By Joel Gunz
(For more great memes like this, visit
www. smarmy-platitudes-R-us.com www.idlehearts.com.)
If you’ve ever exited a repressive religion like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you know how painful it can be to feel first-hand the sting of betrayal and abandonment. It can be one of those gifts that keep on giving.
A decade after I was disfellowshipped, the Witness side of my family — i.e. almost all of them — still continues to do everything it can to drive a wedge between my own children and me because they’ve decided I’m an apostate, which means, when translated, that I'm "spiritual kryptonite." It hurts to see my son, Max, miserable and depressed, mainly because people have decided that it’s preferable that he be a fatherless (albeit Kingdom Hall-attending) boy. As a remarkably gifted and intelligent young man, the janitors and stockroom clerks at the Kingdom Hall can't make heads nor tails of most of what he has to say. Sadly, he is all but a pariah in the "spiritual paradise."
That said, I can’t buy into the Dollar Store spirituality coughed up by the “People Hurt You” meme above. In fact, when I saw it posted on a Facebook friend’s wall — herself also an ex-Witness — my stomach turned about 18 degrees. Just enough to prompt a response that went something like this: (Click on the image to see it properly.)
Her response? (Not posted here, for reasons that will soon be clear.) She went on to insist that any goodness in people exists only because God put it there. Also, she accused me of having a pole up my rear. Um, okay, maybe I had that coming. Apparently, my misanthropic line went a bit too far.
Still, my point stands.
I preached that “People are bad/God is good” line myself for over 30 years. Creating my own reality around that belief, I was convinced it was true. And then, by means of a Judicial Committee, I was handed the gift of objective distance. That’s when the scales fell from my eyes, as it were and I came to see, for the first time, just how much goodness there is in my fellow man. I saw that people can be trusted.
In fact, in my new paradigm, bad people are such a minority that when an individual behaves untrustworthily, it comes as a shock and offense. (If mankind were truly as generically evil as Christianity insists, the subprime mortgage crisis would have been a boring non-starter in the news.) I feel sorry for people who have such a misanthropic view of human nature that they can't see all the wonderful acts performed on a daily basis by people who couldn’t care less about Jesus or any other genie-in-a-bottle. Like the grocer who corrects you when you hand him too much money, when he could easily have ripped you off. Or the hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana program members across the country who share what they have with other patients,simply for the good of the community.
Considering the vile treatment I’ve experienced in my and my kids’ lives, how could I possibly have such a rosy outlook? Do I even have that right? Or have I softened into a blissfully ignorant Pangloss? Maybe. All I know is, day in and day out, I encounter people who are good folk and who treat others decently—if not offering themselves up in profoundly self-sacrificing ways.
I’ve told the story before about how I was helped out of the Witness cult by countless individuals who played roles large and small, conscious and unwitting, in helping me to see that the religious community I’d grown up with did not have a monopoly on love. It was like finding myself the guest of honor at a new surprise party every day. Before long, the kindness and generosity of these pagans, miscreants and misfits outshined the hurtful behavior of the Christians I’d known. In less guarded moments, I even caught myself forgiving the Witnesses.
Within the Witness community, those who have been hostile to me are a minority. Most Witnesses are good, honest people who are unfortunate to be caught up in a high-control system. If they could grasp how hurtful and pointless their behavior is, it would trigger an existential crisis they might not be able to survive. (After all, isn’t that the real moral of the story of Judas, who grasped too late the consequences of his blinkered thinking?)
The world may feel like a shithole sometimes, but as Robert Jordan said in For Whom the Bell Tolls, it is still “a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
But let’s get back to that little spat on Facebook. Christianity teaches that people will hate you, but that only God will love you. Again, my experience is quite the opposite. It isn’t difficult to read the Biblical God as a hateful sonofabitch. On the other hand, I’ve found humans to be, in general, noble and decent. The Christian Facebook friend on whose wall I wrote that comment didn’t seem to agree. In fact, it bothered her so much that she unfriended me.
Ah well. Comme ci, comme ça.
Nevertheless, why do I feel shunned?