Loving Religion Strikes Again!

I received a phone call from my mother on Thursday (thoughtfully calling on my son’s birthday) in which she re-invited me to her wedding. Now I have to make a decision as to if I will attend or not.
If that first paragraph sounds crazy to you, it’s because religion is involved. Let me explain: In late February, after dating a man for a month, my mom announced she was engaged. Two weeks later, she invited us to her house where, for the first time, I met my future step-father. She spoke of her desire for a small wedding, in her fiancé’s backyard, with only a dozen or so family members in attendance. She was excited to have me, my wife, and son there, and told us to set the date aside. She even asked my wife to be the photographer.
So far so good…
A week later, however, she called, nearly in tears, informing me that I was now un-invited. The reason was because a couple of elders from her congregation (she’s a Jehovah’s Witness) corralled her fiancé into a meeting and told him that I was a disassociated ex-Witness and thus my presence at the wedding would be offensive to the Witnesses in the audience.
Incidentally, I am flabbergasted (God, I love that word) that elders from the congregation have a say in who my mom’s invites over to her house. It’s kind of like if my boss called me into his office and sternly charged me not to have any ex-employees over for dinner.
First my mom was shocked and appalled that I was disassociated. When I told her I had not disassociated myself, she said: “But they said that you sent a letter to the elders.” “Yes,” I explained, “I did send them a letter, but it was in response to their desire to meet with me. I told them I would meet with them, but they never responded.” My mom insisted that I must have disassociated myself, but when I offered to read the letter, she refused to listen. I tried pointing out to her that the Witnesses at her wedding would have nothing to worry about – I had no desire to expose their religion at my mom’s wedding – and, if anything, I should be afraid of them, as they are the ones who pride themselves in aggressive proselytizing. “But they’re good people,” she argued, implying that I was not.
After hanging up on me, my mom called a few days later admitting that perhaps I was being honest when I said I’d never disassociated myself but that, regardless, a person can be considered disassociated by their actions. This is complete bullshit. I mean, yes, the Watchtower Society does teach that if a former member disagrees with the current official doctrine on any point, than that person is defaulted as disassociated, but the bullshit stems from the fact that my sister and wife were both still invited. I’m not gonna expose their lives here, but, needless to say, both of them have done many many many many things contrary to Witness doctrine. Indeed, when my mom mentioned the existence of my website as sufficient reason to expel me from her wedding, I pointed out that it was my wife who loaded all the information onto the web. My mom did not know how to respond to this, and attempted to discuss the possibility of my uncle and aunt being allowed to pick my son up on the day of her marriage so that he may attend her wedding. “But you probably wouldn’t allow that,” she said in an accusatory manner. “Mom,” I asked, “when I was a little boy, would you have wanted me to go somewhere that you were not allowed to go to, especially if you knew all the people in attendance hated you and Dad?” After expressing her continued sorrow that I was hurt (“I didn’t think you’d be hurt by this,” she cried, “I thought you’d be happy for me”), we ended our conversation.
I called my sister and told her the whole tale. My sister decided that if I was prohibited from attending, then she would not go either, preferring instead the solidarity of our position. She was relieved, too, as she’s had a long history of not enjoying the company of Witnesses. She also works as a hair stylist and had only, with great finagling, gotten the day off. She said she’d now go to work on that day.
Then on Thursday came the aforementioned phone call. I laughed when my mom explained that an elder stopped by her house and decreed that, since she is now getting married at a community center, the elders can not stop me from attending. When my mom said “Please don’t laugh at me,” I felt bad for acting so flippant (I still do), but I had to point out the absurdity: why does switching the event from her home to a community center make a difference? “Well,” she said, “the community is a public place; they can’t stop people from attending, just like they can’t stop people from attending the Kingdom Hall.” (This statement is erroneous as well, but that’s another story.)
“But they can tell you who you can have at your own home?” I asked.
The conversation devolved from there. My mom started crying when she said how scared she was that I was against Jehovah, and when she asked if I was happier now than I was as a Witness, she became upset when I said that I was. (Man, only a religion can play with people’s heads like that.) After implying that I lacked both rules and a conscience, my mom attempted to counter my happiness by pointing out all the trials she’s had in the religion and, when I said “Yeah, see, right there – you just pointed out three reasons why the religion causes unhappiness,” she got frustrated that her ‘encouragement’ had back-fired.
When I asked her if the people in attendance would act like Christians or shun me, she refused to answer, instead saying: “Well don’t worry about them, right? Just care about me – your mother. It would mean a lot to me.” This struck me as highly hypocritical, as only weeks earlier she had kowtowed to the (supposed) desires of her guests by un-inviting me (a violating of Matthew 5:37, but that, too, is another story). But instead of pointing this out, I asked her: “Are you coming to Owen’s birthday party on Sunday?”
“Oh, honey, you know I can’t do that,” she said, and she went on to complain of the materialism and cake-eating that take place at such parties.
“Well,” I said, “don’t worry about all that, right? Just care about Owen – your grandson. It would mean a lot to him.”
There was silence, and then my mom repeated that she could not attend.
Her arguments against Owen’s birthday party, incidentally, are completely spurious. True, there would be cake…but there will also be cake at my mom’s wedding.  In the matter of gift giving, we indicated on Owen’s invitations that no gift was necessary.  Besides, my mom is undoubtedly Owen’s primary gift-giver. Indeed, she has given Owen so many gifts through the years that we have (more than once), requested she curtail this behavior.  Why is materialism acceptable on the 364 days a year that are not Owen’s birthday?  Additionally, I would bet good money (betting is also a sin) that my mom will receive more gifts on the day of her wedding than Owen received at his birthday party.
Do I go to her wedding? I’m not sure. She lacked the decency to show up at her grandson’s birthday party. Additionally, my sister, who decided to stand by me, now has to work on Saturday…so it seems kind of odd that I would now go without her. I had originally wanted to go to the wedding when my wife and I were guests that my mom desired to have in her company; now we are persona non grata that some elder is allowing to attend. My mom also made it clear that we would be expected to leave after the ceremony, lest our presence sully the cake-eating and gift-giving.
We recently attended another wedding and reception. The wedding was upstairs in a church, and the reception was downstairs. Owen had a good time. Last weekend, I asked him: “Would you like to go to another wedding?” He said: “Only the downstairs part.” So, if we do go, how do I explain to a four year old that one of his best friends – who refused attendance at his birthday party – demands that he leave prior to the “downstairs part”? I don’t know.
Whether or not I go, I will long view this as the strongest evidence yet that the Witnesses, apart from being theologically and scientifically wrong, are just plain unloving. Or rather, in the case of my mom, they are loving people who are forced to perform unloving acts in the name of their precious book publishing company.

