JWs at my door remind me that church hurts

Nightingale Sep. 2012

Early Saturday morning door knocks are particularly unwelcome at my house as I'm usually rushing to be somewhere, and usually late with it. It is never somebody I want to talk to at that time, not even if it's little girls wanting my bottles for their baseball team. Magnify to the nth degree the extent of unwelcomeness I feel towards religious callers.

As interested as I am in discussing religion, I want to choose the time and place and I certainly avoid such discussions with people who have only one agenda - to convert me to their group.

Two Saturdays ago, the knock came, and in my unthinking rush I answered (I quite often ignore it and am usually justified in that; i.e., it's most often nothing at all welcome). Two JW men stood there, surprisingly in shirt sleeves, rolled up even, in our sliver of hot weather, none of the usual suit jackets, and no tell-tale briefcases either, just one of the guys holding out a pared-down "Awake". We had formerly had one or two knocks a year, usually pleasant females who left as soon as we briefly expressed our non-interest. I note the calls are becoming more frequent, like 4-6x/yr lately. I could be patient once or twice a year but more frequently repeated visits are ramping up the irritation factor. However, I have always felt I had reason to (try to) be patient and understanding.

Due to family upsets and upheaval at the time, I left home, unplanned, halfway through high school at age 16. I couch-surfed for a while and then shared an apartment with a girl I knew from school and friends of hers I'd never met who turned out to be, or to date, drug-users, not my thing. After a series of incidents and police visits, I departed in a hurry one morning, arriving at school with a small bag containing all my possessions, and nowhere to stay. My favourite teacher noticed my plight and called around to help find me a place. I ended up room-and-boarding with his mom for a couple of years. She was a JW. Not a surprise that I joined the WatchTower Society (WTS/JW) within a short time, becoming an active and enthusiastic JW myself, serving as a missionary in Eastern Canada for a year at one point before eventually leaving the group for doctrinal and other reasons.


You're "not allowed" to just leave. (At least, at that time - I'm not sure if that has changed but somehow I doubt it). According to my understanding (never having been officially contacted re my status) I was disfellowshipped "for conduct unbecoming a Christian" because of my choice to leave the organization. At the time of my decision, I called an elder in my congregation and stated that I no longer wished to be considered a Jehovah's Witness. He asked me only one question - "have you slept with a man?" - as if that was the only reason someone would make the choice to leave - and as if that was the worst act a member could do. Of course, that is the way they think. They never contacted me again and neither did any of my so-called friends in the group. I felt humiliated at the designation of "conduct unbecoming" as I was a shy, quiet, meek, submissive, obedient young adult who thought that following Christian precepts and being a good example were the most important things in life. The punishment of being disfellowshipped for conduct unbecoming was read out in the Sunday service and I couldn't at the time imagine anything more embarrassing or hurtful.

For the years since I left the WTS I have understood that I am disfellowshipped. This is the equivalent of being excommunicated in Mormonism - JWs only have the one stage of complete removal. It is a deeper cut than with the Mormon Church, though, as the disfellowshipped person is cut off from friends absolutely and from family nearly completely, mandated by WTS officials. If friends or family or others try to stay in touch or to stay on friendly terms or especially to discuss the circumstances of the issues involved or "doctrinal matters" they run the major risk of being booted out themselves. I know from my own years as a JW that the average door-to-door JW caller is not permitted to discuss doctrine or anything else with anyone they contact at the door who is disfellowshipped.

How would they know you are d'd, you may ask. **This is the part that really bugs me.** The disfellowshipped person is expected to disclose this to the door-knockers. The WTS mandates that the d'd person state "I am disfellowshipped" to any non-d'd JWs they may come into contact with. I have always refused to do this as it makes me feel as though the WTS still has a hold over me in this regard. I have always found it sufficient to make a brief statement about my non-interest in their faith and always the callers have promptly left, no problem. It has never been necessary for me to say anything about having been a former member in order to get rid of the unwanted solicitors.

