Kathleen's Story

By Kathleen (McCormick/Roa) Quen

I've been out of the Watchtower Society for many years now. Baptized in 1959, I was disfellowshipped in 1974 for saying I didn't think the Governing Body had all the truth.

But I had already entertained serious doubts about the organization even before I was baptized. This was because of things my agnostic father had always said about all religion and then warnings he had given us about cults. Especially about the Jehovah's Witnesses as they began infiltrating our family. I didn't really understand what a cult was. But I remember he said you would be talked into believing and doing things you wouldn't normally do.

After I started believing and doing things I wouldn't normally have done, I began to really sense that something was wrong when I started reading the Bible for myself, apart from WT literature. First of all, I was discouraged from doing this by those who studied with me. The thought was that without the "faithful and discreet slave's" guidance (i.e. Watchtower literature), one could not correctly read and understand the Bible on their own. This didn't sound right to me. Would God make that kind of arrangement? I didn't think so. So I read it anyway.

I read the whole New Testament of the Revised Standard Version. The RSV was the Bible many JWs used before we got the NWT. (New World Translation). What I read seemed very different from what the organization was teaching us. So, as soon as we got the NWT, I began doing research on it, and on the history of the Watchtower Society its self.

What I was finding was really quite disturbing to me. Verses seemed taken out of context or 'doctored up' just to support their teachings. There were obvious and deliberate deceptions. This began to really scare me. Deceptions in their translation and deceptions within the workings of the organization were becoming more clear to me all the time.

But by then I had gotten baptized. Being so, I was not now at liberty to ever discuss any of my findings with anyone else. Was I to say anything or try to discuss these things with anyone, I would be labeled "rebellious", "a complainer", "a trouble maker", "running ahead of the organization". Or maybe even get kicked out of it, (disfellowshipped).

In 1962 I married a former Bethelite. Nine months later we had a baby boy. I loved my baby beyond words and became afraid for him. I didn't want his mind and life totally trained as a JW. But try as I may for the next several years, I couldn't get my husband to see, or be concerned about all the discrepancies I was seeing. He had grown up as a Witness and had never really taken an interest in the Bible, sincerely in helping others, or researching anything for himself. He just "didn't have time", or didn't want to 'rock the boat.' In any case, he simply didn't want to think or talk with me about any of this. On the other hand. I became obsessed with it. I could see the implications. That people's whole lives were being sucked up into a "form of godly devotion", which was actually a mockery and a man made scheme for some devious, self serving purpose. I was researching the Scriptures and the Society daily. I poured over many books and bible translations. The more I did the more frightening it all seemed to become.

I wanted my husband to get involved in what I was do badly. I wanted him to talk to other brothers, to elders, to contact and question the Watchtower Society. But that was like asking him to question whether mama was really his mama - unthinkable!

Although it wasn't proper for a woman to do so, I wrote to the Watchtower headquarters in New York myself. I questioned them on several bible texts used to support their teaching of the two classes: the 144,000, 'great crowd' and on other related teachings on the kingdom. Their evasive, condescending reply, simply directing me to more of their literature, (which of course I had already researched), rather than to the bible, made me more doubtful of their claim of being "God's only channel of communication to mankind on earth."

I just could not believe they were uniquely used of God, or had a special monopoly on truth. But because I had not been brought up in any church or religion, per se, I believed them when they taught us that these others were all wrong in their understanding of the bible and that their teachings were all false. In my mind I thought, if all other religions or churches were wrong, there was nowhere else to go, (just as they taught us there wasn't). I thought, "well at least the Witnesses don't celebrate pagan holidays, worship a three headed god, smoke, live immorally, or get into politics and wars that kill innocent people like every one else does".

But I just wanted to be free of it all. I wanted my little family to be living peacefully close to nature and free of organization. The constant meeting attendance; the steady supply of literature to be studying all the time, it all seemed so completely unnatural. But there was no graceful way to get out of this routine. You can't just stop going to meetings. To do so you relinquish your good name, your reputation and eventually any shred of credibility among your JW family members and all your friends. If I just stopped going myself, even though my husband went, it would totally upset my marriage, and ultimately my child. I would be misunderstood by all those who were the dearest and closest to me. They would all think the very worst of me.

