Chris Stevenson tells his friends that he was born into “the world’s most unnecessary religion” – Jehovah’s Witnesses. And yet, before he left the religion for good in the early 1990s, he spent many hours doing everything that active and faithful Witnesses do including being a full-time “Regular Pioneer” and accepting assignments as a Ministerial Servant. After a great deal of personal research and soul-searching, he eventually left the organization. Now he uses public forums available to him to share the facts he’s discovered about his former religion.
Being a “former Jehovah’s Witness” does not make Chris Stevenson particularly unique. There are tens of thousands of “ex JWs” in North America and perhaps well over 1 or 2 million more throughout the rest of the world. In fact, scores of ex-JWs are AAWA volunteers and supporters.
What makes Chris Stevenson different? It’s his willingness to take an active role to be an outspoken advocate for personal freedoms for all Americans – and especially those most closely associated with his own African-American community. In most countries, those freedoms include expansive educational opportunities, functional and supportive family relationships, and the right to proper medical care whenever a life is in the balance.
Watchtower policies effectively deny or restrict obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses from exercising those rights.
Unlike many of us who feel we must hide our identity to preserve what few connections we still have with our JW friends and family, Chris puts his name and face on everything he writes. While some of us choose to keep low profiles by using anonymous blogs and videos to share our beliefs and experiences, Chris is clearly willing to let those he chooses to battle know exactly who he is and what he fights for.
A Unique Position
Chris is a syndicated columnist and editor for a rather unique online news blog – The Buffalo Bullet, based in Buffalo, New York. The blog carries the tagline: “The Missing Op-ed page in most Major Newspapers.” The “Bullet” clearly has Chris’ imprint on it and his articles and op-ed pieces show up there often. He is joined by several other fine journalists – mostly African-American – who exhibit the same fearless and forthright attitude. Chris is also a contributor to BlackCommentator and Political Affairs Magazine.
Early in 2013, Chris decided to write a free-form editorial about his former religion and its corporate leadership, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In his opinion piece, Chris makes it clear that there is a disconnect between the corporate organization and the daily lives of most Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Here are some examples pulled from his article:
“…The [Watchtower Society’s] new relaxing of their trademark blood-prohibition makes for good diversion, but few of their members [Jehovah’s Witnesses] know of the massive bleeding in their financial offices.”
He then makes the point that most Witnesses have no real concept of the legal troubles facing the Watchtower in courts around the world because their magazines, books, and website are not telling them what is really going on.
“…They [Watchtower leaders] are being penalized financially for an old problem they have covered over for decades…”
He is, of course, referring to the child abuse cases lost and settled in court cases around the world in recent years. More cases are being prepared and filed worldwide. Successful settlements in the millions of dollars are forcing the Watchtower to sell off valuable real estate assets and other investments. The Governing Body and Watchtower corporate officers are not being open and frank with their own fellow members about what is really happening and why things are looking so grim.
Chris goes on to describe the Watchtower’s changing rules about the policy of “disfellowshipping” those accused of wrong-doing within Kingdom Halls. That single policy has probably brought more destruction and pain to Witness families than any others. He likens it to some of the evil things done by terrorists on behalf of their religious fanaticism. He rightly points out that we can not accuse the Watchtower of actually promoting the killing of former members or suggesting violence against non-believers. And yet the damage done to families because of the Watchtower’s “shunning” and “blood transfusion” policies have, like the effects of militant religious terrorism, destroyed family relationships and denied life saving medical treatment to thousands of injured and ill Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Chris correctly points out that many Watchtower teachings/policies have changed 180 degrees (and usually for the worst) in less than half a century:
“Somewhere between then [the 1950s] and now, they made the conversion from lambasting excommunication [by other religions], to adopting it, to being outright amused by it, and by now shamelessly enjoying it.”
Chris goes on to point out that unlike other religious organizations that have promoted community charities, hospitals, and schools – the Watchtower has never done any of these things. In fact, they discourage Jehovah’s Witnesses from participating or donating funds to charities, gaining a higher education, or setting up profitable businesses. In fact, it seems that the millions of dollars of donations made by rank and file members simply disappear into a black hole located somewhere inside Watchtower corporate headquarters.
In his article, Chris spends several paragraphs describing the development of the Watchtower’s blood transfusion doctrine in the mid 1940s. Like every other policy the Watchtower has established (including shunning), their blood policy has seen constant changes with special exceptions made for certain persons. Guidelines have been instituted, repealed, and replaced so many times that the average Witness doesn’t really understand the details. He describes one method available in Canada that allows hospitals to give lifesaving blood therapies to children in spite of religious beliefs – giving the Watchtower some protection against some wrongful death lawsuits.
Questions of Conscience
Chris closes out his article by showing how, since 1961, the threat of disfellowshipping someone for accepting or approving a blood transfusion has been in effect. Prior to that time, the individual acceptance of blood was a personal conscience issue. That was true for many other policies (getting an education, accepting certain types of employment, attending funerals of non-Witnesses, private sexual relationships between husbands and wives). What were once personal conscience issues for individuals have now become hardened rules with little or no flexibility.
Chris Stevenson can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. You can watch his interviews and commentaries at Policy & Prejudice and the Network for clbTV on YouTube.com. Chris has made it clear that he fully stands behind AAWA’s goals and objectives and proudly offers his personal support.
Here is the link to The Buffalo Bullet and Chris’ article described above: