The turning point
A certain woman lived next to my house who was ‘disfellowshipped’ because she married a man of the “world.” I was seeing her everyday but I refused to greet her, although I knew her for years. Every time I did this I felt very bad, and I believe she probably felt even worse. Despite all this, this is how I needed to treat the disfellowshipped, so they would “become ashamed” and return to the organization in a state of repentance. This is how I treated my past friend, classmate and “brother,” and this developed inside me a strong sense of guilt.
The telephone interrupted my thoughts. I picked up the receiver and before I had a chance to hang up, I heard the same familiar voice of George:
“I listened to you at some point in the past! Now why don’t you give me the same chance?”
I hung up the phone again in a state of unrest. I knew very well that he was right. Back in school, when I was nothing but an apostate and a heretic to him I remember saying to him: “You need to hear us out! It is wrong to hold on to biases! How can you judge someone before you hear their side! Let’s talk and If you find that I’m in the wrong, don’t speak to me ever again!” Now in reality, I was going against everything I was telling him back then. However, what was I to do? Especially since this was the will of God! (I thought).
I struggled with my conscience for quite a while. On the one hand, I felt compelled to do what I was being told by the organization and on the other hand, I was seeing that my friend was in the right. However, if all people follow this line of thought, then no one should listen to my own religion, because for them we are also apostates and heretics, I was thinking. I sat on the recliner next to the glass window. I took out a sandwich, I had taken from home and I began to eat.
There were many things passing through my mind, especially the last words of George. What if he was telling the truth? What if they set him up, as he said? What if the newspaper wrote things that were not said by Friskoulas? My eye caught the action of a sparrow dancing behind the glass pecking at the cement.
Quite unconsciously, I cut a piece of bread from my sandwich and I tossed it to the sparrow. Afterwards, I was watching it share part of my lunch. Suddenly a thought flashed in my mind, and in tears, I broke out in a prayer:
“My God, I did not create this little bird! Yet I was mindful of its nourishment! Won’t you also be mindful of me your creation? I know that I am a sinner! So please, I beg you to put up with one more sin! It will not be the first or the last! I will call George! And if you want me to be lost, let me be lost! And this because I don’t want you to tell me on your day of judgment that I did not behave the way a human being should. I don’t want you to tell me that I was given the opportunity to show my love to George and I failed to do so. I was given the chance to hear someone who was innocent and I refused. I will follow the direction of my logic! I want to find out what caused George to join the apostates! And if this is worthy of my destruction, then destroy me!”
Overcome by feelings of relief I dialed George’s phone number. At the hearing of his voice I spoke to him with some reservation.
“Hey George! This is Nikos. I believe you have a point! I want to know what’s going on!”
“- I’m happy to hear from you! I knew that you would call! It would unlikely for you not to believe in all these things you told me over the years!” He answered pleasantly relieved.
“- I hope what I’m about to hear may justify this impropriety, otherwise don’t hold it against me if I don’t call you again!” I said in a tone of warning.
“- I understand! You will see that you were not mistaken. So please listen to me! A schism took place a few years ago at the American Bethel. I caught wind of this quickly because I have worked there for years. Initially a Swedish ‘brother’ pioneer, named Jonson, began a search for the first fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. After years of research, he found concrete evidence that the view of the historians that Jerusalem’s desolation took place in 587 and not 607 B.C is correct. This means that the dogma of 1914 and everything based on this is false! Do you understand what this means?”
“- Yes, I heard something to that effect!” I said, without however, being fully aware of the repercussions of this dogma. His reference to this specific dogma though was enough for me to begin to show strong interest. This was the moment that I would ascertain that my own research on this topic was correct…
“- In short I’m telling you now, that this ‘brother’ sent his research to the ‘Governing Body’ according to organization procedures, requesting their attention to the subject of the date of 587. During that time, Raymond Frans the nephew of the “Watchtower” president was assigned to look into this relevant research, since he was writing about the same subject in the book, ‘An aid in the Bible’s understanding’. As soon as he studied the research, he saw that the Swede was correct. Thus, although he wrote the insertion in the book ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ which attempts to refute the scientific date…”
“- Yes I know!” I interrupted him fully absorbed in his words.
“…- You know that the information given by the insertion is deceptive?” He asked.
“- What do you mean?”
“- The refuted view is the one of some spiritual circles and not the truly scientific one. In reality, the scientists speak about some different things and the Holy Scriptures agrees with them.”