Last Saturday was different. First, it was two men at the door, not the usual two women. Second, also rare in my experience, while the first guy was going to leave when I said "no thanks", the second guy stepped forward and kept trying to keep the conversation going. I recognized the technique. The first guy must have been new or fairly junior and the senior guy was going to push the message, despite my clear no thanks response. Third, I was in a rush, already late for a firm appointment and not ready yet to go (still struggling with my wild hair on an already hot day) which made me unusually tetchy, for me.

Jr JW, holding an "Awake" magazine up to my nose, says: "Do you think the violence in our world will ever end?" I say, "I hope, but I don't think so", shaking my head in genuine sorrow, and then I said, backing away and halfway closing the door, "No thanks. Gotta dash." Jr says OK and turns to walk away.

Sr JW says: "Well, hoping isn't going to make violence end ", which I thought was a rude response, over and above it being annoying to try and keep yakking at me when I'd already said no.

I was now in an even bigger rush. They were taking up time I needed to get ready to go out. I could see hours going by if we were to hammer out our various viewpoints on this (a "discussion" with JWs rarely ends until you get mad or at least more firm than I usually come across, even when I'm trying to be Cheryl-one-second-before-the-Garden-Hose-erupts) and I felt unusually irked that they had shown up, again, at my door and also irritated by Sr JW's snooty comment (even if it doesn't sound that snooty in print, his attitude was snooty, so I took it as altogether snooty).

I took a short cut and, for the first time ever, uttered those unholy words to JWs at my door: "I'm disfellowshipped".

"Oooh" says Jr JW and he actually took a step backwards, while casting a startled and helpless look at his companion.

Sr JW says, "OK. Good Day".

And they both turned sharply and walked briskly down my path.

I can't think of anything else I could say that would have caused such an abrupt departure by these two men. (Well, maybe, "Look out - water bombs ahoy"). :)

That is the shortest unwelcome little chat I've ever had with JWs or anybody similar.

I've never used the Disfellowshipped line before, considering it nobody's business and also not wanting to stay in lockstep by disclosing it, as ordered by the WTS.

But man, it works very well!

My suggestion for the week:

Quickest way to get JWs off your doorstep - state "I'm disfellowshipped". Likely, they will not be "authorized" to talk to you and they will leave hastily.

The only little niggle I have about this encounter (and my advice above) is that they may note that a d'd person lives at my address and send along the senior elders from the nearest Kingdom Hall. As with Mormon leaders, they somehow think they have the right to come poking around to get info about me for their records and/or to try and get me back.

Ha. It would be a Frosty Friday in Hell indeed before I'd even want to talk to them, never mind explain why I left, never mind explain why I'd never go back.

Coincidentally, I happened to watch a very moving TV drama last night about men who are dealing with childhood abuse (by priests in their case). One of the victims was trying to explain to a friend, and to authorities, why the experience of being abused still affected them as adults. I cannot compare my experiences with religion to this type of abuse but there are some similarities in feelings and perhaps some common triggers for reliving some aspects in adulthood. At least, I feel that I can relate to the descriptions of some experiences of abuse.

What I'm trying to say, with difficulty and not very well, is that these men showing up at my home, especially out of the blue and unexpectedly, was upsetting to me, admittedly out of proportion to anything that occurred during that specific encounter. Just today, a week later, I've figured out that it's because I felt forced in some way to disclose information that I had no intention or desire to give out. I just wanted them to go away and felt that making the statement about being disfellowshipped was the only answer that Sr JW would accept without argument. He doesn't have the right to do that to me. I felt pressured, by a male, to do or say something I didn't want to do. It was reminiscent of a thousand encounters at various churches with male leaders who try and exert their will in a myriad of ways over members. Nothing I want to relive, thankyouverymuch.