Not knowing how else to handle it, I reasoned I'd just have to help my husband see what was wrong. I was so drilled on the head ship thing that even knowing him and his personality as I did, I still expected him to take the lead in getting us away from the organization. I simply fantasized on how he would do this and how we would get out - together. I wanted to help others out too though. I knew I could only reach any of them from within the organization. Once out none of them would ever listen to or have anything to do with me again. So I felt torn and between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.

To try to reach others I attended all the meetings, I read all the literature and associated only with other Witnesses. But because of this I would often lose my perspective and go right back to adopting their twisted one again.

To all onlookers I was a model Witness; titles, positions, status within the organization, all this means a great deal to them. So as mentioned, because I had married a former Bethelite, had regular pioneered for three years straight, visited Bethel and the factory, and pioneered in very seamy parts of NY by myself. And because I was still consistent in going door to door and enjoyed bible discussions more than any other, my image kept me in good standing - even though inside I realized we were all in some way being manipulated and used by a few aging but very powerful men in New York.

I continued trying to talk to my husband; to show him inconsistencies in the teachings, policies and practices, and to watch for any others who might also have doubts or questions of their own. Very few would ever dare say even a little from their true hearts about how they felt about anything. They were afraid to. So strong was the tendency to spy on and "rat" on each other if one should ever be caught saying anything negative about anything to do with the organization, that it was rare to ever hear an honest, negative comment.

Everyone tried hard to look totally happy and act completely satisfied in the eyes of everyone else. Being so was considered healthy and an indication of being a spiritually strong person. Being considered "spiritually strong" meant everything. Catching someone being unhappy, weak or divisive and then 'turning them in', in order to "keep the organization clean", was considered a sign of real "Christian maturity".

Because of this 'set up', word would inevitably get back to the elders about me not accepting all that the governing body taught. My own older sister would especially turn me in. Because I persisted in trying to reach her.

She and her husband had studied with me. Now they had moved to another state. I wrote letters to them, which they then turned over to the elders of their congregation. Those elders would then send the letters to the congregation's elders where I was. Over the next 14 years. I was asked to meet with the elders of five different congregations, at least eight different times. I was interrogated and shamed for thinking on my own, especially for talking with others about my thoughts and questions. It was considered the ultimate form of Christian treason to question anything the Governing Body ever taught us. I was warned not to ever talk to others about my own views or questions again.

My husband still seldom took anything I ever said seriously. But even when he did, the next time the elders came around he would flat out deny having any questions or doubts at all. He would actually side with them against me, explaining that it was all me and not him questioning anything. This would really hurt and disappoint me. Not having anyone to talk with, I felt so alone and frustrated. It was like an awful movie but it was real and I was in it! This was an incredible strain on me.

Once, in 1968, in Oregon, the elders came to see me again. It was a record breaking hot Summer day. I was nine months pregnant with our second son and 'due' at any time. I was feeling quite miserable, especially from the heat. The last thing I wanted was to deal with elders! I wished so much my husband would just order them away. But he was intimidated by them. Looking good to them was much more important than anything I was going through. It really made me sad to see how these otherwise seemingly sane and decent family men could become so cold, insensitive and intent on protecting this huge organization from a pregnant little country housewife.

We now had two precious little boys. I loved them so dearly I just couldn't go on as we were. I had to do something to get us all free and away from the pressures of all our JW relatives and the organization its self. I wanted to raise my children apart from all this unnatural regimentation. I was tired too of going door to door during Oregon's miserable, damp, cold Winters. Especially, wearing silly, unhealthy, high heeled shoes. Nor could I take anymore sitting through endless meetings, feeling like I was freezing to death. I just had to escape from all this madness. I wanted to be warm; I wanted to be exploring life and doing things out in nature with my little darlings and hopefully my husband too. Finally In a burst of near panic I began checking out library books and reading up on tropical islands!

After about a year of I reading, read to, and encouraged him, I then finally convinced my husband that we could move anywhere we wanted to, and not have to feel guilty about doing so. So we did, (long story cut short).

He still wasn't really questioning the Society himself, however, so once we got as far as Guam, he got us as involved with the JWs there as we ever were on the mainland! I felt so defeated and frustrated I began to experience mild panic attacks. During meetings I'd feel waves of dizziness from extreme mental frustration. I couldn't believe I was actually sitting through more meetings listening to all this same, self righteous, judgmental, negativism again. Please no! Not after having gone through all that effort to escape from it! I felt squeezed and trapped like an animal, and like I would soon go insane.

