The Iron Hand of Irony

At the age of fourteen I made one of my crucial life-altering decisions ever: I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Five years later, I married a young lady who was also a Jehovah’s Witness. We would come to have four children whom we also raised as such.

After more than twenty years as a prostelizing minister, I submitted a letter to the elders of my congregation in which I renounced and rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses — their tenets and practices. All my concerns, doubts and disappointments clashed and culminated in my decision to repudiate the doctrines of that religion [eventually, I came to dismiss any and all religions].

Consequently, I became a pariah and was subsequently officially ostracized by Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was painted as a heretic and, as per their beliefs, I was to be treated as if I were contagious.  I was disassociated [which is worse than being disfellowshipped]. Any Jehovah’s Witness who even spoke to me would risk explulsion or some other form of punishment by the organization.

My children, for many years, however, would speak to me well into their adulthood. Though I was not allowed to walk my daughter down the aisle when she married nor attend her wedding reception, I still had a fatherly relationship with my children — albeit somewhat stilted at times.

Twenty-five years after I rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wrote a book containing 116 short essays — 23 of which explained my perspectives about religion.  This polemic act exacerbated matters. My adult children [except one] rejected me and treated me as the other Jehovah’s Witnesses did.

To that end, I could no longer see my grandchildren. Thus, my grandchildren [except one] are growing up without knowing me. My children will not allow me to see or talk to them because I, as the consequence of being a heretic, was considered an untouchable.

The irony: I raised them to be Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they are. They follow the tenets of that religion. Once I rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs [now nearly 30 years ago], they choose to adhere to its tenets and reject me. How ironic!

They are faithful to their beliefs as I am to my beliefs as a deist. I will not “repent” and embrace that religion and apparently, they will not reject that religion. I am not angry at them; their mother and I raised them accordingly and only one of them has decided to live differently. So, only one grandchild will come to know me.  The rest, will only think of me as someone who is to be avoided.

Sometimes irony stikes as softly as cotton; other times it pummels you with an iron hand.  Short of one of us yielding or acquiescing, I hope my children miss me as much as I miss them because I love them preciously. Then, at least that would be some consolation and the iron hand of irony would not hurt as much.

Published in: on December 2, 2013 at 5:29 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

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  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: