Foretaste of Injustice
A number of months passed from the time of my baptism. It was summer time now, and we had moved to our vacation home in Salamina where we generally spent our summers. Feeling weary from summer temptation and from the pressures of being young, I began to develop a strong desire for a particular girl, and according to the Holy Scripture, desire conceives sin. Blinded by this desire, I began to actively pursue different methods to develop a relationship with her. In fact, after applying these schemes and silencing the voice of my conscience, I succeeded in going out with her, ready to fulfill my plan. We were finally all alone, and I needed to make the first move. She consented immediately, and then all of a sudden I was inundated with guilt. I felt that I was betraying Him who “died on the cross” for me, He who left His glory to die for my sins. And I, the “baptized,” the “Christian” was ready to throw away His sacrifice like a piece of dirt! I got up immediately, asked forgiveness from the astonished young lady, and I disappeared.
Months passed by, and by this time we had moved to our winter residence. I continued to live as I previously did, without confiding in anyone about my summer sins. I saw myself as a violator of the promise I had given to God during my baptism. It was only a matter of time before these pangs of guilt would find an outlet. One Sunday evening, we were participating in the study of the Watchtower, and, as always, I paid close attention to every detail of the lesson. At some point during the duration of this lesson, a section of the article was interpreted, which dealt with “hidden sins.” Based on the “logic” of the Organization, I was somehow convinced from this article that in order to be forgiven by God, I needed to reveal my deeds to the Elder who would provide me, the fallen brother, with “loving care.”
It did not occur to me back then, but this was strange advice for an organization totally opposed to confession. Up until the end of that meeting, I wrestled with my shame, since I was not accustomed to “confessions.” After the closing prayer, however, I came to the grand decision. I drew near to my favorite Elder, and I expressed to him that in obedience to the advice of the Watchtower, I would like to speak to him about a certain sin I had fallen into after my baptism. I briefly described what had taken place, and I bade him goodnight. He told me that we would discuss it again at another time.
The next day he came to my house with another Elder, asking me to attend a special meeting with them the following day. However, I felt extremely disappointed inside. I had confided to one Elder, now a second one knew my situation, and the following day a third one would get involved. If this was not enough, they told me that they would require the presence of yet another Witness who had been teaching me the Holy Scripture. When I originally revealed my sin, I did so for the sake of advice and for forgiveness from God. I did not expect this subject to spread to the point were I would suddenly find myself as the defendant in the presence of a judiciary committee! I didn’t realize it at the time (nor did I have any knowledge of these matters), but it was obvious that the Witnesses confused punishment and trial with advice and reformation. Given no other alternative, I would go to this trial, hoping that my sin would not be publicized.
The Elders’ visit to my home compelled my mother to constantly question me, to the point where out of sheer frustration, I told her not only the reason for the visit, but I told her exactly what I had done. After recovering from her initial shock, she said that I had made a mistake in revealing this to them because now I would invite trouble.
I answered her, “Since the Watchtower writes and confirms confessing these things, it is the right thing to do. Do you remember how upset you were when I told you of my intentions to turn you into the Elder? As you can see, sin is something that I don’t forgive very easily, not even for myself. So don’t take these words as lacking in love, but words of real concern.”
“Very well, but you will see that the confession you entrusted the Elders with yesterday is something you will surely regret someday,” she replied.
From that day on and for many months after, I was ashamed to face not only the four men on the committee, but my own mother as well. The next day my stress level was at its highest when it came time to face the committee. The stress was much worse than the anxiety I felt during final exams because now I had feelings of shame. In the afternoon, I took my Holy Scripture and went to the Hall. As I entered, I noticed all four of them were sitting and waiting for me with the Scriptures opened in front of them. Their big smiles did not manage to put me at ease. I sat across from them trembling. I was constantly thinking of what I would say to them if they asked me details about my “adventure.” The presiding bishop broke the silence (the one I confided in initially). He congratulated me for having the courage to admit my sin to them, and then he asked me to describe what happened. I briefly, but with difficulty, related the incident to them all the while being very concerned that my voice was beginning to tremble. As I was speaking, every so often they would interrupt with supplementary questions, compelling me to describe even the smallest details. When they seemed to be satisfied, they asked me why I did this.
I made a huge mistake in saying, “I imagine that since, before being baptized, these things were part of my lifestyle, they had become very powerful habits, which I once again succumbed to for a short while.”
“Please explain to us, what were you doing before you were baptized,” they quickly asked.
“What does it matter? Especially since I had not dedicated my life to God yet?” I protested.
“From the moment you were evangelizing, your conduct is of great importance to us!” they answered.