I have also just realized why I get so indignant on my sister's behalf about her obnoxious pastor and his grossly unloving ways. If I told you that he recently pushed over a disabled homeless man and confiscated his specialized crutches, that would be all you need to know about that pastor - and about the organization that leaves him in situ despite knowing about that incident, and many others. My sister, who every day on behalf of others kicks and yells against all the injustices in the world, still attends this guy's Sunday services and appears to put up with his appalling behaviour as although she brings concerns about him to the church's highest body she doesn't vote with her feet and get the hell out of there. My realization today is that this lousy pastor too triggers a lot of unpleasant memories and feelings from my own church experiences. While not the same, at all, as what is happening with sis, some of the root causes are similar. I guess it's discouraging to me that it just goes on and on and on.

And only this past Saturday did my same sister tell me that a priest in her former church had been among the first of the Catholic priests in Canada to be charged with sexual crimes against minors. Like I need reminding of that debacle. It's startling to see it come close to home.

My sister's and my own negative church experiences don't all come from the same source. For her, it's been Catholic and Lutheran congregations. For me, it's been JW and Mormon and, yes, born-again Christian (BAC). Perhaps BAC especially - so disillusioning, so hurtful.

There's pain in my heart because of it. And sometimes tears on my cheeks - still - and today.

I don't appreciate strangers at my door, bringing it all back. I know that's not their intent. But they don't know what they're walking into, or away from, when they try to insert themselves into someone's life, uninvited. I resent that.

I know I must have been a pain to others in my years of doing my own door-knocking as a JW. But I always took no for an answer, and understood and accepted the viewpoints of others. I always respected the alternative choices of non-JWs. I objected to going repeatedly to the same addresses or employing strategies to get people to change their minds about the WTS or any other religious group. I could see that not every question has a certain answer and not every situation is an opportunity to preach. I valued a person for who they were and not which dogma, if any, they embraced.

In my years of struggles with religion (which group to join post-JW, which dogma to believe) I was fortunate to have a friend named Joy, a BAC. She could see that many believers of all stripes were pushing and pulling me this way and that trying to get me to choose their brand. I was indecisive and stressed over it all and Joy was the only one who said, "we love you NG, no matter what", meaning that she and her family would be my friends whichever way I chose to go, unlike the other fairweather preacher types, and Joy is still my friend even though I haven't attended her church for many years. I often wish that more Christians could be like Joy in saying "we love you anyway". To me, that sentiment is the Christian message in a nutshell, "we love you anyway". Simple. Direct. Caring. Says it all (how it should be, at least; what I see in scripture, anyway).

Church hurts.

For a lot of years I couldn't say that. Didn't want to admit it.

Too many expectations, not enough acceptance.

Too much sternness, not enough love.

Too many reprimands.

Too much booting out.

Not enough attitudes like "we love you anyway".

If the followers of Jesus knocked on my door to say they were there to bring me pain and tears, well then I'd say they got it right.

Church hurts.

However many sermons they preach or doors they knock on.

And whatever it says on the sign they hang in front of their building denoting their label.

Life is full of enough pain. Who needs church to make it worse?

You've been through so much pain and deserve better than univited strangers disturbing you peace of mind.
If you're anything like me, you might need your home to be a private sanctuary for finding inner tranquility and enjoying the hard earned fruits of your difficult and stressful past and your present workaday world. As a survivor of more than one hurtful religion and a stress filled youth, you more than most deserve a private life free of religious intruders.

I'm sorry those men pressured you to tell them what is private to you just to make them leave you alone in your own home on a busy day.

These people at our doors and sometimes on street corners need to BACK OFF the minute they know they're intruding on a anyone's private thoughts and personal boundaries.

Too bad some of us couldn't fill in for others in these challenging circumstances. I could do it for you or someone else because your needs and feelings and those of others make particular situations more challenging and hurtful. Anyone who is helped could sometimes pitch in to help someone else as they're able. I guess it sometimes does work that way in the best of times on RfM.

