Problem Witnesses
Just a screwed-up family: I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness but am no longer practicing, so I picked up a copy of the Dallas Observer to read the cover story ("Sects and Lies," December 7). I was outraged that the religion was shown in such a negative light from someone who clearly cannot represent them as a whole. If you read the story, it is nothing more than a screwed-up family in court. If it were a family of Catholics or Southern Baptists, I do not think it would have made the front page. The story is filled with half-truths and lies about the religion based on a woman who is clearly mentally ill.

Ross Bybee

To hell with the truth: Having resigned three years ago from the Jehovah's Witnesses after more than 30 years as an active member and an elder in the congregation, I was pleased to see the truthful revelation of that organization's close-minded mentality and its willingness to turn a blind eye to false accusations from its members. I would like to add one clarifying note to the possible reasons for such blatant falsehoods being presented by the ex-wife and daughter of Edward Lee Stevenson, and for the church's hands-off policy.

Having once been an elder in a JW congregation and having heard various family issues brought for settlement, I have observed that many times totally incredible accusations were made by a spouse seeking a divorce or seeking to remarry. In the ultra-fundamentalist world of the "Dubbie," acceptable grounds for divorce have changed over the years even to include "spiritual endangerment," wherein one spouse does not embrace the group's theology or, having embraced it, has left it or discourages the "believing" spouse's participation. In addition, the only grounds the J-Dubs will accept for remarriage of a divorced spouse is either the death of the previous spouse or evidence that the ex-spouse has committed an act of "fornication" (as defined by the cult's governing body to include at various times any one of several immoral acts with one's genitals).

Over the years that I was part of this restrictive, high-control group, I observed instances wherein a spouse, having obtained a divorce under a more lenient determination such as spiritual endangerment (which often is no more than preferring to spend Saturdays engaged in family recreation rather than proselytizing at people's doors), has belatedly realized that they now have no one with whom they may engage in more physical recreation. When those urges become irresistible, and the now-single Dubbie realizes that battery-powered devices are frowned upon as somewhat perverted by the more pious, they sometimes begin to scheme a way to create evidence of sexual misbehavior on the part of their ex. This will, after all, free them to pursue fulfillment of their own sexual urges through remarriage; and, especially if the ex-spouse is no longer a Dubster, they have absolutely no conscience or shame in manufacturing a story that will get them their desired result. (The official JW definition of "lying" expressly excludes telling a falsehood about or to someone whom they consider an "enemy" of God's Kingdom.) Ergo, Edward Lee Stevenson, one imprisoned, slow-minded soul who even now hasn't awakened to the tremendous deception and betrayal to which he has been exposed.

Even when the elders in a JW congregation know the truth or falsity of an accusation, they will stand in lockstep against exposing one of their own, even when it means a false conviction and prison sentence for an innocent soul. It is, after all, not a lie when they can convince themselves that the accused has made himself into an "enemy" or "apostate." Try even getting anything out of their corporation's legal department in New York, and your best reply will be that you should try to subpoena the local elders. Then they will send a high-priced team of lawyers to quash the subpoena on grounds of "clergy privilege."

"To hell with the truth," they seem to believe. "Even if the lie sends you to death row, we won't lift a finger to uphold the truth. That we claim to represent a 'god of truth' is totally beside the point."

At first blush, Edward Lee Stevenson appears to be a rather dim-witted fool for trying to defend himself. But even here, one has to understand the level of extreme cult-like control exerted by the church through its unique theology. Members are constantly exposed to stories of the faithful over the years who, when faced with insurmountable opposition and lies about their motives, simply prayed and relied on their god to make the truth known. Scriptures are read and talks given of biblical histories in which the faithful were exhorted to "stand still and see the salvation of God." I know. I gave that very public talk many times and still have the outline.

After years of exposure to that kind of reasoning, and with the almost total isolation from any kind of "worldly wisdom" that is the JW's experience, it is little wonder that Mr. Stevenson, when faced with very limited finances, decided to be his own lawyer. If he had said it was because he believed that God would out the truth, it would have been very believable to me.

It is about time that a balanced article such as yours was published. Do not be surprised if you hear from many ex-Dubbies with stories that, if compiled, would reveal a rotten, hypocritical core in this "whitewashed grave" called The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Bob R. Walker

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