by the prejudicial and disrespectful tone of the blog and its attendant comments.

Everyone else need to evaluate their lives, fix the wrongs in your own lives before worrying about what someone else believes.
Should read: I think that each person needs to evaluate their lives and put them in order before worrying about what someone else believes.

Psalms 146:3 “do not put your trust in nobles, nor of the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation.” *HINT* Do not quote the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures when attempting to come across as a non-JW. Use the King James Version instead.
Should read: Psalms 146:3 reads, “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthly man, to whom no salvation belongs.”

Psalms 146:5 “happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God”
Should read: Furthermore, Psalms 146:5 tells us that “Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.”

and the reason they go door to door is because God says “go therefore and make disciples of people of all nations…teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19,20
Should read: The reason why Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in the preaching work is in obedience to the command at Matthew 28:19-20, which reads: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all nations…teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”

if you don’t think that’s a good enough reason to knock on someone door than that’s up to you. But I do so when I become a witness I hope I end up knocking on all your doors and I dare yal to disrespect me :)
Should read: If you don’t think that’s a good reason to knock on someone’s door, than that’s up to you. But I do think this is a good reason. I hope that when I become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I end up knocking on all your doors. And I dare you all to disrespect me for sharing my beliefs with you.

Love, I respect your right to make this religion your own. Just, it is hard to take a defense of faith seriously when it is so badly worded. Perhaps an evening course in business English at the local community college would help you better express your feelings and ideas.

Finally, whatever your relationship with this religion may be, you need to remember that there are many of us out here with more than a passing acquaintance with Jehovah’s Witnesses. At least get your scripture references quoted correctly. I haven’t cracked a NWT in about 10 years and I still know those texts by heart.

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Joel Gunz

posted June 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm

“Love,” I have a word list for you. Based on your comment below, these are words that you, as a product of the Jehovah’s Witness educational system, seem to have difficulty spelling. Perhaps you can take them to your Theocratic Ministry School Overseer and find some assistance—though, in all probability, you’ll need to attend a real school.

You may also want to give attention to the proper use of apostrophes. When indicating possession or when combining two words into a contraction, you need to use an apostrophe.

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posted June 22, 2011 at 8:25 am

Interesting comments, “Love”, if that IS your real name.

May I ask which is more ridiculous; that sites like this exist, or that someone so miffed by their content would both read it and take the time to type out a semi-literate screed condemning it?

There is an interesting tendency for witnesses to pose as non-witnesses (as you did) just to post comments as though they come from a point of view that does not exist in the real world. Witnesses imagine this “neutral observer” as one who can see that the Witnesses are doing the right thing, and holds them in high esteem. They even quote a few scriptures to prove their point, a practice not unlike citing a story in Action Comics #207 to prove that Superman is real, and quite capable of going back in time, thank you. Let me tell you something about this neutrtal observer; they are also imaginary. By and large, people outside of their sphere either dismiss the witnesses as a meaningless sect of slightly-odd, occasionally-annoying and not-well-educated folks wearing cheap sport coats, or know enough about them to see the harm that the organazation has brought to countless famalies over the years.

Say what you want, and back it with as many snippets of Iron-Age tribalism to “prove” it, but the fact remains that there is nothing at all in those beliefs that warrents respect. I will protect your right to HOLD these beliefs, but the beliefs themselves are no more deserving of respect than those of a madman screaming in the park, or a petulent child who sincerely believes that everyone who did not buy her a pony should be struck with God’s wrath. Because, after all, she is God’s chosen child.

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posted June 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I think its ridiculous that are blogs like this. If you don’t believe what Jehovah’s witness believe WHO CARES! At the end of the day they are not worried about non of you Apostates and ignorent people. Its direspectful PERIOD! To go to any religions service and purposely disrespect their beliefs. If you don’t like what they believe you don’t have to believe it and there are evil people who are any every religion, Jehovah will judge everyone by their hearts. So people can say and pretend to be whatever they want but God knows who they truelly are. Jehovah’s witnesses is not a cult, they don’t make you do anything they teach you about the bible than you decide if you believe it or not. They don’t drug you, threaten you, force you to do anything. They believe that Jesus is Gods son and that Jehovah is the supreme ruler so all these comments are irrelevant cause none of you are Jesus or Jehovah. I’m not even a witness but I was disgusted by the prejudice and disrespect of the blog SMH! Everyone else need to evaluate their lives, fix the wrongs in your own lives before worrying about what someone else believes. Psalms 146:3 “do not put your trust in nobles, nor of the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation.” Psalms 146:5 “happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God” and the reason they go door to door is because God says “go therefore and make disciples of people of all nations…teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19,20 so if you don’t think that’s a good enough reason to knock on someone door than that’s up to you. But I do so when I become a witness I hope I end up knocking on all your doors and I dare yal to disrespect me :)

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posted June 20, 2011 at 11:31 am

It’s good to see a JW commenting on here. I noticed that your definition of a cult is very limited and, correct me if I’m wrong, was probably the one given by the “organization”. One of the ways it controls its followers is by controlling information. I know as a JW, you probably don’t feel as if you are being controlled at all, but no one in a cult would identify themselves as in a cult or under the control of anyone else. That is the danger of a cult. Anyway, information control is done very deftly in the “organization”. My mother is a JW and refuses to read anything like this blog because it would be “disrespectful to Jehovah”. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society keeps their followers from reading these types of things by getting the followers themselves to “decide” not to with constant reminders within the Watchtower. I studied with the LDS for almost a year. As I’m sure you know, their “ways” are shockingly similar to the JWs. I read some apostate material and came to them with questions about it. They warned me against reading things like that because they were bitter, ungodly people led by Satan to attempt to turn people away from the truth. Sound familiar? But I had to ask myself why were former members so bitter? If they held the truth, why would asking these questions be a bad idea? Any question I had should have an answer that showed it to be the truth. So, I did not heed their advice and shun the ideas of bitter former members. I read these peoples stories with an open mind and I asked the questions they brought up. If I hadn’t, I would be a Mormom right now. They also try to control the information in the same way that the Society does. I reject that. That is why I’m so glad to see you here, willing to read the stories and, hopefully, start asking the questions. It is the first step. I applaud you.

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posted June 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

I think that my chief objection to the Witnesses is that they, as Bart has done, are quick to explain away the aspects of their religion which others might find objectionable–such as abuse of authority, mistakes in Bible interpretation, and corrupt and immoral behavior in their membership–by saying that “Well, we’re all human and imperfect, but we’re all trying.”

And with that very finger and mouth, point and say to all the other religions out there, “Those actions have earned you God’s condemnation, and you are ALL going down at Armageddon.”

