A crisis of the conscience
The Story of Nikos
All this new knowledge - was becoming increasingly problematic. I could no longer teach things I didn’t believe in, either at the congregation or at the doors. At the doors I limited myself to calling people to repentance and faith in God. But at the gatherings, I had another problem. I was compelled to say exactly what the organization had prepared. What would I do if I needed to speak about matters I did not believe in? Wouldn’t I be a hypocrite? How could I teach a lie?
When I would run across such a topic I would dupe my conscience by stating: “The book says . . .” or “according to the book . . .”, as to say: “the book says this and not I”! The first few months passed by the use of this ‘technique’.
During that time I was trying out some different kinds of experiments. Wishing to see how well the witnesses understood the teachings of the organization, I would often ask them about matters relating but not necessarily specific to the topic I was teaching, with more in-depth questions. To my surprise I observed that not even two of them would agree about the right answer. Their knowledge was limited to the worn out surface topics, which were repeated constantly in most of the lessons.
During this interval Vlasis was calling me to find out how I was doing and if I were convinced about my “error”. I used to answer him that the topic remained as we left it. Someday, however, he came at a gathering of my “church”. On that day, I had to expand on a topic referring to 1914! So according to my “technique”, I began to say: “The book says . . .”etc. When I was finished he asked me to visit him at his store so we could talk. I went the very next day.
“- Do you think that you are really escaping your conscience? What it means “the book says”? Aren’t you still teaching regardless if the book says?” he asked, something that made me reconsider things.
“- What else do you advise me to do?” I asked
“- The best solution is to resign from the ‘diaconate’! But the problem is that they will ask you the reason for your resignation. What can we find?” He asked.
“- For personal reasons,” I suggested
“- This sounds good, but it’s not enough! We must tell this to one of the ‘presbyters’ of your church, because I belong to another congregation and I cannot cover you! Besides, if this becomes known, they will hold me responsible, and they will ask me why I did not inform the ‘presbyters’ of your ‘church’.”
“- I understand!” I said.
“- You know what would happen if this becomes known to the office! So it would be good when the ‘area bishop’ comes one of your own ‘presbyters’ must reassure him that everything is all right! And I’m afraid because this ‘area bishop’ who will come this time is an extremely difficult man!” he confessed.
I bade him farewell and I left this whole matter to his discretion. Besides, the new “bishop” would come after many months, so we had time until then. In reality however, I felt that I did not have very much time left with the organization. The examples I had with other people I knew who faced this situation did not leave much room for optimism. I needed to do something.
I had to prepare my mother and my grandmother for my possible disfellowship. Besides, they would ask me the reason why I’m resigning from the ‘diaconate’. What would I tell them? I gave my word not to disclose my problem to anyone and Vlasis would keep it to himself! Now, since he would disclose it to someone else, I could do likewise, especially since he first felt indebted to violate our agreement for the fear of the organization.
So I went home and told her that I resigned from the ‘diaconate’. She was not very pleased because it made her very proud to see me speak from the podium.
“- Why?” she asked me
“- It is better that I didn’t tell you!” I answered pretending to be difficult.
“- Did you resign or did they expel you?” she asked.
“- I resigned for personal reasons!” I answered.
“- want you to tell me the reason!” she insisted.
“- If I tell you, we can both find ourselves disfellowshipped! You must not let a word slip out!” I warned her.
“- Of course not, you think I’m so dumb.”
So I briefly explained to her what had transpired. Hearing this made her jaw drop. She never expected me to doubt a single dogma of the organization.
“- Do you remember the time when you shared with me your discussion with the ‘evangelical’,” I asked. “He was right: the Christian hope refers to heaven!”
”- How do YOU now accept all this especially since you spoke to me with such fanaticism back then?” She asked.
“-You did not have a single proof back then! But I do! I have hundreds! If you had told me that you had verses back then, I would not refuse to study with you!” I defensively said.
“- Ok then, since you have proofs, I would like as to study them together!” she said.
“- If you are convinced though, and they disfellowship you at some point, not a single ‘witness’ friend of yours will be speaking to you and this may deteriorate your health problem!” I forewarned her.
“- If you are in the right, it doesn’t bother me! I will find real Christians elsewhere for companionship!" She said full of determination, while I was bursting with joy. My mother was not fanatical! She would slowly prepare my grandmother, so at a possible disfellowship, I would only have the problem of my wife and son.
So from that day on I began to school my mother and then my yiayia (grandmother) everything I was learning about the mistake of the watchtower. At the same point, though I was concerned about my family and my livelihood. If they would disfellowship me, perhaps I would lose my employment and I couldn’t bear to think what would happen to my family. I asked God daily for direction and help, expressing to him every time that I would remain steadfast to the principles I taught to others all these years, regardless of how costly it would be. He could allow whatever He wanted to happen to me. And He remained faithful to this day (movingly faithful), despite my own lack of strong faith.
At this time my son was still too young and I couldn’t communicate any of this to him. I was teaching him about the organization from his infancy and one of the first words I taught him to say was ‘Jehovah’. I remember someday my brother-in-law was visiting and he asked him:
“Are you a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’?”
“- Yes!” was the boys answer
"- Why don’t you concern yourself with your own children?" I said quietly inside me. In my situation with imminent disfellowship, I couldn’t even speak to my own family.
At the gathering it was briefly announced that because of personal reasons I had resigned my position at the ‘diaconate.’ This caused much perplexity to everyone present. Numerous candidates were striving to serve as ‘deacons’ and they couldn’t. So my resignation seemed inconceivable, especially since I displayed a steady progress.
I remember in some of my final public talks, I used some of the information I heard in the cassettes of Friskoulas. At the end, they were coming up to ask me where I discovered this wonderful information! Obviously I couldn’t tell them, so I simply expressed to them: “from sources outside of the organization!” Some even insisted that I reveal these sources to them but I postponed this, since my time with this organization was ending.
Its funny, but all these amazing things I was telling them, if looked upon by the distorting lense of fanaticism, would simply be ‘apostatic teachings’. On the day of my resignation, an aged witness who was striving (in vain) to become a ‘presbyter’ came up at the end and asked me:
“Why did you resign brother?”
“- For personal reasons brother,” I answered.
“- Like what?” he kept insisting.
“- I told you, for personal reasons!” I repeated.
“- Very well,” he said, realizing that he was meddling in my private life.
In spite of this he continued to look at me with a puzzled look for days. Before this simple announcement, a meeting took place with the presbyter who made the announcement. Vlasis and I explained to him what had transpired and he was dumbfounded! He agreed to become involved in this matter, hoping that this subject would remain closed. They simply repeated to me that this subject needed to stay dormant.
“Brother, would you be interested in discussing the arguments I have found, so you can correct me if I am in error? This would eliminate the problem,” I suggested.
His answer was negative and similar to Vlasis’s. I couldn’t understand! Did these people have not even a trace of logic? Couldn’t they see that they were acting like the ostrich burying their heads in the sand? Then with what conscience did they go to others telling them to search for the truth without prejudice? Day by day, I began to harbor negative feelings for the organization that brought them to this plight.
Despite all this I was still entertaining the small possibility that all this could be an error of mine, and that at some point the organization would justify its arbitrary title as ‘the organization of God’.