He chose to leave and there were “many reasons for his decision,” which he does not go into. Abuse policy is not his only reason, though at first glance it might appear that way. He could have reported any abuse allegations to police as he became aware of them. True, he would have to step down as an elder, because one holding office in anything must carry out the policies of those making them. But it is all volunteer service anyway. He could have taken his place as a regular congregation member and not thrown everything away with regard to his belief system.
Instead, it appears that he did throw it all away in order to become a warrior for a cause. He has thrown in his lot with the ones crusading against this one grievous wrong, who appear, for the moment, to be enjoying greater success in the war. Or are they? They are undeniably good at outing and punishing perpetrators of child sexual abuse, but are they proving any good at stemming the evil itself? Thirty-plus years of all-out war has produced little result; you can still throw a stone in any direction and hit five molesters. In contrast, there is good reason to believe that the Witness organization overall has significant success in prevention.
What of the reasons that he became a Witness in the first place—the clear answer as to why God allows suffering, the knowledge of what happens to people when they die, and even the reason that they die? He has forgotten all about it. What of the Bible principles that have succeeded in producing one group, and practically only one group, that has not been molded by changing tides of morality, sexual and otherwise? Not worth the bother, his course suggests. What of the effort to educate ones the world over in knowledge of God’s purposes and the one true hope that conditions will not always be as they are now? It no longer interests him. What of the work to make known God’s name known and defend it against those who would malign it? None of it seems to be a concern any longer. If he remembers God at all, he will address him as ‘The LORD,’ since the rule elsewhere is to bury God’s name.
He throws it all away to become a foot soldier in a cause. The cause is certainly not nothing, but neither is it everything. Every notion he once had about God taking a separate people for his name appears to have vanished. Christianity should not be separate from the world, in his apparent revised eyes. It should jump in and help fix it, even if most of the tools it offers will be scorned. If the world scorns them, perhaps it has a point, he seems to suggest. His new course says it loud and clear: Elders should put aside concerns of safeguarding the congregation, and should become agents of the state, so as to do their part in safeguarding the whole world.
He has bought completely into his new role. It is not enough for him that elders, at present, leave it to parents and victims as a personal matter whether they will seek help from outside counselors. He is upset that they do not encourage it. Seemingly he would hold them accountable even if they did encourage it, which they do at present with regard to authorities, and the parents/victims yet declined. They did not encourage it enough, he would maintain. Too, he is concerned that an offender might go door to door as a Witness in search of new victims. Well, nothing is impossible, but it seems an extraordinarily difficult way to go about it. The house to house ministry is a challenge even when done for the right reasons. Privately, some Witnesses grumble about how difficult it is to find people home today, at least at the most customary times to call. How many of them are going to be unsupervised children? How many of those children are going to be trusting of strangers? It’s ridiculous, but the former elder has swallowed it all. Why not simply hang out where children are? Volunteer at a children’s camp. Coach youth sports. Drive a school bus.
He could have just relinquished his office and reported whatever allegations that he became aware of. Instead, he has flushed everything away to focus on the popular crusade. If he remains religious, he will probably lean right. If he has gone atheist, he will probably lean left. They mostly do. Nor should it be a surprise. If you go atheist, you put your full trust in human self-rule. Obviously, nations have to band together for this to be successful, so any populist movement is counterproductive. The question reverts right back to that of 1919, when the Bible Students chose God’s kingdom as the true hope for all mankind, and their opponents, throwing in their lot with human efforts, chose the League of Nations.
All of this said, the former elder prefaces his diatribe by his having seen “the extent that the organization would go to in order to defend their position.” It is a point that merits addressing.
Those brothers most eager to not air dirty laundry in an attempt not to sully God’s name appear to have succeeded in sullying it, albeit unintentionally, more than if the authorities were called the instant any congregation member so much as hiccupped. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal instinct to keep them there, and that universal tendency is exacerbated in direct proportion to consciousness of reputation. Few are more conscious of reputation than the Witness organization, even as though drawing support from a 1 Corinthians 6:7 mission statement.
It is not hard to understand how this can happen, yielding to the instinct to not air dirty laundry. But it is not useful here, and any hint that one is concerned with reputation as more than an insignificant footnote will incur the wrath of those focused on one and one thing only. They will say ‘If you really do abhor child sexual abuse why do you even think for a moment about reputation?’ It is a very difficult road to traverse.