What makes the sins Jehovah’s Witnesses commit so much more forgivable than the EXACT SAME sins that other people commit? What makes the sins of the religious leadership, and the mistakes in doctrinal teachings of the church, so justified?

Only the opinion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, that’s what.

Sin is sin. It’s either forgivable or it’s not. The ransom sacrifice of Jesus either covers it or it doesn’t. Jesus never said that Presbyterian sins were covered and that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ sins weren’t. It is religion which draws these kinds of distinctions.

Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses would like to believe, and they would like you to believe, that it is their own special knowledge, and special standing as a religion with God, which allows them to make these kind of distinctions. But that is something that any church out there at all can say for their own faith, and they do.

So Bart, I am going to have to use your own religion’s reasoning to say that you have condemned yourself, and your faith, by your admissions of corruption within the organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are obviously no different than mainstream Christendom, and do not deserve to be called true Christians walking in the way of the Truth. You are part of Babylon the Great and will be destroyed in the Great Tribulation, along with the rest of false religion.

Well, at least you are going to have a lot of company, aren’t you?

Now, any ex-JW out there, as well as Bart, recognizes by the verbage of the former paragraph or two, that I have more than a nodding acquaintance with the Watchtower folks. Yep, you’re right. And some members of my family are still members.

One of my (many) breaking points with the church was when a young Witness, newly baptized, ended up going out drinking with some school friends. He was underage, and made the poor choice of driving while under the influence. There was an accident, and another person in the car died.

The kid was disfellowshipped after he was charged with vehicular manslaughter, the thinking being that the congregation would bear his blood guilt if he wasn’t. Because the kid’s dad was an elder, and upheld church policy, he didn’t allow the kid to get counseling–the feeling being that God was enough help. This being AFTER the kid was told he had no right to a relationship with God because of his being a murderer and all.

Not surprisingly, the kid got really depressed. He committed suicide a year later. The family was not allowed to hold his memorial service at the Kingdom Hall, and nobody would give his funeral talk. The father ended up giving the memorial talk, which included such gems as discussing the sin of suicide while in the disfellowshipped state, and that no person who did so would be resurrected.


How comforting to his mother, and his siblings, and his grandparents, and his friends. How attractive to any random outsider who walked through the door, hoping for a chance to see real Christian love in action.

I say that Bart is right, all religions make mistakes. And a lot of them don’t ever admit to it. And he is right, the elders aren’t trained social workers. But you know, if they take on work they aren’t qualified to do, if they dismiss mental health care as unnecessary and a kid hangs himself in the backyard, if they advise people against getting a good education and those people end up in desperate financial difficulties because of it, if they cover up corruption and don’t admit their mistakes, and work to make it better–they are no better than any of the other religions and religious leaders that JWs condemn.

And by their own reasoning, they have an even greater accountability to God. Because they insist that they are the only right ones in the world.

Glad I’m not in their shoes.

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Faraway Reader

posted June 20, 2011 at 9:22 am


Do you understand that most people really don’t want you knocking on their door ???? To me it has nothing to do with whether they are rude or not. It is an intrusion onto my personal property and space and it is annoying as hell.

If I wanted more information on your church I would be more than capable of finding it. The door to door recruiting seems very dated and like a huge waste of time and in my guess offends more people than it recruits. Is there not projects in the community that would be better served with this amount of your members time????

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charles h huff

posted June 20, 2011 at 9:09 am

First off, listen to the JW posters here on this blog, the sorrow they feel because you had the nerve to enter their space and “disrespect” the JWs by partaking. LOL Not one of them has sorrow for the lives this cult has ruined, for the children now dead over the blood transfusion policies, the families torn apart like my own family. Where is your outrage for the doom you and your cohorts have measured out in full to your friends and family members who now know this religion is nothing more than a cult?

Lastly, Clint…who posted above and myself have done this for three years, I didn’t go this year because Sundays should be speant doing something fun, but I have went the two years prior. It does a spirit good to confront the ones that have hurt us in their own faces, to show that we have no fear of these men anymore, that’s like confronting your oppressor, its very good for the rebuiding, at least it was for me.

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posted June 20, 2011 at 12:49 am

Just because a congregation full of anti-christian people want to deny association with Jesus by passing on partaking of the bread and wine of his covenant does not mean I am obligated to also do as they do. Denying Christ is nothing new, and they did not invent it, even if they like to claim credit for it. The satanists beat them to it, among others.

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Timothy Riches

posted June 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm

First, a little cruelty: Bart, it’s plain that you did not attend College as your spelling is at High-School level. (and they say reading Watchtower literature is equal to a College education…)

Here are some fun facts about College education:
“To those who earn a college degree, the dividends will pay off – if not immediately then eventually – and include increased employment opportunities, higher wages and benefits, greater economic mobility, intellectual growth, and more. To the state of Oregon, the dividends include greater tax revenue, lower unemployment, less dependence on social services, and a more informed and engaged citizenry.” –

Your point about the Catholics is rejected, as the Witnesses STILL have not acknowledged their very serious problem with pedophiles and the Catholics HAVE. And if you can find a 2:1 ratio of positive VS negative comments regarding this very serious issue, you are surfing JW websites. The internet is fit to burst with counter-examples.

I wonder why Jehovah’s Witnesses see their pitiful growth rate as indicating anything positive! The turnover rate offsets any gains they have made. In reality, your growth rate is terrible: 1.6 billion hours of preaching resulting in an increase of approximately 300,000 baptized members in 2010. (over 5,000 hours per baptism)'s_Witnesses

Your entire comment seems to be nothing more than a verbose smokescreen, barely acknowledging the negatives yet finding a silver lining for each.

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Rachel R.

posted June 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Bart: What I am noticing from your comment is a lot of blame shifting: the JWs have child molestation, but the Catholics and boy scouts have more; young people have a need for attention; and your disfellowshipped ex-wife is head strong and arrogant. Basically, you are saying, “There are problems in my church, but it’s not their fault” and “There are some bad things, but there are more good things.” Does that make the bad things acceptable? Does your idea that Catholics have more child molestation make it all right that the JWs have it as well, and, in your own terms, “we have not handled it as well as we could have?” Does it absolve the elders of responsibility because they are not social workers? It is good that you recognize the negative aspects of your church, but it is neglectful to sweep them under the rug with these excuses.

I also wonder if you fully read the blog or the comments. Some people complained about the door-to-door aspect of JW, but many took issue with the disfellowshipping aspect of the religion. It ruins lives, causes the break ups of families and friendships, and even causes suicide. It is cruel and inhumane. As I have previously commented, my family was disfellowshipped when I was a child. Even at seven years old, my friends and their parents shunned me. My parents lost all of their friends and their only community. One of the bloggers is being shunned by his family, including his son. Many of the commenters have been shunned by their families and know someone who killed themselves because of this. It is not the same as going to someone’s door in a bad mood. It is bullying. To excuse this kind of behavior is to accept it and all of the irreparable damage that it does.

