This week had a wide array of experiences and I found some of them to be related in some unusual ways. In town where I live, there is a shortcut to the local grocery store that has sharp turn that ends at a traffic light. If you are going to the store this way, you may end up being held at the light until it turns green. While parked in the first position at the light, other cars leaving the main road turn right in a tight spot that requires them to make a sharp turn to the right in order to stay in the proper lane. While those folks are negotiating that turn, they come awfully close to the driver’s side of those who are waiting!
One day as I was the person making the right turn, I saw the concerned face of the driver going the opposite direction. They looked as if they were expecting me to hit them! Of course, I did not. But, as I drove away, I mulled over their expression and realized it was for the most part totally unfounded. I had just as much desire to NOT hit them as they had desire to NOT be hit. It works the same on a two lane road. The constant flow of drivers going 55 mph in opposite directions with only a few feet of space between them works for a few reasons. One is proper training, but the main reason- each one desires to live and not have an accident. All things being equal and with no one operating a handheld electronic device while driving; this common desire to survive; keeps drivers safe and traffic flowing. When this desire to survive or continue living becomes shaky, then people have used vehicles to commit suicide or worse- car bombings. Yes, tragic but true.
Recently, I considered this notion to survive and the safety it should bring, to relationships we have in our lives. When there is a healthy desire for relationships to survive and continue, then even though there can be some bumps along the way, both parties in the relationship want the relationship to survive and should be able to work through the difficulties. That does not always happen in the real world. For many reasons, there are relationships in which one person comes to a point where they no longer want that relationship to survive and turn off the road and go another direction. For the scope of this post, we will talk of family relationships and the emotional turmoil when a family member cuts relations with another family member. The depth of the sea of emotions that cutting off or bombing a family relationship causes is too broad to fully explore here. Truly, the resulting tidal wave can affect those involved for years and years.
The bombing of a family relationship does not always have to be related to religion. It can occur for other reasons. But, my experience with this has been the result of being involved with Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). In high demand faith groups such as WOFF, there is much ado about the threat of being put out of the church and resulting state in which one would find themselves when/if that happened. In religious circles, the term for blowing up or bombing a family relationship is called “disfellowshipping” that person. It is a common theme in such groups to be put out and shunned for not submitting to the leader and/or the rules for the group given by the leader. For the most part, it was the same at WOFF. Non-compliance with the many unwritten, ever-changing rules and the constant requirement to actively submit one’s life to the direction and control of Jane Whaley and her leadership laid a foundation for the dynamic which was the constant threat and resulting fear of being put out of “God’s people.”
Another part of being in WOFF included those on the outside comparing WOFF members to other religious groups with similar beliefs. We were compared to Jehovah Witnesses OFTEN, especially when we stopped celebrating Christmas and Easter. Honestly, I never felt comfortable with that comparison. Before becoming involved in WOFF, I had read some about that group and did not want any part of them. But, for many the comparison was obvious and valid. Since leaving WOFF in 2008, I have to admit the comparisons had merit.
Another area where the comparison proved valid was in the area of the practice of shunning and disfellowshipping those who leave or simply disagree with WOFF beliefs or practices. While inside, I was not required to disfellowship an immediate family member. But, avoiding regular contact with my family outside of WOFF was something I did because I was taught that we still had “common ground.” “This perverted pull would take me out of the will of God and away from God’s people.” Limiting contact was simply easier than going through the “proper channels of authority” and the resulting humiliation and junk to get permission to go see them. I am not saying I never went to see family during WOFF days, but it was ALWAYS a big deal. And you got the third degree when you returned to see if you had given to perversion or voiced anything or seen anything that “out of the will of God.” AND as the years went on, you became aware that your spouse and children were being asked about the trip and to reveal anything that went on that “they had questions about or which may not have reflected God’s wisdom.”