Your story has us thinking and that's good. We all need to be spurred on to stretch our experience and to understand the difficulties others face.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
I'm sorry that their intrusive visit was so painful for you.

I have never opened the door to a stranger without talking to them through the closed door first (and rejecting at least some of them.) You might consider trying this. Your home is your sanctuary and there are very few circumstances when you are *required* to open the door. Religious soliciters? No need to open the door to them at all. Just say, "Sorry, not interested" through your closed and locked door or ignore them altogether.

Re: You've been through so much pain and deserve better than univited strangers disturbing you peace of mind.
Thank you, Cheryl, for your kind words. It always helps to know that others understand the crux of the matter, and also that they don't criticize you because you're not this or that way, different from what you are. It's not a personal failing that some of us struggle to say no or are more private than others. Rather, it's those who put us on the spot that should be called to account and made to think.

Maybe you could sell tapes, Cheryl, for anyone who needs your voice, and perhaps your hose, to deal with door-knockers. If unwanted solicitors won't "hear" us, we can push a button and play them a Cheryl-tune, telling them to go-away-and-don't-come-again-another-day, with waterfall noise in the background, haha.

Even better, once we can learn to say a big fat no ourselves we can go for it whenever needed, and wonder why we found it so tough - it does get easier the more you practice it! I didn't hesitate to say no to those guys the other day - I just wish, in retrospect, that I hadn't felt compelled to bring out the big guns (the D word) in order to make them go away.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
Thanks, summer.

It didn't seem bad at the time. Didn't last long and I made it to my appointment. I guess what's surprising to me is that as the week went on, it grew in impact. I guess it was a trigger for a lot of stuff that seems buried and then uproots itself when you least expect it. It even made me recall how fearful I was to leave the WTS. I still believed the doctrine and felt like I was stepping over the edge of an endless pit by leaving. That's why I could relate to the girls and women in FLDS communes who have it drilled into their heads that they are stepping into hell by leaving their group. That is a familiar refrain to me.

Any group that seeks to isolate its members and especially one that teaches that the outside is "hell" should be called to account for the damage they inflict by fear-mongering like that.

I'm surprised at how much emotion this JW visit triggered in me for a week now. Here we are in the last days of summer, with the sun shining (at last!) and the breeze cooling us, and the evenings long and pleasant, and the weekends precious, and somebody wants to intrude with religion. I guess I'm conflicted to some extent because of how much I don't want it now and because once I loved it and I was one of those annoying door-knockers that nobody wanted to see.

Good suggestions re complete avoidance, thanks. I don't happen to have a window near the door that is see-through or a peephole to peer through but I could always call out to see who it is before opening the door. I'll definitely do that from now on, as a safety measure in many ways. :)

A large protective dog is the best way to discourage unwanted visitors.
My dog Bailey is a Border Collie - Greyhound - X. He weighs 78 lbs. and has a loud ferocious bark. He totally loves people when I properly introduce a new person to him. But Bailey also has a very strong protective instinct, to protect our house against any and all intruders.

Bailey has excellent hearing and he can hear the footsteps of anyone who walks up to our front porch. Then he goes off big-time with his barking. When an uninvited visitor hears that barking s/he instantly turns around and walks away.

Bailey is a great companion and a great protector. I highly recommend having a dog like this if your situation allows it.

"As the week wore on . . . . " Exactly right!
In the moment we often think it doesn't matter, but as time passes these things can eat away at us. That's why it can be a good idea to plan how we'll handle awkward ambushing situations. We're nice and our first inclination is to make nice and smooth over the frailties of others. Sometimes that doesn't work when our life and breath seem at stake as the week wears on.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
I had a GF for a number of years who was ex-JW, and her family were all active witnesses. So, I studied quite a bit of their beliefs, and lived first-hand the shunning policy. Friends would call her, and when I was mentioned, there was an "oh, gotta go," and years of friendship/association abruptly ended. Or if we ran into one of her old JW friends while out at a movie or such, they'd be happy, then they'd act incredulous, then excuse themselves. Bye, bye.