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posted June 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Bart. I appreciate you going against company policy (oops, WTBTS policy) of using the internet and reading information from apostates. Something this summer’s main talk at the convention will admonish against.

Do you want to know why I left? No, probably not. I wasn’t DF’d. I left on my own accord because my JW Elder(tm) father told me that to return to the congregation I would need to undergo a JC. Judicial Committee ™. I asked him why, because I had not done anything other than leave my violent alcoholic JW husband. After all, the Prodigal Son never had to undergo a JC, and Judicial Committee’s aren’t even reference in the bible. He gave me the party line of keeping the congregation clean, etc. Well, at that point I told him that I would not be returning.

I will not be beaten into submission by a Ministerial Servant, and then have to attend a JC when I leave the bastard.

Oh, and do you know why I never reported my sexual abuse at the hands of the PO’s father-in-law? It was because of the Two Witness Rule.

There are too many non-biblical “rules” within Jehovah’s Witnesses that harbor pedophiles and make it more than difficult for the abused and refused to consider JWism to be the “loving provision of Jehovah” we were led to believe.

I left in 1982 after my discussion with my dad when I moved home for a month before setting out on my own. I “survived” Armageddon of September 1975.

Oh yeah, what about the failed false prophesies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society? NONE OF THEM HAVE COME TRUE, yet they have damaged the lives of so many.

I pray that one day your eyes will be truly opened to the lies you have been fed.

Blessings to you.


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posted June 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hello everybody. First off I’m a J.W. and have been baptized since 1987. I was rasied as such eventhough I didn’t do anything with it until I was in my 20’s. I loved all the comments that people made. I agree with many things that have been posted. I understand that we do things that might strike people as being odd.
First off, I know many people in the church that have gone to college. If my son wants to go, fine go ahead. I’m not going to discourage him. As a preaching group, of course we’re going to stress a life of ministry over a life of higher education. With all the college graduates unemployed, and oregon graduates carrying financial debt, what’s the big deal about college. All parents want the best for their kids. If the parents find joy in the ministry, then they’ll want to share that with their kids. Leave ’em alone. For everyone 1 person that blogs and tweets about the horrors of our group I can find 2-3 that praise the group.
Yeah we’ve had problems with child molestation, who hasn’t. Look at the catholics. They’ve been hiding they’re problem for hundreds of years. Our problem lies in the fact that maybe we didn’t handle it as well as we could have. But unlike the catholic church and the boyscouts, we do not let the offender serve in any responsible capacity again.
I’ve visited many faith websites and have read the confessionals about all the young people that have been “shunned” over their free thinking and need for attention. How many more stories do I have about the young people that were helped by the elders or other ones in our group. What I agree with, is the manner that it’s handled. Our elders are not social workers, they don’t go to school and learn how to handle domestic problems. They’re just people trying to do the best they can to help others. I’ve known many people that were disfellowshipped wrongly. They came back anyway because they recognized that the elders are human and make mistakes. Why do the elders and others get lambasted in places like this for their mistakes, when our natural fathers and mothers treat us worse and make much more damaging mistakes.
What hurts, as my ex-wife told me was that she was disfellowshipped by men that had authority over her and used it in an improper way. What she doesn’t mention to people is that she is head strong and arrogant… (why do you think we’re not married anymore). If I get arrested for driving badly, am I going to post a blog and complain about the officers lack of compassion. come on people get over it.
The world has people dying of malnutrition, the economy is toast and you people talk about how you got your hand slapped for being an alcoholic, or committing adultery.
Every religious group has it’s problems. I feel that because our group is constantly growing and enjoys unity among all it’s members earthwide, that we get verbally abused. Would bloggers on this site like to speak to a J.W. holocaust victim and tell them, they belong to a cult, or that the victim judges others.
People call us a cult, and I would agree that it could look like that. But contrary to a cult, we don’t work underground, we don’t give our people drugs for mind control, we don’t stay isolated in compounds like mormons in Utah. We come to your house to talk about the promises that God has in store. What’s wrong with that. If you talk with us respectfully we’ll do the same back. Ok so maybe someone came to your door and was rude, you bloggers going to put the other 7 million of us down. My wife committed adultery and stole my son. I went in the ministry shortly afterward and was probably rude to a few people because I was distraught. Have some compassion. We’re people too and we suffer also, sometimes when at your door we might not be able to keep our composure. Aren’t all christians supposed to forgive. It seems that bloggers on this and other sites seem to forget that Jesus said to love your enemies and Paul said for a rotten thing not to proceed out of your mouth. So if we make mistakes, be a christian and show yourself superior and turn the other cheek as Jesus said to do.
I’ve seen more, and heard more horror stories than all you people combined. I’m still here because I see the visible evidence that something special is to be found with the J.W.’s. If I saw Joel bite the cracker at memorial, I’d still say hi to him, and ask how he’s doing. I’m just glad that he came. I wouldn’t judge him for bitting it, I’m sure he had a good reason. So I suppose because the others were aghast at his behavior, I’m to be lumped in with them. Now it sound like the bloggers are the ones judging now.
I welcome all the bloggers to respond to this post, because as we all know, J.W.’s don’t visit sites like beliefnet.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted June 17, 2011 at 2:05 am

Oh, Sara. Thank you for finding us and sharing your story. You’re not alone.

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posted June 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I came across Amanda and Joe’s story in the Oregonian today.My husband and I and our children were a part of this organization until his death in 1986, The circumstances that we endured after he was gone were awful, the heart break of realizing that their promise to care for widows and orphans was all BS, was an eye opener. I ended up having a total mental and physical breakdown, and wrote a letter telling them I was no longer interested in being a part of their organization…I have so many stories, but do not intend to dredge them up again, it’s still extremely painful after 22 years. And yes still after years and years of therapy. However I am very impressed by what you did, and just want to say good for you Amanda and Joe. This organization is not christian, it is a cult. I get irritated with their bashing “organized religion”, because believe me these guys are seriously organized, they have congregations, circuits, districts and of course the mother ship in New York. usually I just find them ridiculous, yet they cause an enormous amount of harm and pain when they break families apart. It’s truly a horrible organization.

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posted May 29, 2011 at 12:26 am

I was raised in “the truth” but never baptised because in my heart I could never truly believe all that was fed to me as a child. I left the “truth” as a teenager when my parents divorced and were disfellowshiped. I completely believe that the JW’s are a cult and I am so very thankful to be free of them. I haven’t attended a meeting in 20+ years and have believed myself to be free from all of their ties. And then I read your blog. I literally GASPED when I saw the picture of the sacred bread being eaten. I couldn’t even grasp the thought that such a thing could happen, there is no way I would have the nerve to do such a thing. An eye opening reminder to myself that the ingrained teachings of the cult are still beneath the surface of my mind after 20+ years! Thank you so much for your courage and for reminding me to be grateful that I never subjected my own family to such crazy teachings.

