Well, well, well! Consider the example of Bryan—what a mess he became!
His parents tried to put him on the straight and narrow, as all parents will. “But when he was in his teens, he questioned whether that path would make him happy” [and] decided to run with those who lived by Satan’s standards. ‘Little did I realize that the so-called freedom I desired would lead me into the clutches of addiction,’ he says. ‘In time, I was abusing drugs and alcohol and living immorally. Over the next several years, I progressively experimented with harder drugs and became a slave to many of them. . . . I began selling drugs to support my lifestyle.’” Happily, he got his act together, returned to the fold, and is now as happy as a pig in mud. (Watchtower, April 20, 2020, ‘Run the Race to the Finish, para 6)
This kind on thing—highlighting such accounts—drives the ex-Witnesses crazy. That may be a worthy goal in itself in the case of the most virulent ones, but for everyone else it is not optimal. Every time one of them accomplishes something, say—graduates from college, lands a job, or is lauded as ‘Citizen of the Year’ somewhere, he jumps on the ex-Witness forum and says, “Looky here! No drug-wasted, gutter-dwelling, lowlife scum future for me! I did just fine didn’t I? If they could only see me now!”
That doesn’t mean that the shipwreck version doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen frequently. But every single time? “Confirmation bias,” the ex-JWs will say, now that they have learned some new buzzwords. “It didn’t happen to me—I did just fine!”
For those who didn’t do just fine, it’s a little like when the Native Americans are suddenly thrust into the world of the Europeans—they drop like flies at the syphilis and the alcohol, woes that they were unprepared for and had no idea even existed. It’s a little like when the faithful king throws faith overboard so as to be just like the neighbor kings and “proceeded to do worse than those of the nations.” It’s a little like the child who fails the “sink or swim” method of swimming instruction—down he goes, and up come the bubbles. However, there are those who dog-paddle. There are even those who become marathon swimmers. Why imply they all hit bottom with a thud?
I like the next paragraph better, the one that focuses on Matthew 7:13-14: “Go in through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are finding it.”
I like it better because it has all that is complete about the preceding paragraph and none of what is incomplete. The broad road is popular and is easier to travel. But it is “leading off into destruction,” the paragraph says. That doesn’t mean that you become road kill the instant you set foot on it.
For some it does mean that. These are the ones who, fairly quickly return, but there are others who keep on sailing and never look back. It may be that the road is leading to destruction—I think that it is—but there are plenty who have a pleasant enough journey along the way, they like it that there are not so many road markers, and only at the end may there be a sense of let-down. My wife, the registered nurse, assigned to the geriatric wing, commented on how many patients reached the end of life with a sense of profound let-down. These were not “losers”—they were persons who had enjoyed careers and had raised families, but as they neared their end there was a sense of betrayal with many—a sense of: “This is all there is?”
The “cramped and narrow” road leads somewhere—the “broad and spacious” one does not. But I sometimes wish there were not so many “trainwreck” stories in the Watchtower, if for no other reason than that they are so easily portrayed as efforts to “scare” people into the fold. The CultExpert goes into overdrive on something like this, and I would just as soon deprive him of fuel. It might be better to focus on the eventual consequence of the broad road, rather than the immediate one—the immediate one is not always so bad and may well be an initial breeze—a “sugar high.” You know how invincible youth always feels—just look at how they are doing in donning their Covid masks. “There are two factors that determine the spread of Covid 19,” one observer says: “1.) How dense the population is, and 2.) How dense the population is.” Youth are likely to be dense in safeguarding health, and only much later do they reassess.
So when any Witness youngsters go renegade from their upbringing and do not go straightaway to the gutter—Whoa! you should hear how they crow about it! You should hear how they ridicule their old-time-religion! Why give them those easy carbs of instant energy, even if long-time fatigue? Feed them solid food—that they’re on the “road to destruction,” but they may go most of or even all their lives without appreciating it.
For those swept up in the rush of atheism, they may never appreciate it. They think they’ve made a wise trade. They saw off the branch they were once sitting on, convinced it is unsubstantial, and grin as they come crashing down. It makes no sense to me, but people do it all the time. It’s like the fellow who loses his millions in a stock market crash. “They were only paper gains,” he says as he celebrates the hundreds he has left.
Do not think that the Watchtower organization is the only one to have such a blind spot for “the other side.” What they do is done everywhere, and generally with poorer motive. Virtually nobody gives an accurate glimpse of the other side. Always the other side is painted as obtuse, sometimes delusional, or even mad. Will the GOP explain Democrats as Democrats would explain themselves, or vice-versa? You’ll think you’ve been on two different planets if you spend a little time visiting both! You’ll find the same craziness in any number of venues: medicine/alternative health, science/metaphysics, atheist/believer, or climate change vs those who think it is a hoax. The other guy is always “wrong,” and often “a liar.” In each case, you are not thought wise to check out his wares, unless it is to search solely for “sound bytes” to paint him as crazy.
In contrast, the Watchtower portraying those who leave as falling immediate prey to thugs is just messing with the sequence—it’s not messing with the overall reality. If the road really leads off to destruction, it is just a matter of moving up the wreck, but it is not a matter of making up the wreck. However, why does the Watchtower do even what it does? I toyed with the idea in ‘Dear Mr- Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’—and I will let it stand; I think it is entirely accurate:
“Furthermore, if the Governing Body ever ‘misrepresents’ the non-Witness world, it is not because they are sinister. It is because they do not know it themselves. They take their own counsel, which is that of the Bible, and they do not go there. They are lowly people who have poured themselves out and who now find themselves in places that are high for them. There are places not just ‘high for them’—they are actually high. They do not puff themselves up over it. They trust in God and, like the kings of old were directed to do, they actually read the scriptures daily. They keep away from what is ‘falsely called knowledge’ and from the ‘empty philosophies that violate what is holy’ that ‘toss people about as though on the waves of the sea.’ They have lived their own lives with the lesson of Haggai ever foremost: clean will be contaminated by unclean, not the reverse, and so they do not go there. Because they do not go there, they know it only through the lens of Scripture.
“If the Bible says, in effect, that the ‘world will chew you up and spit you out,’ they assume that it does. If they find someone who says it in exactly those words, they eat it right up and broadcast it. And who is to say the words are untrue? Some get chewed up and spit out so promptly and decisively that no one would ever deny it, but with others? Who is to say the scriptures are wrong on that point? It may just take a longer time to get chewed up and spit out. Many senior citizens have encountered calamity, even contrived calamity, and have seen everything they had worked for drained away. Even the powerful are not immune as their strength and faculties wane.”