I can only imagine what goes on in the mind of my adult daughter, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who clearly believes she can have no contact — excuse me, no “unnecessary”contact — with me, and faithfully holds to that position. I have no objective measure for what she considers “necessary” either, only that it is obviously unimportant whether I am well, or even alive. It is similarly unnecessary to respond to occasional attempts on my part to find out how she is faring, or whether the close friend she moved out to live with, who I later learned (not from my daughter, naturally) developed cancer is recovering, worsening, or even dead. I fully expect that one day my daughter will be married (if she isn’t already) and I will have grandchildren I’ll likely never meet, and it will surely not be “necessary” as far as she is concerned for me to ever hear a word about any of it.
I recently had cause to try contacting her, however — painful as that usually turns out for me since any attempts at communication typically receive not the slightest acknowledgement. But as her grandmother (my mother-in-law) whom she has also not seen in years was ill in the hospital, and things were not looking too good, I made the attempt.
So I was moderately surprised when my daughter actually responded to me via text message. Nothing of a personal or caring nature, mind you, but at least she thanked me for letting her know she appreciated this as an evidently “necessary” communication. But during the brief exchange, which was as unsatisfying as ever, she also made the particular statement: “You know why we don’t talk.”
That phrase has been kicking around in my mind for weeks now, because in all honesty, nothing could be farther from the truth. On the surface, I “know” that she views me as a “disfellowshipped” person. But with so many questions surrounding even that, there is frankly no way I can possibly know what her thinking is without discussion. The tyranny of the situation is such that, from her point of view at least, no discussion of any sort is “allowed.”
Even the elders, apparently, are not allowed to discuss anything with me. I was told by one of the brothers shortly after their decision to expel me that he would like to offer his help. He explained that if I wished, he could provide me with written material — articles — but emphasized that I would not be allowed to discuss anything or ask him any questions, only to say whether any material he decided to provide “helped” me or not.
Just in case you may be wondering about the scriptural basis for that kind of insane approach to “helping”, I’m fairly certain there isn’t one. I can’t see any practical basis either. “Hello, I’m your medical doctor, and I believe you have a serious condition. I’d like to help, so I’m going to experiment with various treatments, but you’re not allowed to ask any questions or describe any of your symptoms — you can only say whether you think the thing we just tried improved your condition or not. Yes or no.” Hmmmm…I think I want a different doctor.
Still, I responded to his offer, merely asking if he would please focus his initial attention on searching for material to address the areas I’d already explained at the hearing were sticking points for me. In doing so, however, I apparently overstepped the boundary of whatever minimal communication he felt was “allowed” because I never heard from him again either.
So really, given such an ultra-tight-lipped policy, along with the manifest unwillingness, inability, or both on the part of the congregation elders to provide any kind of relevant information regarding their stance even to me, I have to conclude that if anything, my daughter has even less of an idea as to why she isn’t talking to me than I do.
I can’t help thinking that this, too, seems out of harmony with the scriptures. Yes, we know that in Paul’s day, the Corinthian congregation was urged to stop associating with a particular member — but Paul made sure that they all knew exactly why. He did not ask them to shun fellowship with this person on his word alone — indeed, how could anyone in good conscience treat a fellow Christian in such a manner without clearly understanding the reason for doing so. And what was the reason? In this case, the man had taken his father’s wife as his own — something that, as Paul put it, was unthinkable even among non-Christian’s.
So then, I have to assume my daughter at least thinks I’ve done something wrong of similar magnitude. But what does she imagine that to be? Is my living as the transgender person I am enough of a reason?
In my view, the answer is no. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official stance, as far as I was ever able to tell, hinges first and foremost on an opinion as to whether there is any legitimacy to a transgender person’s gender identity (i.e., can a transgender woman in any way, in whole or in part, rightly be considered a woman — more and more research says absolutely, “Yes,” and in a very biological way — while the brothers simply remain inclined to think, “No”) — followed up with the subsequent opinion that exactly one scripture in the law of Moses, the letter of which we are no longer under (although we rightly draw principles from it) must be interpreted to apply in one very specific way to transgender persons, that interpretation itself being based on the first unsubstantiated opinion, mind you. So are two opinions and the resulting application of a single scripture, decidedly lacking in support from either additional scripture or secular evidence, really sufficient grounds for a potentially life-shattering decision to remove a fellow Christian from the congregation?
(I’ve previously discussed my rather bizarre exchange with the brothers on the subject in more detail, but I think it is also worth pointing out here that while they were quite adamant that they could never accept me as a transgender woman, rather confusingly, they never said that my own reasoning as I explained it to them was incorrect, from a scriptural perspective or otherwise.)
So now, should I assume that my daughter and other fellow Witnesses simply disagree, and to their thinking, there is ample evidence for the brother’s decision — but simply evidence that no one will share with me, because no one is going to speak with me anymore? Perhaps that is the case, but really, I suspect it is as likely if not more so that they are simply unwilling to give the matter any further thought at all. It’s certainly more convenient, in the supposed name of “unity”, to simply treat all of the society’s opinions and the brothers’ judicial decisions as equally soundly rooted in gospel truth.
And then it’s a further “unifying” simplification, I suppose, to encourage congregation members to treat every disfellowshipped person in the exact same extreme way, to have as little contact as possible, even with family members, and regardless of the supposed offense. So where does that idea come from? Because in his letter to the Corinthians, though Paul advised the congregation to stop associating with the sinner in question — not even taking a meal with the person — he certainly stopped short of instructing the congregation to refuse any and all communication of a civil or familial nature.
The idea that “no talking” whatsoever should even be permitted is taken from a different scripture in 2 John, which says that even saying “a greeting” to certain persons would make one a “sharer in their wicked works”. But the context of that scripture makes it plain it’s not speaking merely of someone who might be guilty of just any sort of sin, but rather specifically of an apostate — one who “pushes ahead” and does not remain in the “teaching of Christ”, but instead tries to bring in false teachings to corrupt the congregation — thus making themselves, not merely a sinner, but an open adversary of the Christian congregation and Jehovah himself.
So again, I’m left to wonder…does my daughter think that also applies to me? Have the elders told her that it does? Or is she simply adhering to the prevailing custom the Witnesses have of utterly shunning every disfellowshipped person in the exact same way, whether strictly warranted scripturally-speaking or not? I may never know for certain, because no one will say, at least not to me. Regardless, they certainly treat me as if that were the case. But all I’ve ever done with regard to this matter is to seek scriptural clarity. And failing to see that there is any such clarity behind their stubborn stance with regard to transgender persons, yes, I have blogged about it here. But I’m confident that any honest person can see that there is not a trace of malice or ill will in anything I’ve ever presented — only my own truthful observations about the experience. If I am “attacking” anything at all here, it is only what I continue to sincerely see as a singular injustice, and in reality, what appears to me to be an offense against the truth — I am certainly not attacking the truth, nor any of the plain teachings of Christ, nor the Christian congregation itself.
I happen to think my daughter, Christian elders and other former friends within the congregation might even be capable of realizing much of this. Except of course for the fact that “we don’t talk.” And they’re faithfully sticking to that, though Jehovah only knows why…because I certainly don’t.