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posted May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

So glad that they have been exposed! I know that the JW way of dealing with human error(sin)if confessed,is getting rid of the member instead of counseling incident. There was a suicide that occured of a beautiful women who was a single mother who had an affair or in other words was in a unmarried relationship. She was a JW for many years and was 86’d, disfellowshipped, made feel guilty, no good, and she could not take the humiliation. Now her children may be grown, but motherless. The Jehovah Witness organization has no idea what kind of damage they can impose on by their teaching and rituals. They all need to be further educated especially the elders who may not be fit to tell others what is righteous. They all need a huge overhaul and teach that life and the teaching Christ benefit a person not turn a person off..

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posted May 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I do not know how I got to this post but I am glad I did.
This post is probably helping many other people… unfortunetly I lost my love to JW, I hope that person i love comes across this and opens her eyes to what JW is doing to all other family. I really repect people like Joel, you help others get their confidence in them self. I strongly dissagree with JW’s views on the bible and how they expect younger generation’s Kids to stop going into furture education when there are people in afarica who arent even getting enough education and here we have these JW’s who are throwing away their children’s future. This is just wrong! They have taking the scriptures to far… If they keep going, the future will be in bad shape.I hope people who are planning to convert themself to JW’s should think about how it will effect their family and also their future and loved once. Think Twice before planning your road ahead it really changes people into believing in nonsense… I hope someday she will open her eyes.

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Joel Gunz

posted April 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thank YOU, Serena!

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Joel Gunz

posted April 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hey “I’m also a client” — I’m very grateful for your thoughts. It has given me hope, even if it seems hopeless right now. Thank you so very much.

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posted April 30, 2011 at 2:48 am

You guys rocked this assignment. I can’t even imagine taking that plate and glass in front of any of my close friends from back then. Amazing fortitude Joel!!! Loved reading both of your takes on this. So different and both so true. Thank you both for doing this and letting us read about it!

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I'm also a client

posted April 29, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I really, really enjoyed this post – I’m a little late to the party it seems, but thank you very much. I am also a recovering truth-aholic. I was a ministerial servant, spoke at conventions of 15k people, the whole thing, and I can tell folks very clearly who have no clue why it is important to speak out, that this piece has the ring of truth throughout. Really, truly well done.

Joel – FWIW, my wife, also an ex-witness, also has a grown son who was in a similar situation. He was very systematically alienated from her when she left the religion – and ultimately convinced to not only not go with her, but to completely disown her (with approval, be it tacit or not, from the elders (first hand knowledge of that, btw)). However, I say “was” because he recently called her (he is now in his early 20’s) and said, “Mom, I need to ask you some questions,” and in the end, they have a completely restored relationship. He is in the process of quietly escaping (the only way to do it without incurring the emotional violence).

So there’s hope. We never, in a million years, thought that would happen, and it has. I hope that helps.

Thank you again.

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posted April 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

That must’ve been one stale cracker.

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Former Member of the Mens Warehouse Mafia

posted April 26, 2011 at 12:58 am

Gotta say thank you to you both. That took some real chutzpah! As a 30 something ex-JW that grew up in the organization, I’ve lost my parents, brother, and pretty much everyone I grew up with. I feel a strange pride in my experiences though. I realize now that I’m a way stronger and more forgiving person than I thought I was. I figured out in my 20’s rhat pretty much everyone in the congregation was on anti-depresents of some kind. Constantly being told at every meeting rhat you’re not good enough or doing enough takes its toll. I still don’t have the nuts to do what Joel did, but I can experience it through your blogs. Cheers to you both!

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posted April 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

“But here’s the thing, no one asked you to go there.”

The Memorial is a public event. In the weeks preceeding it, the Witnesses spend countless man-hours distributing personal invitations to everyone they can find. Their goal is to get one of those invitations into the hands of everyone in their territory. So when you say “no one asked you to go there,” I can’t help but laugh hysterically at the ignorance, because, being that these are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Joel and Amanda WERE asked to go there, by the Witnesses themselves! If this was a private event, they wouldn’t spend hours distributing invitations to everyone in their area. Joel and Amanda were WELCOMED into the Hall with OPEN ARMS.

In addition, the Witnesses make it a regular practice to push their beliefs onto the general public, knocking on doors WITHOUT INVITATION, so if they get all up in arms about someone nibbling their crackers and sipping their Maneschewitz just this once, I can’t feel sorry for them.

“Their right to worship as they want in their own space in a country with religious freedom is fundamental.”

Nibbling on their crackers and sipping their cheap wine does not, in any way, threaten their right to worship as they want. If they didn’t want people like Joel and Amanda to show up at their event, they wouldn’t make it such a public affair. Besides, they weren’t being disruptive at all. Joel wasn’t jumping up on stage trying to stop the event. He engaged in an action because he was given the opportunity to do so. The JWs handed him the plate and the cup. He didn’t march up on stage and take them. It wasn’t the action that offended the Witnesses, it was WHO performed it, and like I said before. Boo hoo. When you spend a billion hours a year confronting people with your beliefs, denouncing other peoples’ beliefs, and threatening them with eternal destruction if they don’t comply, you deserve a little push-back, especially when you give the members of the public a perfect opportunity to do so.

“I don’t care that it meant something to you and your boyfriend to piss off these people. It meant something to insult and degrade other people for your own revenge and kicks.”

What if that person has insulting and degrading beliefs? What if it were a Nazi group? Would you have a problem with someone who was a former Nazi going to a public to perform an innocuous act that the people there find insulting, just to piss them off? I somehow doubt it. If you knew anything about who Jehovah’s Witnesses are, what they believe, and how it has harmed and continuously harms people (unnecessary death due to the blood transfusion doctrine, telling kids not to go to college, encouraging people to sell their homes because the end is coming soon, etc.), you wouldn’t be saying this.

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posted April 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Pretty interesting story, and very sad about the son.

I wouldn’t have done what you did, and I can understand what Anita is saying. But at the same time, she needs to know that unless you’ve been stuck in this cult you really can’t understand. I know it sounds like a cop-out, but it’s really true. My wife and I talk about it and I know she can sort of get it, but until you’ve lived for years with the psychological warfare this organization levies on you you’ll never really understand.

To you Joel, if this helped you beat away some demons then I’m very happy for you. I know it took me many years to get to the (mostly) peaceful state I’m in. The scares will fade a bit, but they never really go away completely.

