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:
Chris has informed me that he will make solo posts on aawa.co in the near future. Never afraid to tackle the hard issues of the day, I think readers are in for a treat.
Looking forward to hearing more from Chris. We need more folks to shine light into the crevices of the Watchtower organization.
Great story, Chris, thanks!
Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I think extremely insular church groups do no one a favor because they induce a slow process of insanity by breaking down the natural human thought process. No future utopia would demand such from anyone. The first and biggest lie the Watchtower told us is they were no part of the world and this resulted in millions of people living on planet Earth acting as if they are alien residents. I told some years ago that to be apart of the world simply means you live on the world or the Earth. It’s really common sense.
Saw all about the sex scandal years ago on 20 20 or fifth estate, or one of that type of show, but have heard nothing since. The young girls were interviewed , then the sick old men. Like to know what they got.Hope it was years!
After the years of being shunned and the abuses I have “witnessed” from racism, sexual abuse, and the nod given to some while others are cut-off from family and friends. I feel delighted to experience a time of the light dawning without the fear and whispers or accusations of apostasy. I feel for all those who are still deaf, dumb, and blind, but I am deeply concerned for children or those “born in” and the mentally ill both who are told to keep silent and in cases of mental illness are “demonized” , disfellowshipped, and refused treatment. The courts had to take temporary custody from my parents of my sister in the 60’s because of the blood issue. In two instances both my mother and sister nearly died. Keep shining the light and speak out save lives!.
Thank you for your comment Akilah. Those people need their whispers of apostasy to remind them it was okay to miss out on adulthood. Mental illness is growing in the various Kingdom Halls, I’m afraid I’m witnessing it unfold before my eyes with members of my old Hall whom I came up with.
As a JW from 73 till 91 they had way too much control over its members, My husband left in the late 80s along with my teenage daughters, then I left Jws in 91 But it destroyed my marriage and left a path of destruction which I can not begin to describe. I still suffer from their brainwashing, this web site is a blessing to many of us still suffering!! Thank you very much.
My brother In-law Chris Steveson certainly lost his life today to cancer . Everybody that knows Chris know that he was open hearted , caring , lovable , respectful gentlemen. He love his family , friends , community & also love driving trucks . Chris worked for the challenger & also succeed in his radio talk show , we are trying to reach $4,000 to lay him to rest , nothing to small or to big . Thank you everybody that’s participating , I really appreciate it .