My Father’s Funeral

The last time I stepped into a Kingdom Hall was six years ago. At the time I had been trying to fade, but attended a funeral out of respect for a kind and loving woman.

As that funeral progressed I found myself disappointed and irritated at the proceedings. The speaker began his talk with the briefest of details regarding the deceased, and then transitioned to a standard public talk: Why do people die? Where are the dead? What is the resurrection hope? What is the difference between the great crowd and anointed? How great Jehovah and his arrangements are and how lucky Jehovah’s Witnesses are to have such knowledge and hope. He then stated that if we are to enjoy of this wonderful hope we need to make sure we are having a full share in the preaching work. His talk was nothing more than a Watchtower marketing pitch. Then, almost as an afterthought, the speaker remembered to refer back to the sister, but only to conclude that she had believed these things as well.

In sharp contrast, I attended a non-Witness funeral recently. Several people shared their memories, with many wonderful stories that painted a picture of the person beyond what I had known. I had always loved the funeral speech from “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” in particular the poem “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden. That was how a funeral should be: close friends and relatives being permitted to reminisce about a lost loved one.

A Watchtower funeral is a far cry from that. I cannot help but feel rage every time I read the funeral talk outline, which specifically states:

“Instead of eulogizing the deceased, use the material in this outline to give a fine witness concerning the truth. Good balance should be observed in this regard. Doctrinal points can be presented as beliefs of the deceased, which served as motivation for him.”

When my father was diagnosed with cancer and it was clear he would die, I greatly feared having to attend his funeral. I knew what to expect from the discourse and how irritated it would make me. Even more difficult would be the shunning I would receive. I would be going back to the congregation I was raised in, but this time I would be considered “a notorious apostate.” I had read many experiences about the mistreatment of former Witnesses at funerals and how they were shunned or excluded from the proceedings.

My Father’s Funeral

The funeral talk turned out to be a departure from normal. Dad had been a Circuit Overseer until his diagnosis, and even whilst he was undergoing treatment he spent a week in Bethel to conduct an audit. His prominence in the organisation apparently made a difference, as the funeral talk was unlike any I’d heard before. My father’s coffin was displayed in the Kingdom Hall, and two brothers from Bethel flew down to give a two-part funeral discourse.

The first brother covered information from the standard funeral outline. But rather than just a typical Watchtower marketing pitch, Dad’s life and achievements were actually woven throughout his presentation of Watchtower doctrine. It was a satisfying summary of a wonderful man.

It still all led back to the Watchtower though. Dad had gone to university prior to his conversion and been an accountant and auditor. The speaker seemed determined to show that because of Dad being intelligent and analytical (or did he mean “despite these attributes”?), he came to believe the Watchtower was God’s organisation. This sort of self-affirmation is common amongst Witnesses, but it’s a rhetorical fallacy, since all religions contain some intelligent people.

There followed a second brief talk by the Australian Bethel Branch coordinator, passing on the love and condolences of the Bethel family.

The treatment I received at the Kingdom Hall varied. When I entered the hall a brother gave me a large hug, and several others came up to speak to me. Several of my old Witness friends spoke to me quite normally. However, after that I noticed that the majority refused to approach me, and specifically avoided any eye contact. One person spoke to my cousin who was standing next to me, but completely ignored me. No matter how often it occurs, being shunned is always difficult. How do these people think that shunning is supposed to show that they are “the most loving and truthful organisation,” when to any outside observer it is a sure sign of being a cult?

More difficult to deal with was those that didn’t shun me, but made a point of pushing the Watchtower line on me. One sister said, “Under the circumstances, I am here to give my condolences – under the circumstances.” Another told me that now that Dad was gone it was time to get my act together. I was asked if I had “come back to the truth” yet? Another Witness reminded me that I had “suffered the greatest loss of anyone at the hall,” because I will never see my father again – unless I make some changes.

It is a shame that even during such a difficult time, the Organisation feels determined to impose its irrational behaviour on others. I have been out of the organisation long enough, and been confronted by shunning often enough, to have been prepared to handle the craziness. But I was certainly glad to arrive back home and count my blessings that now I am free from such control.