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Mrs. Hopkins

posted April 24, 2011 at 8:07 am

Thank you so much for this blog and congrats to Joel for having the guts to even go back into the Kingdom Hall let alone partake at Memorial. I also am an ex-JW, who escaped the cult during college with someone else I met in the congregation. We were the college rebels going to a small rural congregation. Growing up as a JW kid was difficult, especially with parents who got divorced because my mother became JW and then for some reason made us hide this from our dad. So I did still get birthday cakes and christmas presents, but I felt guilty enjoying them. While I was not technically disfellowshipped, I would definitely not be allowed back. I was baptized in college and then fell into a deep depression and self-cutting that took me years of therapy to come out of. The last few years of my life (I’m now 33) have been the only ones that I’ve spent as my true self. My mother hasn’t talked to me in 2 years, except for a recent letter and follow-up phone call to reiterate that I am living in sin and going against the moral teachings of Jehovah.

I am also trying to keep this short so I’ll end it here. But JWs are definitely a cult and it takes a strong person to disentangle themselves from it.

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Joel Gunz

posted April 24, 2011 at 2:26 am

Go for it, Bex!

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posted April 23, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Read both sides of the same story. I hope you guys don’t mind if I copy them and pass them out at my next meetup.

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posted April 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I was a JW, brought up in the cult. I think, Anita, if you had experienced the JW way of life, you’d want to spew some vitriol too. I also think there was no vitriol in the blog – just some darn funny writing. Thanks for sharing the experience, I had a good laugh. As someone else said, you couldn’t get me to go into a KH if you paid me a million bucks, but if I did, I’d love to “partake” just to send a little frisson of shock through their dead souls.

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posted April 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I Googled for JW Memorial 2011 to see when my Dad would be harassing me this year. I dodged the bullet this year! You are bookmarked, and I’ve fallen a little bit in love with both of you.

The longer you are away, the better it gets. I was snatched away by The World when I went to college. I picked the college that was as far away as possible while still giving me in-state tuition. I met a girl who had done sort of the same. We fled the tribe together. Even though I’m 31, I’ve only been “alive” for 13 years.

I’m torn between keeping this short, and typing a novella on JW life. I’ll keep it short. :)

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Joel Gunz

posted April 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Hey Michael – Love to catch up with you — and the second round will be on me!

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posted April 23, 2011 at 5:22 am

Amazing. Simply amazing. I’ve been reading your “Sundays” blog since you started it, but today’s put me in Joel’s shoes. “Turning white as a sheet”, “not attending college”, “high school poetry”, “Bethel janitor”, “lost potential”… it all struck cords that vibrated through my vertebrae and out my gut.

I wish I had been there to give Joel a hug and then go hash it all out over a few beers around the corner at Breakside.

I can only imagine all the thoughts that must have been rushing through Joel’s mind as the unleavened bread was coming closer and closer. Mind a blur until the crunch of the bread between his teeth echoed off the ears of all those in the hall.

Amanda, your description of it all was beautifully done. What a great partner Joel has by his side.

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posted April 23, 2011 at 5:13 am

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and believed it fully and completely. I even became a Ministerial Servant in my 20’s in order to please Jehovah. The many doctrinal contradictions and absurd attitude toward science and personal growth finally motivated me to study my beliefs from an objective point of view.

When I left the religion all of the friends I had known for 20 years began to shun me. My family began to shun me and tell me that I never really made The Truth my own. In other words, I lacked the conviction of my beliefs. Oh, the irony.

I got the hell out of that town, went to college, and met a wonderful partner who supports me fully. Life gets so much better, contrary to what the cult would have you believe.

Good on ya Joel! Maybe I will get to buy you a real glass of wine at one of the ex-JW meetup’s in the Portland area sometime.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 23, 2011 at 1:31 am

Damn straight, I did. 😉

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Locutus of the Borg

posted April 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Thank you so much for that. I was also raised as a Jehovah’s Witless.

Your points on education and the jw’s are accurate. In the Watchtower belief system, higher education is viewed as a sign of lack of faith, and brings shame on the family. They believe that the end of the world is just around the corner, and any time wasted in school could count against you at judgement day, as a misplaced priority.

Those who were not raised in that cult have no idea of the immensity of that ‘partaking of the cracker’ act. He must know that it pretty much guarantees that no jw family member will ever speak to him again. Of course they probably had cut him out of their lives years ago because he was not at meetings 3x a week so it’s probably a small price at this point…just symbolic.

I think you found yourself a very good man there.

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posted April 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Most excellent! Thank you for sharing.

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Beki Allen

posted April 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Excellent. Thank you for sharing the Memorial experience from your perspective. Very few people understand, I think more people will because of you.

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posted April 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

I grew up JW. I’m now 11 years clean. I tell myself that I was addicted to the cult. It makes me feel better. 😉

I enjoyed your blog. Being an ex-JW has created many problems in my life. I have an almost crippling Doomsday Phobia. This is thanks to all of the never ending babble on the horrors and suffering of the emending “end of this system of things.” I needed professional counseling to deal with the fear and guilt that I experienced daily.

I decided to become Catholic a few years ago. I can’t say that I agree with every aspect of the faith. However, the ready concept of forgiveness has been a blessing to me. I can still remember sitting in my first “committee” meeting as a JW. I was a 15 years old. I was terrified and so racked with guilt that I hadn’t eaten in 3 months. It took another year after that night before they decided that I was sufficiently sorry to earn back all of my privileges. There was no ongoing counsel, no forgiveness, and no support. The process nearly killed me. My years “in the truth” were simultaneously some of the best and nearly all of the worst years of my life. Since leaving the faith I have rarely looked back. I no longer deal with feeling worthless all of the time. I spent all of my teenage in a soul crushing depression that left me a broken shell of a person. If you put one foot wrong it seems like they make you pay with your sanity and soul.

I also have to say that hearing of old men (sometimes elders) who had molested children without ever being reported to the police had become normal to me. No one ever talks about the rampant pedophilia that is never reported. This was a HUGE, HUGE problem in our district.

Most of my former JW friends have college degrees. They weren’t really discouraged from attending college. The real problem is that they were discouraged from attending public schools. Everyone was home schooled but never with any proper education. They were left woefully unprepared for college. I actually dropped out of high school due to pressure. It took me many years of hard work before I could even be accepted to a university.

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posted April 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Nice post, thank you for sharing your experience!

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Faraway Reader

posted April 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Very moving post. I am so sad for all the people who have become estranged from family members over this. It is shocking but sadly I am not surprised.