We were both in our 40s, yet witnesses were aghast when we showed up for a meeting, or around town, without a chaperone.

Anyway, I think I was involved with the society and/or witnesses enough to understand what you experienced. Like mormons, they can be a snooty and condescending bunch, and those feelings we have for them and their organization never disappear completely.

Thanks for sharing. Best wishes.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
I really relate to your post, Nightingale.
Pretty much any uninvited contact of a religious nature gets me off kilter for a while. I go over and over in my head how it happened, what I'd change in hindsight... And I just don't want to be giving 'them' that much of my time!
Not just the door knock or random encounter, all that time mulling it over is invasive too.
(Just think about something else already! No @#$%&, Sherlock. Obsessive brain is obsessive.)

I like so much living fairly rural right now, uninvited visitors are few and far between. But I'll be moving back to the suburbs in a couple of years, and I think that will drastically increase these random interactions.
But! It will also increase my proximity to counselors, etc. And THAT I am looking forward to!

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
thanks so much for sharing this, I think I'll right it down and just leave a note on the door for them. They come by at least every other week.
Yikes, breatheagain! They come by every other week!
That's like booze sellers stalking AA meetings.
Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
When I was on my mission we occasionally came across houses that had signs that said no "Jehova's Witnesses or Mormons welcome." Me and most of my companions respected such, but I had one jerk of a companion, who was also the district leader, who made it a point of knocking even louder, then pretending he didn't see the sign. He was a bit of a jock, and instead of taking it at face value that it was a waist of time to knock there, he saw it as a challenge to his massive ego.

I'm sorry that this brought up so much pain to you. Hopefully the
day will come that it won't be such a hurtful experience. What helped me get over things like this, is play acting. I would stand in front of the mirror and go over and over my lines until it became rote. What would you really like to say to them? Then just keep saying that into the mirror. Over time, and more encounters like this, it will become like you're talking to any other salesman.

Good plan, Heidi.
Following it means we're not likely to be ambushed and end up kicking ourselves as the week progresses.

Raptor Jesus
There is another way to get them to leave.
Just explain that the Watchtower is where the Justice League watches over the safety of the earth.

And since none of them seem to be Batman or Superman or Wonderwoman, there's no way they have the authority to accept you into the Watchtower.

Works every time.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
I remember watching a young JW woman who got baptized into the Mormon church during my mission. Almost all of her friends were JW and immediately shunned her. She was so depressed because her entire social life died overnight. She lived with her mother at the time, and as soon as she was baptized, she was kicked out of her home. She was so upset over it all, that the elders who had baptized her worried she might be suicidal.

The worst part is, she felt like the JW church totally condoned these actions! They've managed to be even worse than the Mormon church in this respect, the Mormon church at least tells you to be civil with the person on the surface! The JW church apparently straight up encourages their members to ostracize anyone who tries to leave their church. Its despicable.

If JWs ever knock on my door, maybe I'll just to tell them that story. Then add, "I've seen how you treat your own friends and family. Why would I ever invite such filth into my home?!" *slam!*

Jw's come to our door.
I used to tell them no thanks we're Mormon, but that won't work now. Used to get 'em leaving pretty quickly.

Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
Mormons have similar rule for missionaries. We were not supposed to work with excommunicated members. Only the bishop and stake president were allowed to do that. We could sometimes help but only if the Bishop has determined it is safe and asks. I never understood why but now that I am a dangerous apostate I can see why they wouldn't want clueless 19 year olds coming to talk to people like me.
Re: JWs at my door remind me that church hurts
My dad was a nevermo. Back in the early 80s the JWs knocked on his door every Sunday morning. Both my brothers and my sister were recently returned missionaries. My dad got tired of them so he told them that if they knocked on his door again he would send the missionaries to their house. He never saw them again. You could tell them that and keep your privacy.

"Recovery from Mormonism - www.exmormon.org"