“By their fruits you shall know them.” So said Jesus of those who would adhere to the truth of his teachings, as distinguished from those who would diverge.
Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization have manifested a great deal of fine fruit. There is a good deal of genuine love among the vast majority of those who call themselves brothers and sisters. Certainly as a whole, they don’t take part in divisive politics, or secular fights, or wars, or a good deal of other ugliness that for so many other folks — even those who consider themselves first and foremost to be Christian — tends to readily usurp their worship of God and love for their neighbor.
But a key thought keeps coming back to mind. Love of Jehovah and genuine faith in Christ ultimately also require an unswerving love of truth. (2 Thess 2:10) Where even long-held beliefs and ideas are found to differ from truth, a lover of truth will “make the mind over” and change. Where peers, even highly-respected peers, possibly even in large number, suggest ideas or actions that don’t gibe with truth, again, a lover of truth will not yield to the majority or to the pressure of mere men, no matter the cost.
It’s extremely important to note that while Jehovah’s Witnesses generally refer to the religion itself as “The Truth”, it is not scripturally speaking a “religion” that is to be loved, nor a religious organization. It is real, live actual truth. And plain and simply put, despite the best efforts of imperfect men I happen to still believe are well-meaning to faithfully direct the organization, it is a simple fact that not everything printed in the Watchtower magazine, or suggested with regard to handling of matters in the congregation, “judicial” or otherwise, has either the ring of absolute truth or the clear weight of scriptural truth behind it.
The unity Jehovah’s Witnesses cherish is a wonderful thing and beautiful to observe everywhere that it is solidly founded in real truth, but when their unity of thought and action crosses into areas where it leans fundamentally upon the words and ideas of men — not so much anymore. By comparison to the vast, obvious good fruit that is produced when the Witnesses as an organization (or any people for that matter) adhere to the obvious true teachings of Christ, and share these with their neighbors, the fruit of confusing the truth with every word uttered by congregation elders, or by the governing body, or ever printed in a Watchtower magazine is not nearly always so good.
Nor should this really be surprising. “We must obey God rather than men,” is a scriptural principal that doesn’t add, “unless the men in question hold various positions of oversight and responsibility within the Christian congregation.” Nor does this simple truth in any way contradict all the good the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses accomplish, or that their work as a whole bears all the signs of having Jehovah’s blessing and spirit.
Rather it’s a logical consequence of yet another scriptural truth: “It does not belong to man who is walking to direct his own step.” If the imperfect men leading the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses could do so without error, without occasionally causing harm rather than good, without occasionally adopting positions based on something other than solid truth — then they could in fact, even in their imperfect human state, successfully rule all of mankind. And that, we are told in no uncertain terms, is something no human perfect or otherwise, can do.
The fact is, whenever various stances the organization has taken step beyond the boundary of plain scriptural counsel — when they, for example, disfellowship certain individuals on the basis of holding a viewpoint rooted in scripture itself, but a viewpoint that might happen to question a particular point of organizational teaching which itself appears to be founded on some measure of speculation — the organization and the brothers are showing a certain lack of love of actual truth, or at the very least, a preference for love of the organization over whatever really may be the truth in that instance.
And the fruit of such actions is bitter — alienating individuals and family members, separating genuine friends from one another, and as most faithful witnesses seem to view their obligation to “the truth” (as in the organization), preventing any display of love, affection or concern for the affected party, very likely for life. Because unlike disfellowhipping involving matters of clear scriptural sin, when concern for actual truth has been pitted against an organizational stance and lost, it is not very likely that the lover of real truth is going to be able to give that up to “turn around”, and “repent” from something that not only ought need no repentance, but would actually amount to a violation of personal integrity to assert, in order to “come back” to the welcoming arms of men rather than Jehovah, the arms of those who in this particular matter at least appear to love the truth less.
The truth is that it is never wrong to seek greater clarity when a particular statement or teaching or practice does not seem entirely right in light of one’s own understanding of truth as illuminated by the scriptures. We must serve Jehovah with our own minds and our own power of reason, after all, if we are to serve him at all. Nor is it ever wrong to act appropriately in harmony with what we perceive as true and right. There is nothing inherently disrespectful in doing so, neither towards the organization nor towards Jehovah himself — quite the opposite, in fact. Yet in truth, some are labeled “apostate” (and subsequently treated as despicable outcasts) for this sort of reason, and this sort of reason alone.
I’ve deliberately not tied the discussion thus far specifically to my being a transgender Christian — I’ve covered that at length in some other posts (such as this one on the subject of .”Fleshly Thinking“, particularly with respect to transgender individuals, and a separate discussion of my frustrating failed attempts to get some scriptural clarity on the organization’s view of transgender persons). That’s because I strongly believe, while yes, this absolutely affects me in my personal situation, it’s a somewhat broader and more systemic problem than that where the organization is concerned.
In short, however, with respect to transgender Christians, the organization continues to disregard what is becoming a growing body of secular evidence that we are born biologically a cross between genders, and leans for no good scriptural reason on the viewpoint that certain bits of our physically visible biology at birth trump all else and are just more significant than our “irrelevant” innards — our brains and minds and figurative hearts — in determining how we need to live as Christians. Nor does the fact that all efforts at trying to live that way almost invariably fail to work in the long term for the transgender person appear to sway them to reconsider how their position might not, in fact, be based on either truth or sound scriptural understanding.
The fact remains that for me, the truth is I was born a transgender woman — living as a male was a long-term pretense, a pretense that despite all efforts including spiritual ones, increasingly did not work, growing to affect every aspect of my life and my failing mental health in particular. Whereas living as myself is one no longer. And with regard to the scriptures, I cannot find, nor have I been shown, any scriptural basis to concluded that it is against the law of Christ for me to do so, or that I must also teach others like myself that it is unquestionably wrong to do so (as remaining a member of the organization in good standing would also require me to do).
I genuinely love all the good the Witnesses do as an organization, and all of the real, fundamental Christian truths they have done more to spread worldwide than any other group on the face of the earth. However, the truth is, even if I were somehow able to do what they insist is the only thing I can ever do to become part of the congregation again — without actually losing my mind, or holding deep bitterness in my heart for being forced back into an unhealthy pretense that I only finally managed to escape — I actually consider myself morally obligated not to ever do so, and to rather hold firmly to my position right here, where I am, which is for the time being outside the congregation that will not have me — as a genuine lover of the truth and a transgender Christian.