Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tribunal of Religious Elders

No sooner I climbed into bed and turned out the lights I was flooded with memories of the tribunal of elders who disfellowshipped me. The process of disfellowshipping quite literally cut me off from my family. My kids were told they could no longer have association of any kind with me. My daughter called me long distance from Vancouver — I lived in Saskatoon at the time. She heard the news within a few days and called me to ask, a quiver in her voice, “Mom, is it true that you are disfellowshipped?”

I replied more calmly than I imagined I could, “Yes, it is true.”

My daughter began to sob, “Mom, you have to come back!”

“I won’t be coming back,” I heard myself say.

She hung up the phone and I knew the shunning had begun.

My children had been notified and I was officially cut off from any further association. Why didn’t I try to “save” myself? I knew about the elders’ meeting. I was invited via telephone. An elder left a message on my answering machine, “We have arranged a meeting at (such-and-such a date and time) to conclude this matter.”

The word “conclude” in the message indicated to me that a decision had already been reached, without even hearing my side of the issue. Based on that comment, I realized that there would be no point in attending. I was not up for that nonsense. They already knew what their judgment would be whether I was in attendance or not — and I didn’t need the drama. I didn't want to explain myself or my actions to these men who had no clue what I was going through — men without compassion or heart.

I did not reply to the message on my phone, nor did I attend their judicial meeting. They were not prepared to hear my defense, but only to judge and condemn me — my faith was found to be defective.

I was disfellowshipped without my attendance at the elder’s judicial committee meeting.

Excuse me...?

Other humans can judge my faith as defective? ...Something did not ring true.

This news came as I was still grieving over my mom’s death. She died quite suddenly without warning a month earlier. I wasn’t sure what the evidence against me was. Perhaps an elder’s wife had seen my partner and me leaving a dance—together. I had been "disobedient" in following their explicit instructions to leave the dance world and come back to their meetings. I was unrepentant. There was nothing left to do except discipline me to the fullest extent.

I did the only thing I knew how to do in a crisis — I prayed.

Now, according to the beliefs of the religion, once a person is disfellowshipped, they are completely cut off from God. To the patriarchal way of thinking, the disfellowshipping took place because there was something seriously defective about my faith. I was spiritually unclean and God would turn himself away from me, a dangerous unrepentant sinner.

My experience with prayer, however, demonstrated to me instantly that their belief in blanket condemnation was unwarranted. I felt a strong spiritual connection immediately. Something inside me knew I was safe. I felt more peaceful and calm than I could ever imagine. In that moment, I was  deeply consoled. The comfort I felt was truly amazing—and so contrary to what my belief system had been up to that point. I realized what my parents’ religion taught about an external, cruel, unforgiving God could not possibly be the truth. I was always taught that when you leave God, he will leave you—a punishing belief system.

I had not left God, though — a detail the elders did not consider during their hasty decision to extricate me from the congregation. God meant a lot to me. Maybe just a different God than the one they worshiped.

I was cut off — like a tree being cut down to its stump.

I could have lay down and died — and many members who find themselves on the “wrong” side of a tribunal of elders actually do kill themselves.

But I lived. Why did I live? — When others in my shoes have died? Fortunately for me I had an existing support system in place. I had a therapist with whom I had established a deep trust over a period of several years. I had my dance world, including my very concerned dance partner who prayed with me as I sobbed and grieved for my children.

So I was able to survive yet another trauma.

When I moved to Vancouver, I sensed I had come to work with a woman who could help me heal from the religious dogma inflicted upon me since birth. After about a year or so of visits, she told me she had discovered — she could see with her second sight — I had begun to grow a new spine. She consulted with one of her students, who confirmed what the healer saw. The spine looked to her like “a twig with some new green growth appearing along my old spine. The old spine was disintegrating.”

I was amazed. Out of my “stump,” emerged some new growth, a baby tree had come forth. The tribunal of elders who judged me could not — ever — destroy my faith. I was going to be okay. I was healing because perhaps I believed in myself enough.

