A Clash of Convictions

Convictions usually flow from beliefs, and beliefs are often embraced without much scrutiny or examination. Very few beliefs are subjected to a rigorous series of stress tests as a way of verifying their logic or veracity. But whether a conviction is rooted in tradition [usually unexamined] or is the product of dispassionate and arduous inquiry, they will often find themselves in the same space at the same time with other convictions; a clash is inevitable.

When convictions clash there will be a cost — sometimes heavy, sometimes benign or innocuous but there will be a cost nonetheless. This cost can claim not only the participants as its victims but any third-party observers who because of circumstances stand too close. I submit that my grandchildren are third-party victims in a clash of convictions.

When I was a teenager, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Before the age of 19, I married another Jehovah’s Witness and we had four children whom we raised as such. After 20 years of preaching from door to door, conducting Bible Studies, attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall and so forth, I submitted a letter to Jehovah’s Witnesses in which I denounced them. I had finally stopped ignoring my gnawing reservations and put my beliefs to the test; they failed. [That was in December of 1985.] Rejecting those beliefs, however, rendered me an “apostate,” an absolute heretic. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, that was the worst sin of all and required that all Jehovah’s Witnesses ostracize me. And even though, I never tried to dissuade or convince anyone, I was declared an untouchable.  They were not to even acknowledge my presence. My children, as practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses, were to do likewise.

But for years, they did not; they would talk to me and even let me visit with my grandchildren. As the years piled up, however, they became less accepting of me due to the hardening of the policies regarding persons of my ilk that were handed down by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Then, I made matters worse; I drove the nail into the coffin. I wrote a book of essays. Twenty-three of the 116 essays were an indictment against religion [not just Jehovah’s Witnesses but all religions]. Immediately thereafter, my children [all but my youngest son who had stopped being a Jehovah’s Witness] severed all ties with me and by default, I cannot see my grandchildren either. This despite the fact that I have never — not once — spoken to my children about why I rejected their religion and what I now believe. Nonetheless, I was deemed a pariah and subsequently scorned by judicial decree.

So, there is the clash of convictions, and my grandchildren are “collateral damage.” I miss them, and they will likely grow up not knowing me. That fact is a source of great pain for me. My children and I are at an impasse. If I “repented” and asked for forgiveness and sought to return to the “flock,” I could see my children and grandchildren. Or, if my children ignored the decrees issued by their religious leaders and embraced me anyway, I could see my grandchildren.

Persons who maintain and live by their convictions are often held in elevated esteem. They are often lauded for being true to them, and to violate those convictions would be seen as hypocritical or craven even if the price for doing so were extreme. The strength of one’s conviction is in direct proportion to the cost one is willing to pay for adherence. To put it honestly, being true to my conviction means more to me than being accepted by my children and my children being true to their conviction means more to them than talking to me.

How ironic. I raised my children to be what they are and now what they are comes to a clash of convictions. Nevertheless, what is even more painful than being rejected is being rejected with ease. I truly understand my children’s adherence to their convictions [they probably do not understand mine]; that is painful enough. I can only hope that ostracizing me because I am an “apostate” is not easy for them. I can only hope that this clash of convictions is hurting them as much as it is hurting me. I can only hope that they too see the price for upholding these convictions is exorbitant. If they do not, then my pain is twice felt and my conviction twice costly.

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 3:33 AM  Comments (4)  
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  1. I was also brought up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses; I now believe Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a cult. I believe that about “other” religions also. Per dictionary.com, the definition of a cult is: a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents. Catholicism tout Heaven, Purgatory and Hell as post-death options. Jehovah’s Witnesses hang Paradise and Armageddon over one’s head with only 144,000 entering Heaven. Other local religious institutions deem their clientele of the “Who’s Who” based on whether they are a “card carrying” member or not. This is synonymous with Corporate America’s “AttaBoy” system. Do your work well (or not) – you still may be downsized or your job outsourced if you are an individual thinker. An individual thinker in Corporate America is viewed as a non-team player. A “go along to get along” persona seems greatly accepted in all facets of life. Your children remind me of the old story of a woman who always cut off both ends of a ham because her grandmother did. Long story short, years later she found out her grandmother did so because the “only” pan she had to cook her ham in was often too short. Children often follow their parents’ footsteps without a thought as to whether it is logical or fits their lifestyle. They fit their lifestyle into what was taught. With all due respect, I don’t believe any decent parent teaches their children anything they feel is harmful. After all as African Americans many of us have the stamina we do because of observing what our forefathers bore. We are a strong people. Being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses had the opposite effect on me (not being a follower). As a child being the only one in class not pledging allegiance to the flag, it taught me to stand firm in my convictions. As I developed into an adult that trait exacerbated into me often walking the road less travelled. Some never do as that involves accountability and repercussions for said behavior. As many say today “it is what it is”. I is an individual. It is an individual decision to follow or lead your own life. Remain prayerful that your children will awaken and see what they are robbing their own children of.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your response. It is always good to hear from someone who also understands.


  3. As you well know I was a Jehovahs Witness as well as presiding elders daughter. For years I witnessed things that were so hyprocritical I actually went to therapy because I was so unhappy with my life. It was only then when I spoke wiith outsiders [not allowed] I realized I was being controled by a religion and I had the power to change my state of unhappiness. Jehovahs witnesses are a cult relegion that control a group of people who refuse to even explore another viewpoint other than theirs. I got a divorce and was disfellowshiped, and cast out my my entire family. I moved on and a whole new world opened to me. It was life changing and best decision ever. My daughters continued in the religion, however I chose to let them observe for themselves their life as a JW and my life. They as years

    Liked by 1 person

    • To your comments, I will shout, “Amen.” I certainly understand. Thank you for your input.


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