“- You know, not too long ago I completed the same study and I discovered other dates from the ones held by the organization, and from the ones refuted by the insertion in ‘They Kingdom Come’,” I said in astonishment seeing that finally something is beginning to clear up from this conversation.
“- I’m sure that you have discovered something accurate!” He tried to encourage me.
“- And how can I be sure that what you telling me is the truth?” I asked with suspicion.
“- I will send you the study of Jonson! I have the complete version!”
“- I don’t know English!” I said.
"- It’s translated! One of the boys in jail translated it!”
“- What? Now we have apostates there too?” I asked in shock, realizing now the reason why the organization was constantly writing against them.
“- They are everywhere in the entire world! Because when Frans and the other group members gave the research of the Swede to the rest of the members of the ‘Governing Body’, then although they were convinced that the date of 1914 is wrong, they refused to change the dogma, to avoid the dissolution of the organization. Based on this, many were disfellowshipped, and this became common knowledge and the research was circulated worldwide!”
“- And how does this relate to your disfellowship?” I asked again.
“- It doesn’t! They accused me for apostasy because I knew of the actions of fraud of the man in charge of a division of the Greek Bethel. Although I knew everything about the mistake of 1914, I had no plans to leave the organization. Where else can I go, anyway? There is no religion of ‘apostates’.”
“- How about those who left? Didn’t they form their own religion?”
“- No, nor do they want to! They only study the Holy Scripture and they are attempting to force the organization to come clean with 1914.”
“- Perhaps, we should let Jehovah clear things up?” I suggested.
“- We all said the same thing in the beginning! However, more than ten years have gone by from the moment the research of the Swede was sent! How long will we lie to the world? Could it be that those we call ‘apostates’ are finally the plan of Jehovah for correction?”
“- It is certainly a thought… What did you come up with that they needed to disfellowship you?”
“- Roulis! He is behind it all! I have such documents in my hands, and if necessary, I will turn them over to the civil authorities! He is the one who had people followed with video cameras! He has turned the Greek Bethel upside-down! He is a true gangster! He is not worthy to be an ‘Elder’ of God’s organization!”
“- I see with much joy that you accept the organization!” I commented happily.
“- Of course! I’m telling you they declared me an apostate for no reason at all! I went as far as getting back to the congregation and to the convention and they asked me to depart. They assigned two ‘Gestapo agents’ to stay behind me to watch every movement I make. Finally, they told me that I was not welcomed. When I asked them why, they told me that they were simply following orders. They are also in the wrong, calling the others apostates! They also cut off Friskoulas without a judiciary committee, because he went to America to discuss some topics with them that needed correction! The reporters themselves wrote what you read in the newspaper!”
“- How about the priests?” I asked,
“- They were invited as religious representatives. Friskoulas invited representatives of all religions, even the ‘witnesses’! Naturally they did not appear. The purpose of the press –conference was to inform the public about the persecution of people who want to have the right to express their opinion without the fear of disfellowship. The reporters however, destroyed everything!”
“- Roulis’s men tried to foil my wedding! They set up a special committee meeting before my weeding and that’s why I made my wedding date earlier! Their intent was to disfellowhsip even my wife, if she would marry someone disfellowshipped. Se we were married by the civil court and in a few minutes I had to face the judiciary committee. My wife was waiting outside in her bridal dress while they were deciding on my fate inside. However, I fixed them well! I had inside my sports coat a state-of-the-art transmitter and my wife outside recorded the entire proceedings of the committee. I had the upper hand on all of them, my judges who were Roulis’s pawns, and their false witnesses! They had false witnesses indeed! My disfellowship was decided far in advance.”
“- This all sound strange to me! It’s like watching a police film!” I commented with some unbelief.
“- And I have not told you anything yet! But let me say this, some time ago a member of the ‘Governing Body’… came to our area and I called him to make him aware of Roulis’ gangster activities. He told me that he is not free to talk to me because he is being followed and his phone is tapped! To think, that he has so much power, as to intimidate even a member of the ‘Governing Body’.”
“- This is all unbelievable!” I said.
“- Forget Roulis! He is my concern! You work on 1914. I know that you love the truth. I will send you the research with an associate of mine who lives in Salamina. I advise you not to speak to anyone about this because they will cut you off! And if I’m not totally correct on this, you don’t have to call me ever again!”