I was jubilant!


It is true. The pain in my body is gone. I now stand straight and tall. I have a coat that tells the story. I used to wear the same coat as a member of the religion, where the belt used to tie just under my chest. The belt is now situated in a new area of my coat. The belt now sits four inches lower. My chest has opened up. I stand upright now, and the belt now sits at my waist. My waist is now separated from my chest by a bodice.

I now thank the tribunal of elders for giving me the boot. “Kicking me out” was just what I needed to get away from the family religion and become self-directed and independent — get on with my life. And the coat tells the whole story.

Is it a miracle? Some might think so. I say, "maybe, but not necessarily." No matter what I or anyone else thinks, the entire situation still leaves me with a curious question: "Why is my health improving — now that I am disfellowshipped?"

I am grateful that I can trust myself — finally. I can believe in myself. My own life experiences have demonstrated to me that I am able to heal when I let go of rules and dogma that no longer serve my best interests.

More About Shunning:

Kindness of a Stranger
Obedience or Free Will
Dichotomy of Religion

Religious Lies

Please feel free to follow along:
Do You Need Religion?
Fear-based belief of Armageddon
Did Jesus Really Die for Me?

More Related Topics of Interest:

Depression, Suicide, and Religion
Abortion: Right or Wrong?

Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir.
Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith
Copyright © 2010.
Permission is granted to copy 
and re-distribute this transmission on the 
condition that it is distributed freely.  

19 comments:

  1. Good for you for not running back to the Jehovah's Witness faith. They are not a religion. they are not there to help thier congregations, they are a CULT. They change rules to see as fit for them. This so called "RELIGION" was founded by a man named Charles Taz Russell in the late 1870's. I have great-grandparents older then this so called religion (I mean please...it is not even 150 years old) what about people born in early 1800's? is everyone going to be going to hell? or since Jehovah's don't believe in Hell, does that mean they will be destroyed in "Armaggedon" ?

    Jesus Christ DIED for us on the cross (not Charles Taze Russell) Anyhow, if you decide to become a christian great. If not, then that is ok too...but keep in mind that the JW's faith is really new (and therefore false) as I said earlier, people born before it was founded are destened for hell or to be destroyed at Armaggedon? please....where was "Jehovah" then?

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Unknown. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that everyone who is NOT a member of their exclusive religion will die at the ever-impending Armageddon. Destruction by God's hand. Impending any day since the 1800's. It is laughable to think that people can be so conditioned to not "get it" after all their failed prophecies. Especially since the Bible says that if a prophecy is uttered, then fails to occur, it is a false prophet who made the utterance. The way I see it now: Jehovah's Witnesses are false prophets. Clearly.

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  3. Inactive Witness, Baptized 2005 and 6 months later stopped going to meetings) who was actually looking for things to help me become active. Ironic as I came across this blog of yours among other sites on experiences. To be honest it was more the fact that men had set themselves up as arbitrary rulers over ALL aspects of my life. Including visiting a female friend who I cared about for the weekend and her 1 year old son. Nothing happening but I was close to him as his own dad rejected him. He is 9 tomorrow and calls me daddy still. :D
    I have no issues with faith as I have met some good and compassionate Witnesses but the hatred, ego and self-absorption of many belies the claim of 'having love among themselves'. Learnt a lot of things I never knew from my recent research and to be honest I don't care if you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Islamic. If you live the essence of your faith, and for all of them it is actually love, compassion, empathy and respect and your faith is not blind but something that resonates within your core then how can it be bad. The WT Society is obviously about the egos and power trips combined with fear, acquiesce and the need for people to 'belong to an elite group of chosen'. Jesus is the way to God, not the small group of men who keep on changing their minds on 'policy' while claiming it is 'God's will". Take care. :)

