Saturday, February 27, 2010

Leaps and Bounds


Posted by Joel Gunz

Have you ever watched the urban extreme sport parkour? Those stunts can be horrifying to watch as the athletes seem to defy gravity, jumping from rooftop to rooftop. But in reality, it’s mostly a mind game. The leaps they take between buildings don’t require special strength; the challenge is dealing with the fact that they’re doing so ten stories off the ground. Though what they do involves risk, the real threat of death exists only in their mind.

Leaving behind a belief system that no longer works can be just as terrifying. For many of us, when we left Jehovah’s Witnessism, we probably did so because it wasn’t living up to its promise of being a spiritual paradise and we knew we had to get out.

At one time, most of us were deeply convinced that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were God’s one true organization. We knocked ourselves out pioneering, building Kingdom Halls, serving where the need was greater. We were deeply passionate about our beliefs and there was no doubt that we had The Truth. But later, we came to see that it was all a bunch of nonsense. We had a crisis of faith. A set of perceptions was literally dying, and there was nothing we could do about it except mourn the loss. Then we healed.

Most likely, after leaving the Witnesses, there was a period of confusion. But soon enough a new set of beliefs began sprouting up that now work better for us and seem closer to the truth. That experience is a lesson in the power our minds have over our perceptions. We now probably look back on our life and think, “How did I ever believe that? How did ever think that such-and-such doctrine had anything to do with Truth?”

The world itself can seem to change. In my case, I joined the human race, seeing good in people I formerly would have dismissed as bad; other people who had once seemed righteous now seemed to be outright predators. Of course, the world hadn’t changed at all, just my perceptions did.

I imagine myself to be a truth-seeker. And let’s be fair, Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is better than some forms of belief. So, for a while, Watchtower theology satisfied my search for truth. But, if I was truly the person I felt myself to be, willing to follow the path of truth wherever it would lead, it was inevitable that I would one day discard Watchtower teachings.

When a group of people confuse mere belief with The Truth, as the Witnesses have done, the search for truth stops. And when that happens, people begin to die spiritually. Those doctrines, no matter how benign they may once have been, become toxic.

My guess is that, for some of us, the toxicity of Witness belief became so noxious that we had to get out or die trying. Something was going down, and it was either us or them. That is what is what prompted us to leap the chasm. And then, when we looked back, we realized that in actuality it wasn’t much of a leap at all.

For me, the video above perfectly illustrates the amazing courage and strength my ex-Jehovah's Witness friends displayed when they finally vaulted their way over and beyond the Watchtower parapet. Now that we're allowed to toast, let's raise a glass to future such leaps and bounds.