This entry was posted in Free Thinking. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Loving Religion Strikes Again!

  1. Mike says:

    Wow is all I can say. That is a tough dilemma, but you have principles. Putting up with hypocrisy is not one of them. She has put you in a tough situation, asking you to choose between her love and dealing with the cult again. I think if it were me I would tell my Mom that I love her, but what she is asking is just not possible anymore. Tell her you would love to celebrate her wedding with her at any other time, but it would be so much better and less stressful for everyone (JW’s and former JW”s) if separate events were held. I think deep down she will see the wisdom in that. Best of luck, and please let me know what you decide.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I think if you go you will have to submit to their rules. If you try talking to people they may kick you out or cause a scene, and if you put your head down in shame and dart out before the reception, then you are submitting to them and that will go against your personal integrity.

  3. Scott says:

    I am sure you love your mother and wish her the best. It is not our words but our actions that define who we are. It seems to me that you can attend without supporting her beliefs. I think your last sentence said it all. The best to you and your family.

  4. Emily says:

    I can completely sympathize with you. I am no longer a witness and my sister wanted to get married at my parents house. There was great debate and hurt feelings over my attendance. Some from the hall and MOST of my relatives would not attend if I was there. My non-witness fiance and children were allowed to stay and eat dinner but I had to stay in the back of the house. They wanted me to stay in the basement but I chose to stay in the barn, we set off fireworks and there was a fridge with alcohol. My fiance stuck by my side, he said, “if they won’t hang out with you, they won’t hang out with me.” Looking back I would say either I’m invited to the whole thing or I’m not going. It’s absurd to kick someone out of the reception when it’s all held at the same place. I think I would have rather not attended than go through the anger and frustration of being there but not being wanted. All the best to you and whatever decision you make.

  5. James says:

    Hey, thanks for the comments everyone!

    Scott – I agree, my mom does love me & wants the best for me & my son. I think, if she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t have tearfully uninvited me – she would have simply not sent me an invitation. Also, he call last week showed me that she was trying – in whatever crazy way her religion would allow – to make it possible for me to be there on her special day.