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  4. Hi Jean-Yves,
    Thank you for your well-thought out comment. You made a very important key statement: "If you live the essence of your faith, and for all of them it is actually love, compassion, empathy and respect and your faith is not blind but something that resonates within your core then how can it be bad?" I agree completely that it is the essence of a person that counts.
    Thanks again for dropping in. :)
    I am always happy to see the many people that are able to move on with their lives after leaving a corrupt religious practice. It is do-able!
    Cheers,
    Phoenix

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    1. Yes they keep changing their minds on policy and Bible prophecy?
      I'm sure I'm marked and I really don't know why. The people next
      door were giving my husband and I such a hard time that my husband
      had to go to anger management and I suffer from depression, I tried talking to the sisters and brothers but they would not listen. They have now stopped calling and visiting. I have stopped going to meetings.
      I feel so all alone and scared but these people are mean. I was inactive for 20 years have been back now since 2001 and have been
      depressed since.

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  5. Hi Anonymous,
    Good for you that you followed your heart out of there!
    I believe that our inner guidance knows what is best for us and we feel great discomfort when we go against that guidance. Some people call it conscience. But, whatever we call it, is is that inner sense of knowing what choices are healthy and which are not healthy for us personally. When we realize we have choices, then we get to choose. We get to reclaim our power. You know, reclaim the power, that in the past, we had given away to the religious elders --- or actually anyone who we viewed as more knowledgeable than ourselves. Because the bottom line is that no one knows us better than our inner being or our own conscience. Once we reclaim our power (and you have!) you will no longer feel depressed because you will be empowered to make your own healthy choices.
    Just know that now you have begun making your own healthy choices about the direction your life will go, you may lose some friends --- actually false friends --- because their friendship was conditional on whether you went to meetings or not.
    I have a friend who left the JWs and she told me that upon leaving, there was all kinds of gossip coming back to her. She was shocked at how distorted the facts were! It was then she realized that they were not true friends and losing them was no loss at all but the inevitable consequence of her own growth! My new friend then told me that no less than half of the sisters she knew were on anti-depressants, likely because of their own unhappiness as members of a patriarchal religion which disempowered its members.
    I applaud you for your courageous step of leaving.
    Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. Please feel free to continue following by clicking on the subscribe button on this page.
    Cheers,
    Phoenix

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  6. i have been dissfellowshipped for 1 yr and 3 mths. I had 4 children,and now have none. i dream of them nightly and cry in the dreams , only to wake and find myself crying in reality.I miss my kids, i feel the only way i can ever have them back is by going back. they are holding my kids ransome all 4 are baptized.help!

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  7. Hi Anonymous,

    I understand that much sadness and grief accompany you after being disfellowshipped. What you are feeling is natural because your entire world as you knew it has been stripped away from you by the elders' judgments.

    Allow yourself to feel all your feelings and be in touch with your needs. It might be a good idea to talk to your family doctor to see if a therapist might be found who would understand how cults work. Everyone needs a support system when their world falls apart. Love your body, take care of it, through this challenging time. Be patient with yourself. Talk to people you trust about what is happening to you. Go for walks in nature. The trees support you. The planet supports you. The flowers will smile at you. The wind will whisper to you. The sun still shines on you. The moon still follows you. The stars still twinkle at you. ;)

    Looking back at my own circumstances,I was df'd in 2000. NOW, in 2014, I believe that my soul called me out of that religion because I no longer belonged there in that place. It was time for me to grow up and think for myself, rather than allow some religious elders who don't know me to dictate how my life "should" look or what I "should" do with my life. What I "should" think and how many books to sell.

    Love your body, take care of it, and allow yourself to heal. I found it really helpful to journal about my feelings and thoughts. If you write out your thoughts, the process slows down your brain. Journaling actually helps your brain to problem-solve. Very healthy process!

    Aside from your children, do you see any need to go back to a religion that mistreats its members? Does that treatment feel like love?

    I understand how you might feel: your children are being held ransom by a religion. I used to feel that way, too. But, as the years went by, I began to realize that my soul "contracted" to leave that religion. I think back to how I felt going to meetings just before getting df'd. It felt like torture.