The only things I ever enjoyed about being a JW was going from door to door . This gave me the chance to get out to see things around the island and to meet the wonderfully diverse peoples living there. I enjoyed studying with them too. In this way I could really study and get their unbiased thoughts on things that I questioned, myself.

But by 1974 and still on Guam, I wanted out of the organization no matter what. I felt that this would be a good time to get out, thereby making a statement to my family and all "the friends" there and on the mainland, that I was NOT afraid of Armageddon, or that it would come in 1975. That whole thing was so obviously man made I couldn't stand any of it. I couldn't understand how others could buy it after all the false dates the Society set before.

Sure enough, the elders came to see me yet again. But this time I was ready to be disfellowshipped, albeit feeling sick inside due to the injustice of it all and the implications for my precious little family.

The elders came right to our house. They were so cold and business like I felt saddened to see these wonderful men going through these Gestapo like motions. My husband knew they were coming so he was taking a shower when they arrived. There I sat in stony silence in my own living room with these three leading elders of the congregation while we waited for my husband (the head of the house) to appear. After about forty five minutes. It was obviously ridiculous not to proceed without him. They finally came right out and asked, so I told them straight out too, that no, I didn't believe the Governing Body had, or even could know all the truth. That for one, it was wrong for them to say that Noah's ark prefigured the Watchtower organization. (Something they were teaching at that time). I said they missed the whole point of what Jesus was, and did.

That was it. That was all they needed to hear. One of them jumped up saying I had just repudiated my baptism by saying that. My husband, meanwhile, was so afraid of what was going out in the living room, he could hardly bring himself out to join us. When he finally did they asked him if he agreed with anything I believed or had ever said to him.

At that point he was getting tired of being a JW, and something we had discussed had finally begun to bother him now. So quite naively from notes he had written, he attempted to explain where the scriptures had been twisted out of context by the Society. They all but held their ears! He was immediately told to stop. If he agreed with me in any way, or if he too questioned anything from the Governing Body, he too would have to be disfellowshipped

In unison, all three of them picked up their bags and coldly walked out - leaving us without even so much as a 'good bye' . It all seemed so unreal, so juvenile and such a mockery of justice that I couldn't help but reach out to squeeze the arm of the only one of the three who seemed to be a bit disturbed by what had just taken place, (Ralph Shiyama). I wanted so badly to encourage him to think for himself and to see something was wrong with this whole picture.

It was announced at the next meeting that we were both disfellowshipped, "for conduct unbecoming of Christians".

It's hard to describe the range of emotions one goes through, or how this kind of injustice affects your feelings about all human beings and your relationships with them. Numbness, shock, total frustration, disbelief that this could really be done to people in this day and age - a whole mixture of pain and confusion. And now you can't even talk to, or explain anything to anyone. Not even to your own close JW relatives.

Several JWs who had been aware of my unrest and with the elders concerns about me, plus some of the people I had been studying with, now stopped associating with the congregation as well, as did my husband, eventually. But we were all so shocked and disoriented by all this that we didn't even keep in contact with these others.

Within a year, and just after a huge, destructive typhoon hit the island, (Armageddon?), my husband was so burned out and confused by all of this that he arranged for, and sent me and the children back to the mainland "a couple of months ahead of him" - but he never showed up! He simply abandoned us here in California. (Perhaps in his mind it was all my fault).

Cut off from husband, family, friends and now in an unfamiliar part of the country, without money, job skills, a proper education, and with two small children depending on me, it was more than I could bear. I suffered mentally, emotionally, financially and eventually physically as well.

Many things transpired in my life during the next several years. I had associated with, or visited many other Christian groups, read dozens of books and even checked out other major religions, but finally, in 1987 I learned of and read, CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE, by Raymond Franz. (Then his other book, In Search of Christian Freedom). I wept profusely while reading these books. I could hardly believe my eyes! After all those years I had confirmation that my instincts, research and misgivings had been correct all along. Someone else had been seeing them too! And a member of the Governing Body no less! I exchanged letters with Ray (no Internet yet), and from then on a new and different kind of healing began to take place within me.