    However, and maybe I didn’t make this clear in my initial post, I have no problem attending a wedding wherein I do not agree with everything said from the platform. I attended a Roman Catholic wedding just two weeks ago, and I did n ot feel like a hyprocrite, nor did I feel uncomfortable in any way, even though there were huge theological points I disagreed with. So, I am not opposed to attending a JW wedding due to theological differences, I just don’t like the idea of being treated like a shamed outcast and beign forcibly evicted prior to the reception.

  6. Micah says:


    This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog, so forgive me for not knowing anything about your situation except what is in this particular blog. I can relate to your situation. For more than one reason.

    When my brother got married about 10 years ago, he was not a Witness, and neither was his fiancé, but I was told quite openly that I was NOT to be there. The rest of my family was invited, and attended. After five years, my brother divorced his wife. He now regrets the bad feelings that prompted him to dis-invite me. I, on the other hand, have an “I told you so” attitude about the whole thing. I knew it was a bad idea from the start.

    A couple of years ago, I was disfellowshipped. This was after much soul-searching and internet-searching of Watchtower doctrine, policy, and lack of love- as shown by your very situation. I decided I could no longer in good conscience call myself one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A few years later, they disfellowshipped me. Over the phone, without a committee meeting. They can’t even abide by their own rules! But by the time it was “official” I didn’t care a lick.

    The problem is, I still live with my folks, because I have gone back to school- something else I was denied growing up as a Witness. My mom couldn’t care less- she agrees with me on almost everything. My dad, however, sometimes gets very self-righteous. I’m sure you know the type. Sometimes- and not all the times, which just makes it more confusing- he refuses to eat with me because I’m df’d.

    If I were in your shoes, I would stick to the solidarity your sister offered and not attend the wedding at all. For three reasons. 1- Your sister decided not to go, because you were not invited. The fact that she cannot go now simply means it is your turn to stick up for her, and keep your end of the bargain. 2- To take your son into a situation where he has to miss out on the best part of the wedding is insulting to you, your wife, and your son. Even if your mom decided they could stay, without you, try to resist. The Witnesses are famous for breaking up families. Don’t let them break up yours. Remember, you and your wife are married. What GOD has put together, let no man tear asunder- even the Witnesses! 3- Your mom has been very hypocritical throughout this situation. She won’t attend your son’s birthday because there will be cake and gift-giving, which she doesn’t agree with, but wants you to attend an even where there will be cake and gift-giving, which she doesn’t want you to take part in. I know you see the hypocrisy of this, as you already mentioned it in your blog.

    Obviously, the decision is yours. But speaking from experience, I can tell you that if you back down now, you will lose your self-respect, and tell your mom and the other Witnesses that you still abide by their arbitrary laws. Time will heal the wound of your non-attendance, but it won’t heal your loss of self-respect, and your betrayal of what you believe in to kowtow to someone else’s beliefs. I would say that you shouldn’t go, even if you were invited to the reception, because I know the way you would be treated if you did go.

    Don’t go. Have more self-respect for yourself. Don’t give in to their demands.

    Your sister in Christ by the Grace of God,

  7. James says:

    Thanks for your thoughful comments.
    Those are three excellent reasons not to attend, that’s for sure. As soon as I hung up the phone with my mom, I decided not to bring my son to the wedding, regardless of what I or my wife did. Like you said, it’s cruel to force him to sit through the boring part, then get up and leave right when the excitement begins.

    My mom’s reasoning on the birthday party annoys me, too. That’s how she was the whole time I was growing up…she would decry how birthdays placed the individual on a pedestal, yet had no trouble arranging graduation parties for my sister and me. She’d say that the birthday cakes had pagan origins, yet would accept a candle-topped cake from her parents at each wedding anniversary. I don’t get it; I never did. At least when it came to Xmas and Easter, Witnesses had decent reasons for avoiding those holidays…but I used to cringe whenever school/work mates would inquire as to the birthday rule.

    Your story reminds me of what my wife said yesterday: by going, we give tacit submission to their rules. No one will talk to – or even look at – me. If I talk to them, they will see this as sufficient reason to evict me, and though I’d like to “make a scene” in such a case, I wouldn’t want to wreck my mom’s wedding. Also, I can’t really see mysefl getting up to leave like a good little Witness as soon as the ceremony is over. Someone (my mom? my stepdad?) will have to come up to Jennifer and me and tell us to scram.

  8. Mike says:

    Yesterday I heard an interesting interview with the author of a book called “Lost Boy” on MPR. It was his story on growing up as a Fundamentalsit Mormon. Much of what he talked about (except for the polygomy) sounds very much like what I have learned from you about being in the JW’s. I still have nothing good to say about any organized religion…

Comments are closed.