And for the record I think it’s time JW re-think the whole door to door routine as well. I am tired of being asked if I am prepared for the future, or if I’m afraid for my children etc. I find it intrusive, self-righteous and just plain bad manners. Fear mongering, while my dog is going ape in the background and my husband is sleeping after working all night, really does not make me want to join your church.
I learned a lot from your post. Congrats on the new digs too Amanda!

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posted April 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I enjoyed your article Amanda. One note, while you are pretty accurate about the college, it is starting to get/change a bit better lately (at least it is not the official default policy to disown based on that and a very very few people are starting to go to college).

You are right to only be very proud of Joel. I don’t see any line being crossed, just a display of some big brass balls. As for those blanket respect requesters out there, you’d do better to understand the full situation better and define what you mean, there is also earned-respect and tolerance.

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posted April 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Wonderful! Thank you!!!

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Joel Gunz

posted April 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hey Clint – I agree wholeheartedly!

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posted April 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

It would seem to me that if this blog isn’t to your personal liking, there are others to choose from. Ironically, Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t allowed by their sect to browse a site such as Belief Net. Any site that examines other beliefs is off-limits to members and exploring such things is reason for them to be thrown out of the group and shunned.

This wasn’t a case of two people coming in and thumbing their noses at a religion they knew nothing about. Joel is an ex-JW. Because of this, he is allowed to feel however he wants to feel about the group. I was raised as a JW, so I have an understanding of what he has experienced and how liberating it must have been to have faced down the demons that this group caused him.

Anita, have you had any experience with the JW sect at all? Do you know anything about their teachings and the lack of real choice their members have about their own beliefs and lives? Do you have any idea of the control and fear that this organization exerts over its members and the lingering emotional damage that is caused, even years after people have left the group? Do you know what it is you are defending?

Congratulations to Joel for facing down his demons. As for Amanda’s perspective on the evening, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s so interesting to hear non-JW friends and family members’ thoughts on the group. Its also understandable that they would have anger towards the organization, given that they have experienced the long journey their loved ones must go on in order to recover from the damage that was caused.

I stumbled upon “Year of Sundays” and BeliefNet due to these last two posts about the JW Memorial. What a well-done blog! I will continue to be a reader of the blog and a supporter of the web site.

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Clint Bussey

posted April 22, 2011 at 11:17 am

I love what Joel did! I am an ex-JW and I have partaken at The Memorial in 2009 and 2010. I didn’t shot disrespect uless that is your intention. I was showing respect and appreciation for Christ’s suffering and death and leading as an example to the JW’s. It is t make them think. Besides as an ex-JW who has been df’ed I feel a little like Jesus. They say that we are spiritually dead, and they treat us as dead people, not talking to us and such. They “killed” us socially just like the Pharisees had Jesus killed trying him in court and charging him with blasphemy and sedition. Because of this I have a deep appreciation for Jesus and how he stood up to the religious zealots of his day and died for it. He died for our freedom.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

Congratulations on your degree! PIGS IN SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

I’d like to think he’d give us a high five.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 22, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thanks, Tom! For the first several months we dated, I just assumed Joel had a degree because he’s one of the most educated men I’ve ever met. I was shocked (and then angry) when I found out he hadn’t been allowed to go.

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Tom J

posted April 22, 2011 at 9:12 am

As one of Joel’s friends in high school (hey Joel!) when I found out that he was not planning on going to college I literally couldn’t understand it. It seemed like a huge waste of talent. But it’s great to see where (and with who) he has ended up. Be angry at the past injustice, but remember that the present is what is important.

Love the blog!

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posted April 22, 2011 at 6:33 am

First time ever at this site,..and my last. What would Christ think or do reading all this?

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posted April 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

that man needs to continue in therapy and not take his pathology out on people who are merely practising their legal right in following their beliefs – parents in all religions attempt to inculcate their beliefs in their children and onceadult these children are all able to choose for themselves.

Get a life Joel and Amanda and let others lead theirs!

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posted April 22, 2011 at 12:33 am

Bravo! Thanks so much for this story, and congratulations on getting yourselves through this.

I’m six-years disfellowshipped, and in a few weeks I finish the university degree that I’ve been working on for six years. I still think about all of my beloved morons often, but I’ve observed that as the years have passed, it’s happening a lot less. I guess we’ll always love them, but increasingly disdain them. Everybody loved the muppets, but nobody really took them seriously, right?

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posted April 21, 2011 at 11:19 pm


Thank you so much for writing this. Really, thank you.

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Mad Sweeney

posted April 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm

This blog and what you did was awesome!

There are ALWAYS going to be critics, people who believe “freedom of religion” means “freedom of religious organizations to abuse their members without challenge or critique” but that is NOT true freedom. Freedom of religion is for the individuals and the members of high control sects like the JWs are NOT FREE.

Joel’s son is NOT FREE to speak to his OWN FATHER.

We’re supposed to respect that violation of a basic human right, the right to SPEAK, as just and righteous because it is done in the name of religion? I want no part of any organization or individual who places the rights of religious organizations over the basic human rights of individual members.

You and Joel rock, and I hope that one day Joel’s son will wake up as I did (after 4+ decades in the cult) and rebuild the relationships the Watchtower Society has coerced him into destroying.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm

I hope everyone who ever is considering, has considered, or will ever consider becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses reads the entirety of this post. Having grown up in and been as “all-in” in this cult as is humanly possible … all I can hope is that no one else endures what my family has endured and that those who are still stuck in the blindness and madness of that religion can get free. It had just the right balance of “haha”, “ah-ha” and “ah.” moments. Good job. Very good job.

P.S. For those of you who think their real stance on “Higher Education” has changed, or that they have laxed up in any way – think again. My entire family was thrown out on its heels(not “disfellowshipped”, but as good as) on that basis alone – not an iota of “immorality”, not even so much as a WORD of counsel from the elders. Ever. But the Watchtower’s unwritten policy is still that Higher Education is from the D-Evil. Believe it if you want, God is my witness. Certain areas of the country are worse than others.

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Adam (Twitch)

posted April 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm


Joel is so lucky to have found you. From experience, it is so difficult to find a supportive partner in a situation like this. The inner workings of the JWs might confuse the hell out of you (like they do my wife sometimes), but, you’re there 110% behind your guy. That’s phenomenal.

Great post. I was smiling up until the last paragraph. Then I got choked up a bit. It’s disturbing how this “religion” has torn so many families apart. Disgusting, really. Over what? Smoking a cigarette? Falling in love with someone that doesn’t believe in “The Truth”? It’s quite ridiculous.

Thank you so much for posting this experience from YOUR perspective.


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posted April 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Brilliant, Amanda and Joel, spectacularly written and a brave necessity it was, re ‘partaking’ solo. How utterly cathartic (after the terror wore off) that must have been. Goosebumps. Hah! Joel, that one action probably saved you 20 years in therapy, so I’d say you were fiscally prudent as well :). And ditto that this is exactly what should be on beliefnet. Note the one dissenting contributor in 37 comments. Sweet moment. THANK you for your Year of Sundays.