For a copy of the Watchtower funeral outline go to: http://jehovah.net.au/books/Watchtower-Funeral-Discourse.pdf

[Reprinted with permission: © 2011 InsidetheWatchtower.com; original title “My Father’s Funeral” by Paul Grundy]



Paul GrundyPaul Grundy, editor and webmaster of JWFACTS.com, is a frequent contributor to this site and other Jehovah’s Witness and Watchtower discussion websites. He has a well-earned reputation for the accuracy of his documentation and as a moderate and reasoned critic of the Watchtower.



Comments

My Father’s Funeral — 8 Comments

  1. Your comments made me reminisce of the recent “funeral” (to call this event a funeral is a stretch of the imagination) of my former mother-in-law at a local Kingdom Hall here in New Hampshire USA. The talk was given by a former Service Dept Bethelite having served in Brooklyn, NY’s Bethel headquarters, a talk that, while techically perfect insofar as Watchtower standards are concerned, was totally void of any emotion, love, empathy or even basic sincerity. As you well stated, the ‘talk’ was nothing more than a Watchtower sales pitch given at time when many people were saddened or grieving their loss. And it should be mentioned that the deceased had been an instrumental part of the formation of the local congregation, her husband a well-known elder, but this received minimal attention. The WT ‘spiel’ was more important than anything or anyone else. Shameless!

  2. My aged JW parents have informed me they don’t want me at their funeral. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or upset. JW funerals have always left me cold and even when I was a JW myself. Most of all I feel hurt at the exclusion but recognise it is still my decision if I attend or not, assuming I am informed of course! Paul’s experience tells me it will be difficult either way. My heart will tell me what to do when I’m faced with making that decision but it is a decision I dread having to make.

  3. I am a jehovas witness dont mean to verbally harm any body….. but all the things you guys have said in videos makes me ask you a question… could these be excuses to justify your sinfull acts and quit the congregation… something u should all ask yourself…. thank you….

    • What an offensive way to ask such a judgemental question Douglas, but I will spent 5 minutes of my precious time to respond to this vulgar comment. No 1, we are ALL sinners. That’s how God made us, and it was never his intention on making sure we come to be perfect in his eyes. We are loved by God unconditionally. I quit the congregation, because of a number of reasons, I had an elder sexually molest me, I had a thousand critical questions no one could answer and was reprimanded constantly for having them (very inquisitive child who exercised her own mind and wanted answers to very distinct questions), those never came, but was forced to baptism at 12 anyways, which should be illegal, because minors should never had to be forced into a life long religious commitment when they have not developed their own comforting beliefs and values. This is an adult decision to make because it requires a life long commitment to a way of life and way of worship, that a pre-teen, early teen would never understand if its best for them, they are MINORS. Its a very ADULT decision. And Jesus was 30 when he baptism. That law needs to be made illegal, and baptising children when they have no idea what they’re stepping into, and they wonder why they get disfellowshipped when they hit a nudie bar or start smoking, because life has a tendency to creep up and give you opportunity to explore it. And that’s why God put us here, not to live in judgement of others or with pressure to be perfect or with such limitation that you can’t enjoy the expansive, joyful feeling living life gives you. No one should be FORCED, COERCED, or even strongly encouraged to baptize young, especially without being shown the 100 things they cannot do or the consequences will be immediate and harsh, usually in the form of disfellowshipping and shunning from entire family and congregation. I was DF’d due to me being in love with someone not in the church but they expected me to cut that relationship off, and no one is allowed to do something like that to another human, its criminal. Its unfair and it took away my right to feel and be in love, but they disfellowshipped me for it, and I lost my entire family, and 300 people I knew from 5 up to 19. The pain, despair, abandonment, loneliness that comes from being true to your heart , no one should have to be put in a place of such sacrifice for something that is their God-given right to do, to love and feel love. And it was punishable with force and severing of my relationships with my folks, and 23 years later, I still feel the wake of pain from it. I got married, strengthened my relationship with my own God, became a Nurse, and live with passion. I never quit God, he got me through the times so I wouldn’t take my own life, he continued to give me breath to put one front in front of the other, and I built a beautiful life for myself and I’m free to serve God in the way that makes sense for me, because hell, if you are into all that mind-control,/ behavior control, Douglas…HAVE AT HER!!! If you are comfortable with the Governing Body changing up religious law, revising doctrines to all of a sudden can’t do this or that anymore,, wham! you are sinning and don’t know it, and could be shunned and if its bad enough, or
      dramatic enough, you can have everyone TURN THEIR BACK ON YOU in a new york minute. A real safe emotional environment eh? How does that feel for you? How do you maintain trust knowing your entire family may be forced to never talk to you again unless you repent your sinning ways. So what if you got sick and it gave you pain, and the only thing that worked was medical marijuana, how do you convince them to not DF you for that, or say you got sick and needed blood and decided to have a transfusion, but not the non-blood alternatives or fractioned blood, but the real deal because you are dying, and you didn’t want to die. And God would not want you to die, but in the eyes of the Watertower, you have just committed a crime so punishable in nature, that you are looking to be disfellowshipped before you wake up from your transfusion. Your life is saved but no one will be there in your recovery room, because the misterpreted scripture and a misguided group of men are doing a lousy job at shepherding the flock. They’re killing the flock. And everyone knows it, that the WTS/Governing Body have destroyed lives and families for decades, having governing laws that shelter sex offenders, and abused children with no voice, no advocacy and no therapy for their new sexual abuse issues, because therapy is frowned up, and viewed as Satan’s work. Shit! That took up 3 times as long as I thought. 15 minutes I’ll never get back, but hopefully I opened up that boxed up clouded, judging mindfield of yours…

