Saturday, December 5, 2015

Shannon Rowland's Suffocating Sojourn as a Jehovah's Witness

Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom
I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and, other than a brief split from the age of 16 to 20 years, I was a very loyal member and will never forget the continued guilt of conscience that I often had even from something as simple as a bad thought or dream.  The control I felt from the Watchtower Society, the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), was so overwhelming, yet I continued to believe it really was "the truth" for decades, until the age of 36 years!

Having my eyes finally opened and realizing that it was the JWs that were wearing blinders was so disconcerting, yet very liberating.  Thankfully, after a lot of reading and studying, such as Ray Franz's book, Crisis of Conscience, I was able to reflect on all that I had been taught and allow my own conscience to become free of its heavy, man-made burdens.

For me, my time as a JW caused a huge amount of grief, as it has for so many.  It continues to this day, because my adult daughters quit speaking to me the day they turned 18 years of age and, of course, my father has not spoken to me in over 10 years, except for when my two non-JW grandparents died.

My parents were baptized in 1970.  Within the first year they were members and by 1975, my mother had become extremely depressed and truly wanted to seek help.  However, the Watchtower Magazine, August, 1975, came out with an article regarding depression, claiming that when one experiences depression, they should not go to worldly doctors, nor take any of the medications that are available.  The article also claimed that their suffering shows their need to draw closer to Jehovh and begin pioneering instead.  So my mother did just that and signed up to auxiliary pioneer, in September, 1975.
The Governing Body (7 members) issues its "policies" (commands) via their publications.

On September 25th, my brother (age 11 years) and I (age 8 years), and my father came home to find my mother under the exhaust pipe of our car in the garage.  I really cannot explain what this tragic event has done to me, because I have had to grow up without her and question so many things.  She was only 32 years old.  I have now forgiven her and simply feel so much anger at the Watchtower Society (WTS), for directing her so badly when she needed help.  I truly believe she did not want to be a JW, but feared the consequences of leaving.
My father, for some reason, put everything that was in her wallet in a photo album.  My poor mother had only 11 hours in "field service," as of September 25th, and probably felt like such a failure.  I cannot even imagine the sense of guilt she must have suffered.  It is so tragic that so many innocent victims have felt no other choice than to end their life, because of the depression that ensues from living as a JW.  

Contributed by Noel Parsons
 As I grew up, I, too, experienced a great deal of depression, especially due to being under the control of JW's.  I did marry.  He was an elder and I was a pioneer for a time, until we had our two little girls.  I will never forget the shame my father expressed about me, when he discovered that we had chosen to have a child.  He said the end was so near and that I had to remain a full-time pioneer, as directed by the WTS.  He said that I had truly not listened to all the new light, regarding how close we are to the end.  Hmmmm....It's been 24 years since I told him I was with child.

Armageddon Hysteria at 2014 Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses
During that time, my little brother, age 22 years, needed a blood transfusion.  He was questioned by the elders on his death bed, because he had not been attending meetings and he admitted that he and his fiance had slept together.  They forgave him, but warned that this was his last chance for everlasting life, so he remained "faithful" (in their eyes), refusing to take the lifesaving blood transfusion, according to WTS policies.  The elders disfellowshipped his fiance the next day!!!

I finally left after a few years.  I had my daughters and discovered that I was prenant with my son, after leaving my JW husband.  He then married my ex-best friend, 3 months later.  I, myself, became so depressed, after having every single person I knew suddenly not speak to me, all in one day, because of the WTS policies commanding JWs to shun anyone who leaves the WTS.  If anyone says that the JWs do not shun, they're liars.

The pressures of being alone, raising my 3 children alone, and my son being ill for the first few months of his life came down hard on me.  I became suicidal.  I went to the hospital for 3 days and, unbeknownst to me, my ex-husband and his new wife went to court and were given emergency custody of my 2 daughters, so my daughters were removed from my custody.

This was even more devastating than the loss of my own mother, for being a mother was the one thing I truly felt gave me purpose in life and having a mother/daughter relationship was even more meaningful to me, after the death of my own mother.  The judge said that she could not find it in the best interest of the children to live with a mother, when all of their friends and relatives might subsequently write them off, as well.  She said it was the worst child custody case ever and she felt it was a wise King Solomon type of decision, because she truly believed me to be a good, loving and capable mother, regardless of any depression I had suffered.  If this loss was not heart-wrenching enough, they each grew up and quit speaking to me, one at a time, when they reached the age of 18 years.  

I have had to sneak into my oldest daughter's wedding and watch her go down the aisle, as only a bystander, who wasn't even spoken to.  The pain is tremendous and each day I awaken, wondering if I will ever see them again. 

I am happier now in my own spirituality, where I still question and wonder many things, but do not feel forced to any longer believe anything specific or try to force others to believe a certain way.  I have learned and gravitated through a lot in the last few years, including homelessness, job loss, abandonment by everyone I had known, the loss of all 4 of my non-JW grandparents, who helped me a great deal to manage through the years of hell we go through as JWs.
Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom

I now have many friends and they often get a laugh when I tell them the funny experiences and stories I have regarding holidays or something else, but they mostly also feel so bad for what and how I have had to learn.  I never feel sorry for myself but, of course, there is the pent up anger for those that I have lost and for whom I grieve.
Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom

For a time, I served on the board of directors as secretary for my local N.A.M.I. affiliate and became a public speaker and trainer, regarding mental illness and depression.  I also entered an essay contest, regarding much of my life story and the affects of depression I have undergone and I actually won!  They even flew me to Philadelphia and even gave me a $1000.00 check!
Contributed by Christian Sparlock Freedom
While I have gone on to do some things "outside the box," where JWs are concerned, I still await and pray for a day when my 2 daughters will come back to me.  The loss of my 2 daughters has honestly been the hardest on me and one, for which I am still hoping for a "happy ending."