Not having much choice, I began to give an account of the beginning and the continuation of my struggles with sin. I was totally red from shame. They did not seem satisfied with my general references, however. Surpassing every boundary of indiscretion, they were seeking to hear details of how I did everything! My situation was dramatic. I spoke with great difficulty, and I got the impression that one of them found great satisfaction in what he was hearing, and he pressed on with his insatiable questioning. I had difficulty controlling the muscles of my lower lip as I felt the ends of my lips pull downward. I had difficulty articulating words, a similar feeling when one is exposed to extremely cold conditions, and the chin becomes paralyzed and numb.
Across from me, I saw the fourth Elder (the one who assisted me with biblical studies) lower his head, apparently feeling embarrassed by everything he was hearing. Suddenly, I came to the realization that the shame I was feeling was not towards God (knowing that He already had forgiven me), but I was ashamed because of people. My fear of punishment or for lack of understanding was not the fear of God, but the fear of men. I sensed that people across from me were not only being arbitrary in their approach, but worse yet, they considered themselves judges not only of the “Christian” period of my life, but of the period before my baptism! This last realization was something I was never able to come to terms with.
When I completed my narration, I felt totally humiliated because of all the indiscrete interrogation I had undergone. I felt some relief because having been able to sense their arbitrary attitude early on, I managed to conceal much more and even worse deeds from the ones they managed to get out of me. All these past events actions were of an unbeliever without any real relationship or dedication to God, and they were things I wanted to forget.
My judges asked me to step outside for a moment so they could decide my fate. Alone outside in the hallway, I tried to understand how I had managed to fall into their trap. After a few minutes, they called me back inside and informed me that for a designated period of time, I would be “marked.” In other words, I would be deprived of certain privileges and functions held by the rest of the Witnesses. More specifically, I would no longer be able to participate in the functions of the Hall, I would not be a reader or help with the microphones, I would not lead the congregation in prayer or offer homilies, and I would not be allowed to answer questions at the meetings. To be exact, when someone was “marked,” it was forbidden for the other Witnesses to keep him company. However, they did not bring this up in my case, only because I did not socialize with the other youth of the congregation. A group of about ten young Witnesses had already ceased identifying with the local congregation, choosing instead to enjoy the mundane pleasures of this world. I avoided their company even before, since their conduct was very unappealing to me. My four judges asked me what I thought about this punishment.
“I believe I deserve it since I transgressed against the oath of my dedication,” I said.
“Not quite!” they replied. “We are not punishing you for what you’ve done after your baptism. We are punishing you for what you did before!”
I did not say anything. I would have done no good anyway. These people could not distinguish between being baptized or unbaptized! They could not comprehend that this sin already took place since I was scheming to violate the will of God. They were under the impression that it would be a sin if I had completed the act. They could not understand, and neither did I at the time, that for the person who repents, there is no need for punishment, simply advice. Realistically, punishment was not a helpful, therapeutic aid, but a sort of “revenge” in the name of God for the sin committed. Before I left, I begged them to keep what I had said confidential, and then I bade them goodnight.
On the way home, however, I was struggling to comprehend this entire situation and how I had allowed myself to get into this. I saw the absurdity of the matter, but I was trying to justify everything in my mind for the sake of the Organization. “It seems that this punishment is God’s will. So I will not repeat this offense!” I though. They may have punished me for a wrong cause, but I will humbly accept this as punishment for my sin. After all, the Elders are human beings and certainly are not infallible.
The Organization cannot be blamed for this. I made it a habit to put the blame on people and not on the Organization. However, I did not keep the same measure for other religions. When I would hear something scandalous about a Greek priest, I did not accuse the priest but Orthodoxy. On the contrary, when I noticed any good qualities in an Orthodox person, I did not ascribe it to his faith but to his personal talent.
The Watchtower Organization, however, had a different policy; it took credit for every positive element. For everything bad or negative, it shifted the blame on its members as individuals. As a good student, I learned to use this double standard, and in this way I always found the Watchtower Organization perfect. The imperfections I pushed on to the individual Witnesses. Yet I demanded perfection from the members of other faiths, and in the absence of it, I placed the responsibility on their religions. “Even the Elders are not perfect!” I thought. If I can go directly to the perfect God, why should I reveal my sins to imperfect people? My sins are against Him, I ask forgiveness from Him and He understands me. Since the judicial committee would rather punish than advise, there is no clear reason for me to ever be in their presence again if I have repented about a certain sin. Since there are no perfect Elders, I will never go back to them.
Thus, the words of my mother came true. She had told me that I would regret this confession. I remembered her words once more when I discovered that everything I had told them leaked out!