    Since leaving, I have been reading all kinds of books that supported me. I went for massage therapy. I had Reflexology and Reiki treatments. I began to eat healthier and by degrees, I noticed that I began to feel better about myself and my situation. I got dressed every day and even put on make-up. Do what makes you feel better.

    Even though I have a grand-daughter that I have never met, I now save presents for her for her birthdays and for Christmas every year. You never know. One day she might look on the internet and discover that her grandmother wrote a book dedicated to her. It is a happy book inspired by a flowering plant in my yard. She might look me up and know how deeply loved she was all those years even though we never met. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her or her parents --- my kids who shun me. But, of course, now I realize I don't OWN my kids. As adults, they also are entitled to their choice. One day they might leave the religion, too. But, even if they don't EVER leave, I love ME and I believe I made the right choice for myself, in leaving the family religion. In the end, it's about being true to myself.

    Take this time to get to know yourself. Accept the grief. Your body understands and so does your inner self. Know that you can and will heal after leaving that religion. If I can, so can anyone! Don't allow the elders to set the example in how you treat yourself. You are worth so much more!

    I love you or I wouldn't be spending time writing this. People who leave the religion are important and are growing in number. Know that you aren't alone any more. People who leave are growing in number! You, sweety, are doing personal growth work and that's a wonderful sign! When you reach out for help, I know you want to live and survive and heal the trauma of what happened. And you will be just fine! Your soul will NEVER lead you somewhere that you can't handle! Please keep in touch.*hugs*

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    1. That was about the nicest collection of thoughts I have read in a very long time. I believe that many of the 'human' lessons we learned as Witnesses are some of the most valuable things we possess. In the end, we have a life to live, thanks to someone else. Thank you for caring enough to share your experiences.

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  8. Hi Richard V, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Indeed, so many of the human lessons we learned as Witnesses are truly valuable. Your comment reminds me of the Lotus flower which floats so beautifully on the top of the pond, yet is connected to its roots, still in the muck at the bottom. Those lessons we learned at the bottom of the pond have made us the beautiful souls we are today. Like reverse psychology, we see people in our early days as examples of who we are NOT. We thus allow those ones to shape us in becoming our authentic selves. Our original anger and sadness becomes compassion and love.

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  9. hi!
    After having read many of the comments posted here,i can safely say that this reaffirms my belief that all religions, not just the jw religion are about one thing control and power,and that they will say and do anything to control a person once they have entered into their faith.

    my own mother had a bible study with jehovahs witnesses about 12 years ago,intially it went well until my mother made the mistake of questioning their stance on abortion,she said and I quote knowingly bring a child into this world with a deformity or some kind of disease that would cause that child nothing but a lifetime of pain and siuffering physically and emotionally would be an act of cruelty and therefore was contrary to everything they were trying to teach slash indoctrinate her with during the bible study.And my mother also said that it would be better and kinder ie more Christian to spare the child all that suffering by aborting the pregnancy,I want to make absolutely clear that my mother was not pregnant the conversation was purely hypothetical.

    anyway one thing led to another and after about ten minutes of hiding behind pieces of scripture and giving the usual oh he or she will be resurrected perfectly after judgement day speech,and having realized that was not going to work,and that they had clearly lost a potential convert they proceeded to storm out of the house in a huff.

    me personally I can say I was glad to have them and all their propaganda ie the watchtower awake and copies of the bible gone from our house as well their presence.

    me personally I am an aethesist I believe in no religion save for science which many people have and are continuing to accept SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY. as the explanation for how we and most other things in the universe came into being,not some piece of fiction called the bible,the torah,the quran or any other so called piece of holy writing that is no more than a piece of paper suitable only for use in a public toilet.

    If you want something to believe in believe in YOURSELF and your own ABILITY to achieve things,NOT a religious cult and a book of lies that only want to CONTROL YOU.