I bade him farewell and we hung up the phone. All this was even much more incredible than what I expected to hear. However, I had reasons to be semi-convinced: Firstly, that study I completed about the fall of Jerusalem, and secondly, I had personal experience of the callousness and the anti-Christian qualities of Roulis. During that year’s great convention, I had volunteered to serve as an usher. Part of this service was to help the ‘brothers’ find a seat, to keep quiet, and to also keep watch for the disfellowshipped or any suspicious individuals who had come to the convention. What was extremely upsetting however was the cruel behavior we were asked to employ against the ‘brothers’.
To be specific, we were given an order not to let anyone sit at a reserved section and this needed to be implemented at all costs. Since the sun was merciless on that day and the reserved area was in the shade every so often, someone would go and sit there, using one of the reserved stacked chairs. As per our instructions, we needed to tell them that they were not permitted to sit there. A number of people however refused to move. Then we went to Roulis and informed him that they do not conform to the directions of the ushers. Then he said:
“You must pull them out of there by force and you must put the chairs back where they belong!”
“- But how can we use force?” We said quite perplexed.
“- I told you! You must drag them! This is a rule of the organization and it must be upheld!” He repeated.
We returned to our post with mixed emotions, and by now, the entire shaded area had filled with people. We asked very politely at first to leave from there, but few obeyed. Then, (I often question myself how did I do this) we dragged them by force, from their hand and feet, regardless of age, and we took the chairs from under them. Eventually we chased them all away from that section. A little further beyond I saw an elderly woman sitting under the limited shade of a tree. I tried to be as polite as I could.
“Sister!” I told her “… I don’t know if you heard the order of the official from the stage, but you must sit not here! What would the new inquirers think if they see your disobedience to the organization?”
“- But I’m also an inquirer! I am an ill woman, and I have no other place to sit. The sun bothers me greatly! What would happen to me, if I move from this shaded spot?”
My embarrassment was indescribable. I did not find the strength to force her to move. I simply decided to resign from the position of the usher. When I would remember how I treated my Christian brothers and sisters, I loathed myself (and Roulis by association). Along the way, I met two other ushers (with whom we were dragging the unfortunate bystanders). On of them was the leading usher. They were both on their way to resign. Thus, during the remaining time of the convention Roulis was forced not to impede people from sitting under the shade. While returning from his office I saw a very elderly woman, while supported by others, to shake angrily her wrinkled fists and to yell:
“Bring me Roulis here! I’ll tell him what I think!”
I felt very humiliated. At that moment, I did not feel as a Christian! I felt
more so as a Gestapo guard, who served a dictator! In addition, if this were not
enough, after I got back to my post I saw in the forbidden section two of my
ex-jail mates to carry on a conversation ignoring the program.
“Hi fellows! I believe it would be better for you to follow the program because you are making noise and you may be distracting the ‘brothers’.”
“-Good boy! You are repeating what they taught you to say! And they continued their conversation with ostentatious indifference.”
I really began to feel like an annoying Gestapo agent! After speaking with George on the phone, all this came back to me and I was seeing that he was somehow justified. Yet I did not pay too much attention on things I heard against other people. What was of great interest to me was the true dogma. Not to mention, that this was not the first time that I would hear and see the antichristian behavior of some “witnesses.” I had the opportunity to witness their mercilessness in a personal family matter. When my father became ill, he was in heavy debt because he owed many people (mainly “witnesses) a significant amount of money. He was a cloth merchant and he sold by accepting monthly payments.
However, his kindness was taken advantage from those who love to own without paying and this pushed him in heavy debt. To stay afloat, he borrowed from all avenues know to him, he even dealt with loan sharks, who were getting fat at his expense. He had borrowed money from as many acquaintances he could. Therefore, when he became gravely ill, his lenders were in a great hurry to have their money returned. Some “witnesses” were especially shameless I reminding him repeatedly: “If you die, who will return our money?”
This was something that distressed him very much and deteriorated the state of his health. Even after he dies, they did not cease to exert pressure on my widowed and disable mother to sell her home, knowing that she would be on the street with me, a mere child then, and my aged grandmother. From all of them only one man treated us right. He literally cleared us from all of my father’s debt. And he was disfellowshipped!!! After this one of my uncles, who helped us very much through the difficult years, and an avid supporter of the ‘witnesses’, became very critical of the organization, calling its members ‘materialists’.
All these however, while being characteristic of the ‘religion vanity’ of the
witness (James 1:26,27) they were not a proof against the dogmas of the
organization so I didn't give them much attention. The great proof would come,
when I would receive the book of Jonson.