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Jessa Lewis

posted April 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm

You’re absolutely right about one thing, Anita, which is that profanity has no place on beliefnet. We moved our archives over all at once and we will take the next few days to clean them up so they fit with the BN code of conduct. However, my observation about the BMI’s here at the Kingdom Hall was exactly that – an observation. If you plan to keep reading this blog, put your seat belt on, because we makes no promises to be pretty.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Awesome blog! Thank you for sharing. Joel did what many of us wish we could. I considered going and at the same time, the annual memorial count is such a big deal… that I couldn’t bring myself to add to the number.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I appreciate your thoughts, here, NK. I think my biggest beef with the Witnesses is the act of disfellowshipping. I think Joel hit it on the nose when he called it a hate crime.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Ooh, Jessa, that’s TWO filthy’s. Mama likes! Thanks for your kind words.

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Joel Gunz

posted April 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Ah Vinnie – I wish there was a way that I could “like” your comment!

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Jessa Lewis

posted April 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm


I was at one of the churches that Joel and Amanda visited, and this was how I became aware of this project. There was no sneak attack, in fact the leadership was emailed in advance of their coming and they asked permission to take photos. My first impression of them was that they were a well dressed and nice couple with cute kiddos, and that they seemed the sort I could have a good laugh over drinks with. At times they seemed a bit aloof (understandable), but overall polite and open and I wish I had more time talking to them.

While I can understand that sometimes their language might make some people uncomfortable, I *love* that they don’t pull any punches and are unfiltered in their assessments (which is just their opinion). I’ve become weary of how once someone becomes involved with church they often start speaking “Christianese,” the language and attitude changes to be almost saccarine sweet in some cases. On the outside yeah, Amanda can be a filthy filthy girl, but in her I see a good heart who is providing a valuable service in showing how outsiders view how a church does “business.”


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Heather Strang

posted April 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Kudos to you both!!!

Going into a Kingdom Hall is terrifying on many levels and going to the Memorial? Forget about it – you couldn’t pay me a million bucks.
I bow down to both of you in humble appreciation of the good work you are doing.

You may not know it, but you blew the circuits out of more than a few people’s heads that night and gave good ole Joel Strangeland something to talk about for years and years. Feeling better than people who aren’t JW’s is pretty much the MO. My mother’s family won’t speak to me because I’ve written about my experience with the JW’s and spoken the truth. But they have no problem being around my other sisters who are not JW’s, because they wouldn’t dare say a negative word regarding the religion (even though they feel the same as I do).

Irony? Nah, more like hypocrisy.

Thanks again for doing this work – you two ROCK!
-Heather :)

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Vinnie Bartilucci

posted April 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

“Satirical”? Shame on you…

I love nothing more than asking JW’s (Or as a friend likes to call them “Jehovah’s Witlesses”), “You do know that Heaven is full, right?”

I’m reasonable enough to know every and all religions seem ridiculous from the outside, but I’m still petty and small minded enough to laugh at the ones further away from the beam.

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Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci

posted April 21, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Wow, now more than ever I understand why my husband Vinnie deliberately laughs loud, long, and harshly when the occasional Jehovah’s Witness is foolish enough to ring our doorbell, sending them slinking back home. For the rare bird who isn’t scared away, Vin starts “proselytizing” about the satirical Church of the Sub-Genius; that usually does the trick. :-) Amanda, I applaud you and Joel, and my heart goes out to the way the JWs tore Joel’s family apart. I hope he and Max will be able to reunite before it’s too late. You guys keep writing these great blog posts; they’re exposes that need to be read!

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Rachel R.

posted April 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Great post. Like Jules, I was also almost crying by the end of it. As someone whose parents (mother and stepfather) were disfellowshipped, let me offer a child’s perspective on this cult. Fortunately, we got off light. No one else in our family were JWs, so there was no familial shunning. But there were plenty of lost friends. How do you explain to a seven-year-old why none of her friends will speak to her anymore? Why she can’t go to their houses? More terribly, why their parents won’t even look at her? This was my first taste of being publicly shunned by people who were close to me. In fact, when you’re seven, your friends feel like the world to you. I’m not even going to go into how confusing it was to not be able to celebrate holidays or birthdays, even when one parent tries to throw you a party (my father was not a JW). The guilt and shame that rose from eating that cake emblazoned “Happy Birthday.”

This religion is abusive. It saps people’s independence and confidence then abandons them over the smallest disagreement (my parents were disfellowshipped because they questioned the elders over some of The Watchtower passages that seemed in conflict with biblical passages). That is the definition of abuse.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I grew up as an (unbaptized) Witness, but I am currently not attending services. I do try to go to the Memorial every year, and did go this past Sunday. I also attend an occasional “special talk” or assembly day with my dad.

One of the things I disagree with about the religion is the advising against reading anything else. How can you make an informed decision about how to lead your life if you don’t know all the options? But on the other hand, there are a lot of more tempting, less moral options that they’re trying to protect you from.

I have some lifelong friends and acquaintances that are really good people as a result of my years at the Kingdom Hall and I wouldn’t trade that. Plus, a lot of my decent qualities probably stemmed in part from this background. Most religions are probably strict when you get down to the basics – the Witnesses are really serious about enforcing them. They don’t want “bad associations” mixing in with everyone in the congregation with no consequence.

I also believe that they’ve become less strict in recent years, after Joel and I stopped attending. Not that that helps those from our generation, but maybe going forward. I heard someone at the Memorial talking about how she was getting ready to graduate from college, and I’m pretty sure she was a Witness and not a visitor. So they still don’t ENCOURAGE higher education and think that time is better spent in the field ministry, but at least it’s not completely frowned upon. And they have fewer meetings per week, after apparently realizing that it was nearly impossible to make all the meetings and conduct a life in this day and age.

Oh, and a quick note about the songs – they used to be longer and more lively (and sing-able) and they recently changed them. In my opinion, that was a FAIL. Songs are songs……don’t modify them! My dad wasn’t thrilled about that, either.

So is it possible that they have a good basis in beliefs, but handle the personal interaction side ineffectively? Because it seems unreasonable to take free-thinking mature adults and try to control so many aspects of their lives.

And I bet when Joel crunched down on that unleavened bread, every head in the place whipped around! I couldn’t do it. On a lighter note regarding that – when I was little, they passed the plate over my head, and I yelled out “I want some CHIPS!”. There was laughter, so not everyone was appalled at my impish behavior. (I was too young to know what was going on.)