      • And Douglas how old are you by the way? Your question doesn’t sound sincere, it sounds like someone has planted those words in your ears…a 100 meetings over…, and its rehearsed dialogue to use with people who ‘have fallen away from the truth’….I know how JWs use their wording. And I know the manipulative intent to make them feel shame as you so innocently ask a question that requires a measure of truth from them. But in all honestly, you sound like you are on a string of a puppet master, using shaming language and jumping to conclusive judgements without having any knowledge. So in the future, either ask what is in your heart, and not what is in your mind that has revealed a bit of brainwashing. You can’t fool a old member of the faith Douglas, sorry that shaming shit stopped working on me years ago. You’ve just revealed to me that in the 23 years I have been gone, the creative language skills have not evolved one bit, its all the still the same humiliating, degrading approach. I used to laugh, because Witness Lingo, the dictionary of how many words are actually used is a quarter of the English language. And the JW dialect and language when studied, shows that people in the sect choose to use all the same kinds of words, same judging intonation, same shaming skills, Cult practice, is to eliminate intellect,discourage critical thinking, dumb down the language, ramp up the defamatory terminology, so don’t try to fool us into thinking you can take an opportunity to take a stab at an ex-Jay-dub and try to get away with it by making it a question you have.
        You say: “I am a jehovas witness dont mean to verbally harm any body…” but then use wordage such as ‘justify your sinful acts and quit the congregation’….pretty arrogant there Doug and I beg to differ. Look before you leap. There’s tactful, non-demeaning, non-judgemental ways to blog a question. And if your intention was to just take a stab at us on here, then you probably want to go and play with a kickbag and get your frustrations out. And remind yourself to be good to people.

    • I was a pioneer, came from a huge JW family. I was instrumental in bringing several families into the organization. May I tell you I did not leave to cover up any sin………………no drinking, no adultery, no lying, no cheating………….I was 110% JW. I left when I found out the truth about “the truth”…………….I was lied to. Any open minded investigation will bring you to the conclusion you are a puppet in the hand of the huge organization. No sinful acts on my part, but the elders need to check themselves out more.

    • Jehovah’s Witnesses always are convinced that exJWs are sinful, and cannot keep up with door to door ministry or proper morals.
      It would be good if you could realize that most exJWs have found out they were lied to by the Watchtower organization. We are NOT all drunkards, immoral, sinful, backsliding, mentally deceased, Satan infused, evil people. We are enlightened, wide awake, hard working people who love our Universe, its Creator and our fellow man. Love is the basis of exJWs…………but most Jehovah’s Witnesses minds are sealed in cement they have a closed mind, will not think outside the book. We would love to share with you the historical, factual records that are available.

  4. Having read this article and listened to some ex-JWs, I am beginning to understand why JWs will have memorials for the dead, but not celebrate birthdays. The former are occasions to reinforce their own beliefs in the afterlife, as well as opportunities to push their beliefs on people when they are sad and vulnerable.

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