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  10. hi my name is Christina I'm 25 years old. and right now I am currently still one of Jehovah's Witnesses. and I am very miserable. I started studying back in 2009 when I was about 19 and I was so excited about everything that I was reading and studying and learning. it wasn't until 2011 when I felt as though I wasn't as happy as I was in 2009 and 2010. but I thought that it was the right thing to do so I stayed. I got baptized February 12 2012 because I thought that if I didn't God was going to kill me. worst thing I've ever done. I am absolutely miserable I'm not happy. I've developed a mental illness. Because of me not being interested in this religion I felt that I'm the bad person. So I begin cutting myself having suicidal thoughts because I felt like if I don't want to serve him I mind as well kill myself since he's going to do it anyway if I leave. I've been to the psych ward twice an I don't really talk to people much in the congregation because I felt as though if I don't want to serve Jehovah I'm not worthy to talk anyone. right now I'm debating if I should leave or not but I still have this feeling that if I do I'm going to die. see the thing is I don't have any family in the truth and not much friends at all either because I don't really talk to anyone there. so if I leave I'm really not losing anyone to be honest. I guess I'm just scared. right now as I'm writing this I'm planning on cutting myself and I have to make sure that my mom doesn't know. I know it's a weak thing to do but sometimes I used to do it before I went to the meeting just so I can get through it. I guess I'm just happy to be able to vent because I can't go to the congregation because I feel like they're going to look at me bad and I could talk to my mom about anything it's just the first thing she's going to say is leave but I'm still afraid to do that for some reason because I still have this feeling that I'm going to die if I do. I never been so unhappy in my life. I have a body image problem I don't look at myself in the mirror cutting always go through my mind suicide has come back to my mind I hate myself. all because I feel like I betrayed him and I'm crying writing this because I'm just scared. can't stop crying so I'm going to go but thank you for letting me vent.

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  11. You are fortunate to have a mom who would support you no matter what. If she supported you when going into the JW religion, likely she would support you on your way out. However, I do agree that it would be best to make your own decision. You might want to let her know how much you appreciated her support while entering religious life. And at least you may wish to let her know you have some doubts now and need time to sort everything out. It’s all normal. Nothing you are experiencing is beyond the realm of possibility.
    Every situation is different but I assure you, you will find your way. Your soul will make sure of your safety no matter what you decide. After all, everything is experiential.
    One suggestion I would make is to find a therapist who understands how religion works to dis-empower its followers. You might wish to ask your family doctor to hook you up with a good therapist.
    I understand your feeling of the fear of dying if you leave the religion. That is exactly what Jehovah’s witnesses teach to keep you obedient. But I assure you, you can live very well without fear-based religion. I do understand your fear of being judged, but true friends won’t judge you no matter what you do. If a relationship is based in love it will survive and thrive.
    You are always welcome here to vent and confide. Thanks for dropping by.
    I am planning to write some blogs about religious lies that religion teaches: The links will go live as I complete each blog.

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  12. Hi Cee Cee, I'm glad to hear from you again. I always wonder what happens to people when they grow into their next step. There is never a need to rush your growth. Just feel your way along using your inherent intuition. With a little practice you will gain confidence. You don't have to give up spirituality when a religion does not serve your highest interests. All the spiritual tools you need to advance are already within you. I trust you are already simply awesome!
    Much love,
    Esther (Phoenix of Faith)

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    2. Dear Cee Cee,
      Having doubts is normal. You likely have doubts because you have your own mind about things and don't always fit so easily into a box called "religion." You might want to try doing something you really love, such as art or music. Something fun. For me, I took up ballroom dance classes and made some new friends. Yes, they were "worldly" AND they were so nice, supportive, and caring. Very un-like my elders that just made rules and offered prescriptions (reading material) and knew nothing about living in my heart. But that's just me. Maybe your elders really care a lot about you. But, in my case, when I had doubts, they failed me. You might want to read my story at http://www.phoenixoffaith.ca/writing .
      Much love,
      Esther

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