Other than Ray and his wife and then some literature by RANDY WATTERS , I still hadn't discovered any other ex-Jehovah's Witnesses until in late 1996 when I got a computer, went on line and joined an email list of many other exJWs from around the world! What an experience!

These on line connections continue to be a great source of comfort, re-education and reorientation for all those who leave, or are booted out of the organization for one excuse or another. And for those brave souls still in it who dare question and examine things for themselves. Long live the Internet! May we never allow the Watchtower Society to intimidate and dissuade us from its use. Its their biggest threat now, of course.

What I've seen on line among exJWs is like an enlargement of nearly every stage of confusion, hurt, anger, disgust, more confusion, rebellion, over sensitivity, soul searching, researching, rethinking, rejoicing, and even some aloofness and arrogance, that I too have gone through (several times over).

I would suggest you not try to find ALL your healing and answers on the Internet. Help and healing are as if in the wind, ideas, flashes of understanding and comfort come from people and places you would least expect to help you. Things you had formerly put in the 'off limits' section of your mind will open up whole new areas of thought, mental and emotional growth for you. You'll begin forming a new framework on which you'll rebuild a whole new outlook and structure of understanding.

Someday you may even start reading the Bible again, apart from all Watchtower literature. This may take months, or even years for some. If and when you do, without your "WT colored glasses" on, it will all look different to you.

One day you may even be thankful for all you've seen and gone through. It will all add up to make you a stronger, wiser person; it will be the basis of your character and many inner strengths. You will have gained an understanding of people, religion and mind control you may not have gotten otherwise.

Some never read the bible again. Some reject the bible and all religion totally. Some move into different belief systems. Some do this for a time and then make more changes again later on. All are free to think for themselves and live as each one feels is right for themselves at the time. That's what real freedom is about.

Don't expect too much of yourself or any one else. A lot of your growth will come through hard times, difficulties with people; your own personal failures, weaknesses and lack of understanding. You'll have a multitude of new thoughts, choices and decisions to make. And you'll now have to do this on your own - thinking things through and making decisions for YOURSELF. But trust your common sense, respect your mind and heart and do whatever it takes to gain your self respect and a sense of self confidence.

It's as if your mind has been infected with a strange and overpowering "virus." Give it, and your emotions, good care and time to heal. Don't rush into anything new and don't allow others to rush you into anything new either. This is your own private, personal, journey. Savor it, protect it, and enjoy it as you go and continue to grow.

Don't get downhearted over other struggling exJWs you'll meet along the way. They are all just individuals; all just getting through this same process like you are - all at different stages of healing, understanding, experience and growth.

Although we connect and share some very significant things in common, there are no two of us alike. No two experiences are exactly the same. No one will understand you and yours as well as you wish they would. And neither will you understand theirs like they might hope you could. We are WT clones no more! We're all different individual people. Learn to accept, appreciate and enjoy our freedom. The freedom to be ourselves with all those wonderful differences among us.

There were no such support groups, (there was no Internet), when I finally escaped the 'Tower,' but I've survived - barely sometimes, but I have. You should all do much better, much faster than I did. At least you know there are others out there who have gone through, or are now going through this same reorientation into life as you are. There are more and more leaving the organization all the time. More are entering into this same process of healing. Anytime you want to, you can even contact them, join in and talk with them on line, or just 'lurk' in the background, privately observing, listening, re-thinking and re-learning.

There will always be little bits and pieces of truth that you can keep in your hearts again. Not just from among other exJWs, but from all over the Internet and from people in all of life around you. It's a fantastic and winding journey we're on. Enjoy it!

God is not the entity the Society portrays, or confined to one place like we were conditioned to believe. No one person, or group, has all the answers or a monopoly on truth, on God, or on his favor and blessing. Its our old cultic, Watchtower mind set that makes us want, or hope, that we will suddenly find, or "be lead to" someone or some group, who have, hold, and represent "the truth". We're all growing away from that false concept at different paces and in different stages. We must be patient with ourselves and with others along the way.

Slow down and enjoy your journey out. It's much longer than you think. But it really does get sweeter and sweeter as the years go by.

Sincerely with love,

Kathleen Quen

P.S. I dedicate this piece to my deceased parents, (Joseph A. and Rose McCormick) who between them struck a chord of free thinking and sincere seeking. From them both I believe I benefited. (My father died a mellowed agnostic, my mother a faithful, but 'resigning within', JW).