Everyone except those in Bethel watches the television show Bull today, and there they learn that playing to the jury on the jury’s own terms is critical. Does the Watchtower attorney in Montana do that? Or does he give evidence of being ‘insular,’ quoting Bible verse a couple of times when it is not necessary to do so, when a more contemporary argument might have better resounded? He is a fine brother, I am sure, with a monumental job, but I suspect the verses hurt more than help with a jury composed of persons who simply do not hold scripture in the same esteem as was once the case. They might even reckon it an attempt to schmaltz them and pull the wool over their eyes. Might his explanation fall flat that the ‘regular Montana folk’ who are Witnesses call ‘because they love you,’ and since ‘many of you are Bible readers,’ they will recognize that Jesus followed just that course? How many people are regular Bible readers these days? He misses completely the political nuances of the expression ‘fake news’ that few of them will miss, and he spins a folksy story of the caught fish that gets bigger with each telling to suggest, fair enough but it plays a little tone deaf, as though suggesting boasting as a motive, that abuse victims might exaggerate with the passage of time. He covers all the right points but with a backdrop that will suggest to some that he just doesn’t ‘get it’ as regards the pain of those who have suffered abuse. Courthouse proceedings are not therapy sessions and one can only be so therapeutic with plaintiffs seeking millions, thereby clearly indicating their chosen means of comfort. But more putting oneself into their shoes can hardly be a bad thing.
He commits these lapses, if lapses they be, because he comes from a faith described as insular. ‘Insularity’ is not a crime (yet) but it does here present obstacles to heart to heart communication. His talk would play well indeed to persons on the same page as he, such as he might find in a Kingdom Hall, but to a public conditioned by events to be skeptical as to whether Jehovah’s Witnesses truly do ‘abhor child abuse,’ as they say they do, it seems to show stress cracks.
The ones who appear to be mainly interested in reputation have been caught in their own righteous trap and it is being played out in plain sight before all the world. The only thing that takes away from their detractors’ efforts to make maximum hay out of this debacle is that there are so many atrocities to compete for attention today, many of which are far worse, that it is a challenge to keep the spotlight focused on where they want it.
Rather than try to maintain the illusion that ungodly deeds could never have occurred among true Christians, these Witnesses might have let the chips fall wherever they might and trust that a relative scarcity of abuse will be enough in a world where one out of every five children suffers molestation before age 18. Instead, their insularity made them miss the determination and progress of outside authorities to stamp out child sexual abuse, slow to acknowledge the cause when they did hear of it, and thus they are readily framed by their detractors to make it seem that they oppose it.
It could have been me. I am not better than these ones. I, too, might have become distressed when the media did not seem to notice the elephant in the room. Will the greater world enjoy success when it embraces every permutation of sexual interaction as fine and good, except for one that will not be tolerated? The world today nurtures the pedophilia with one hand that it seeks to eliminate with the other, and even the New York Times swoons over a child model in an 11/22/2017 article. “His eye makeup is better than yours,” it says, and gushes that he has 330,000 Instagram followers. How many of them are pedophiles? Why, the Times does not think of going there. And what of this story, showing that there are clear limits in fighting child sexual abuse. It is not so bad if it is customary where you come from, a Finnish court finds.
Meanwhile, the organization that teaches family values from the Bible, that specifically warns about child sexual abuse, that doesn’t settle for merely punishing the wrong, but significantly prevents it as compared to the overall world—what of that organization? That is the organization on the hot seat, tried by those dubious of it and a few that outright despise it. However ill it plays today, one can understand a reluctance to broadcast shortfalls believed to be comparatively scarce—a lot of them, to be sure, but proportionately much less than in the greater world. But that reluctance serves nobody well in this instance.
The Australian government has just issued an apology in the wake of a Royal Commission looking into child sexual abuse, an investigation that spanned several years. That apology is lauded as the example for everyone to follow, but it is worth noting that the victims did not accept it. Prior to that victims of child sexual abuse from the Boy Scouts did not accept an apology from that organization. Now, the Boy Scouts take you camping and teach you how to tie knots. Jehovah's Witnesses take you out of your normal routines and wake you when you are sleeping in late. Will they be forgiven when the Australian government and the Boy Scouts were not.
Many of victims of child sexual abuse will never accept any apology. What they will only accept is for their abuse never to have happened—something that surely speaks well as regards prevention being the prime focus.
Detractors are chagrined that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not specifically mentioned in the apology, but it may be because for most institutions investigated, the leaders were the perpetrators. With Jehovah’s Witnesses that was rarely the case. Their ‘wrong’ was to investigate first, and in so doing, fail to coordinate with outside authorities. Seeming frustrated, one Witness opponent tweets:
I answered that one: ‘They have made their own bed & must lie in it. Unlike JWs, where leaders were seldom the perpetrators, theirs exclusively were. Heaven help us if the members are ever looked at, as with JWs. Still, to the extent faith in God is destroyed, it is a tragedy even greater than that which triggers it.’
End of Part 3. Part 4 to begin here.