Enough for now. I’m sure I’ll think of more later. I respect your right to hold an opinion about this and post it publicly, and you two have more guts than I can even imagine.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 3:12 pm

all i can say is awesome. wow. Great post!

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posted April 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Amanda, this isn’t the only time you were intentionally disrespectful in service. Besides, that isn’t my point at all. Whether you are disrespectful in the physical service or disrespectful to the people at the church in this blog makes no difference. Disrespect and tearing down another’s faith (or physical appearance) is not the Beliefnet way (as stated in the Beliefnet code of conduct).

Jessa, NEVER ONCE did I say anything about the people in power in a church being able to break up a family unit, abuse others, or do anything illegal, etc. In fact, I said that I do not agree with the JW beliefs -but they have the right in this country to believe what faith they want to believe. My problem was the vitriol that Amanda is spewing in this post (like calling out the JW congregation for their large “BMI”) and other posts she has written (like saying being at a Catholic service makes Amanda want to say “motherfucker while giving oral sex”). I don’t think Beliefnet is a place for that kind of disrespect toward these churches.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I never comment on anything, but I had to add my 2 cents on this one. When i was in high school, I was courted, for lack of a better word, by a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Being the lost kid I was, I felt wonderfully welcomed and wanted. Until I was talking one day with the woman who was bringing me about the fact that my father had sexually abused me for 14 years. She took me to talk to one of the men, who told me that I needed to ask God for forgiveness for it. I walked away and am still angry about it. How many other impressionable kids have they messed up? I hate the institution.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Oh, Amanda. This post is amazing. I am so proud of Joel, and I mean the Gunz version. There’s far too much pain and triumph here to fit a proper reaction in this little comment. Well done. Cult indeed.

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Lisa Le

posted April 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Great, wonderful, and Eye opening for people who have not been in this cult. After 20 years of being in this cult which I now call the borg, I would have to say that I’m glad you got to see it for yourself Amanda. It IS a cult and divides families. I am so happy that you and Joel went. After a year of therapy myself I’d have to say that I could never do what he did. Reading your blog,s I can feel the same things you guys felt internally and it’s scary. These people are so brainwashed by the WT society that is too hard for them to see what they are doing to their own family members based on one scripture. So sad to see.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Thanks for making me cry, Jessa!

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Jessa Lewis

posted April 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm


As someone who has seen and even been a victim of abuse at the hands of the “church” I am going to call you out on a double standard. You are saying that it is okay for those in power to break up families, tear people down, hide abuse and more all in the name of God… but that someone who faithfully endured these abuses isn’t allowed their own civil disobedience?

Silent complicity is how people get wounded for life. The belief that those who are charged with representing God are somehow above reproach is one thing that Jesus was never down with.

Joel had every right to be there and do what he did. I also have the feeling that this will help heal more than just Joel.

Beliefnet, unexamined beliefs are not worth having. Joel and Amanda belong on here.


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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Thanks, Julie. I plan to hold onto my anger a while longer. At least until Max is allowed to talk to his dad again!

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posted April 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I admire you both so much and it is so important for people see the hypocrisy of this cult and to have the word of an “outsider”, someone who has never been a part of it is so powerful. I admire Joel for being able to do this, I doubt if I will ever have the “cajones” to enter a KH again. I am so glad that Joel has such a loving supportive partner, he is an amazing man and he has raised wonderful children that are so intelligent themselves. I agree, give Max time……he’ll take the cracker… to you both!

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Julie Marsh

posted April 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Being married to a former Christian Scientist, I can identify with your feelings toward Jehovah’s Witnesses and the damage — potential and actual — done to someone you love in the name of God. My anger has dissipated somewhat over the years, but it will never fully disappear.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Thanks, Sam! Seriously. You’ve warmed my cockles.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm


Please be assured that this is the first and ONLY time we will ever be intentionally disrespectful while attending a church service. And in this case it was only because Joel has such a long ABUSIVE history with the Witnesses. Even then, we didn’t disrupt the service AT ALL. The bread and wine were there for ANYONE who wanted to take it.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted April 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I know, right? (About the cojones!) I am so incredibly proud of him.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

What a powerful story. Makes me want to get to know Joel better, that’s for sure.

For those who are offended by what transpired-I can understand. But the thing is-this was something Joel needed to do. It would have been different if Amanda had “partaken”. That would have been disrespectful. But with his history-i think Joel had every right to do what he did. And the fact that it was witnessed by someone who knew his story? Even better.

Obviously this was a Sunday where it was impossible for either of you to walk in without any prejudices.

I cannot comprehend being shunned by my family. Any religion that dictates that deserves to be ridiculed in public IMO. I hope that someday there is healing for ALL involved. I was almost in tears by the end of this post. Thank you for writing this Amanda and thank you Joel for letting her.

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Sam D.

posted April 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Bra-freaking-vo, Amanda you captured the content and essence of my anger at being raised a Witness. In the congregation in which I spent the first 20 years of my life we had more molesters and child rapists than college graduates. The sad bit is that that last bit is not hyperbole. I say ridicule, insult, and laugh at these silly people. Again I say, well done.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 10:56 am

Is this the kind of thing we’ve resorted to on Beliefnet? Intentionally disrespecting and insulting other faiths and taking potshots at their members for their personal appearances (“JW’s don’t get to celebrate birthdays or holidays, but they obviously make a mean potato salad because the average BMI in that Kingdom Hall was definitely over the legal limit. They might single-handedly be keeping Casual Male Big & Tall in business.”)? Even you admit how you intentionally went there to disrespect these people and their personal faith and sacred traditions (“And here we were intentionally disrespecting everyone in the room!”)

Sure the JWs have their own way of doing the things they do, and I may not agree with their beliefs. But here’s the thing, no one asked you to go there. Their right to worship as they want in their own space in a country with religious freedom is fundamental. I don’t care that it meant something to you and your boyfriend to piss off these people. It meant something to insult and degrade other people for your own revenge and kicks. Nice…

Beliefnet, please remove this blog. It goes against everything Beliefnet stands for. I come to Beliefnet because this is a place where everyone’s faith is respected and I can’t believe that Beliefnet is supporting this kind of garbage, intolerance and personal attacks on other religions.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

One of my best friends when I was young, who I met on my first day of kindergarten and remained my friend until life after high school separated us, was a Jehovah’s Witness. She was never all that into it, but her mother was, and that was all that mattered. She was (is) so smart, and was (is) a gifted writer, but when we were all taking the SATs and talking about what college we were going to, she wasn’t. It broke my heart.

Instead, her younger brother got to go on to college while she stayed home and supported her mother by working at a grocery store.

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posted April 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

WOw. Maybe I missed it in Joel’s post, or maybe he left that tidbit out…but wow. He was the only one partaking?? That man has some serious balls. Great post, Amanda!

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