I say all that to give hope to the relatives of WOFF members who read this and wonder of their family members inside still love them. Let me say from my experience, they still love you. But, because of the destructive dynamics inside WOFF, they have to make a conscious decision to endure the resulting junk which comes before and after visiting you or talking to you on the phone. The unbelievable loyalty to Jane and her aura which is required of WOFF members exacts a price on the members of WOFF. Some are willing to pay the price and some are willing to pay the price for only so long. Don’t lose hope.
Below is a video from a Jehovah Witness conference in June of 2013. It was hard to watch the video all the way through without getting up and walking away from my computer. First, the speaker uses the EXACT same scripture reference I have heard Jane Whaley use as an excuse to require her members to cut family members off and not speak to them. In listening to the speaker’s suggestions of what to do when a family member is disfellowshipped, substitute “Jane” for Jehovah and note how he says to keep coming to meetings and stay active in the church. My experience was WOFF required the same. “Keep walking the ways of God and their heart may turn back to Him.” (return to WOFF) The speaker says to remain loyal to Jehovah. In WOFF, that would be preached- stay loyal to God’s ways- as spoken through Jane.
Next, we review some excerpts from “The Spanking Room” by William Coburn. (Copyright©2008 by William Coburn, Winepress Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1-57921-965-9). The author grew up in the Jehovah Witnesses and tells his perspective from his years there. Chapter 4- A Tool of the Devil- “The Watchtower ideal is summed up in the catch-phrase “slaves to Jehovah.” This is just a metaphor for being spiritually humble; it is taken very literally to mean that every thought, word, and act is to be guided by the doctrines taught in the rainbow of little books that the Watchtower Society publishes year after year. At meetings, we were explicitly told what to think about and what not to think about, how to think, how to feel, how to behave in every conceivable situation. Most of all we were taught to have absolute faith in the truth of what we were being taught.” (page 33)
How is that different from what happens at WOFF?
Words to Live By- “Watchtower publications expend a lot of ink telling you how you should feel. You should feel happiness that you’ve found the only true religion, that you now know who your “real” friends and “real” family are.
Mom took this very much to heart. We were not her real family- Dad and Joe and I- because we weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Witnesses were her real family. Worldly people (that is everyone else) could not be her friends unless or until she converted them. In fact the only valid ground for any relationship with a non-believer was to get the person to believe…” (page 38-39)
How is that any different from what happens at WOFF? Be honest. Well, as a matter of further explanation; you could add that even if you were not a WOFF member, but could give them money or respect, they may leave you alone for a time and not try convert you. But, if you ever showed any disrespect or disagreement with their beliefs or signature practices- you were out of favor- quick.
Fear Factor- “Fear is a powerful motivator and something that Jehovah’s Witnesses I knew were well acquainted with. Heck, it was a good buddy of mine for years. I mean, think of it: what other response can you have to being assured that this powerful demonic force- Satan-the-devil- is out to get you, body and soul?
Jehovah’s Witnesses were taught to respond to fear by repeating things over and over to make them second nature and to arm themselves against demons. Repeat scripture. Repeat prayers. My fears kept me praying morning, noon, and night. (page 50)
Okay, without being disrespectful, I must admit that for a long while WOFF members were taught to say- “Help me, Jesus.” as a mantra. The other reflex response was to call Jane- about anything. If you were not on the level of the pyramid to be daily connected to Jane, you called whoever was in leadership above you. Calling to “lock-in” acted as your safety blanket.
I could go on, but in summary, for WOFF members the normal “safe” foundation of desiring to continue relationships with family members even through rough times is totally subject to the other family member being in agreement with the beliefs of WOFF including the fear of Jane – even if they are not a part of WOFF. If a family member inside or outside of WOFF expresses doubt or refuses to go along with WOFF rules, the relationship with that family member is subject to being bombed and blown apart and nuked in order to keep loyal WOFF members “in the will of God” and “living among God’s people.” Jane Whaley uses the same scripture references and has the same practices for this as do the Jehovah Witnesses. Does your church do the same? Selah.
And with that, let us remember:
“It is never too late to wake up and leave and reclaim your life!” Steve Hassan
Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.
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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 462.
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