ONE YEAR OUT OF WATCHTOWER
Today is approximately one year since the ‘death’ of our favourite son. Oye oye oye. Last year on this day (September 20, 2015) was a seminal moment for me; this was the day I tendered my formal adieus to the Watchtower organisation, after what may arguably have been a meticulous decade of sacred service to ‘God.’
So, first things first, am I happier? This question has been visited upon me on a not so few occasions. Well, now, firstly, I don’t prefer the word ‘happier.’ Not only do I find that it lacks a particular cogency, but – as I said to one girl in Sweden, and as I now repeat – to say that one is ‘happier’ almost suggests that one reached a new plateau. To be sure, I was more than capable of happiness throughout my time as a Witness, but, somehow, it always alluded me; anyone with eyes – anyone who cared to use them – would have seen that, as I now more clearly see ex post facto. In fact, during my tenure as a Witness, the more fitting description of my otherwise consistent state of being would best be captured by ‘content.’ And while ‘content’ may be the French equivalent of ‘happy,’ the feeling of which I speak, however, was more ‘academic’ than ‘organic.’
Religion – at least ostensibly – is supposed to improve people and precipitate some kind of deep-flowing inner joy. While it may have succeeded in the former, it has not, however, especially in the latter part of my life as a Witness, succeeded in the latter. Beyond the sheer gravity of my altruism, the climate of my existence within the parameters of the Witness world seemed more corrosive than a healing to my soul, which soul – predominantly speaking – was made to bleed by hands that were meant to feed. The scope of my happiness, in hindsight, was confined, not to the substance of the ‘religion’ itself, but to the relationships I had forged with certain individuals over the years, in the absence of which, I now postulate, was an unfathomable bland existence.
Thus, in lieu of ‘happier’ I think it more fitting to say that I’m significantly less stressed (as my physical health can attest). The time that has since elapsed has afforded me introspection and the opportunity to repair my soul, such that I’m presently buoyed by the happiness I’ve always been capable of, but which, owing to the climate of my existence, I had failed to realise. Thus, it is not a case of having escalated to some new level called ‘happier,’ but of having jettisoned that which was suffocating my soul. A disembarked ship, after all, does not become ‘floatier,’ it simply floats… just, this time, unencumbered by excess weight. The Watchtower was such a weight to me; it did not provide me with a secure platform to ventilate my concerns. Thus, any perceived benefits stemming from the organisation were simply outweighed by the systemic bullshit that was being bulled. For a significant while, I suppose, I felt like as one who was ‘babysitting’ an organisation, babysitting this ‘religion.’
MY FINAL YEARS AS A WITNESS
In the latter part of 2012, after much internal wrestling and percolating experience, it became settled within me – an incipient paradigm shift, perhaps – that I was to partake of the emblems at the Memorial. It was a realisation that came in stages. Yes, I could use fancier, more flavoured language to elaborate (viz., ‘God’s spirit bore witness with my spirit’), but, suffice is to say that it was ‘settled.’ What is more, being given to books, I was well-versed on the subject of the ‘anointed,’ how Rutherford and his compatriots had initially grappled with it, and how – thanks to ‘new light’ – the subject has incrementally morphed to what it currently is today, the untenable ‘overlapping generation’ no less.
So, come 2013, in what was then my maiden voyage as a partaker, I partook of the emblems, in my little corner at the back of the dimly-lit conference room we were in. To say that I wasn’t nervous would be a lie.
What is more, I had determined, back in 2012, that I was to commence law school the following year – which I subsequently did, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. I was the sole Witness in my family. That said, nobody pushed me to attend university. Nobody forced me. It was a self-generated decision. I’d always had the option, you see, but had shelved it, owing to the ‘chronic’ inculcation sponsored by Watchtower.
However, having explored the perimeters of these ideals which I had adopted, and having exhausted all the rhetoric, I was now satisfied in my ‘disquieting’ extrapolations, that is, having afforded the adopted ideals the equitable time they needed to manifest themselves… to come to the much advertised fruition.
Well, to be sure, some lessons take a bit longer to learn. Thus, I took an honest look at things, conducted a prayerful ‘audit’ in the sight of God, and concluded that law school was agreeable. That said, I was not unfamiliar with the organisation’s overarching, and, generally unsympathetic, position towards higher education. No. In fact, during my years as a regular pioneer, I had occasion to explore this particular constellation of advice, and, having satisfied myself with empirical evidence, it would, perhaps, not be unfair to say at this point that some part of me, deep down, was weary – and not unjustifiably so – that this constellation might, not infrequently, have little purchase in the practical world that we live. Vestiges of cognitive dissonance perhaps.
You see, I’d watched too many of my friends falling to the wayside; I’d watched too many ‘veterans’ get forgotten. I would ponder these things, almost to an existential degree. The discrepancy between what I was hearing verses what I was seeing gnawed my mind. It just… didn’t make sense to my virgin mind. Consequently, the things I heard, not infrequently found themselves in the realm of platitudes. What concerned me the most, at the end of the day, was a preoccupation with, not what people said, but what people did. This seemed, to me, a more reliable indicator of the substance of a person: Forget what they say, look at what they do.
The thing about pioneering, as I’ve often said, is that it gives a man a lot of time to think. But, of course, in these circles, this type of mental formulation – sober as it might be – does not typically lend itself to being a man of faith… the ideal ‘spiritual’ man. Thus, it seems to me, now, that the culprit to many a Witness entanglements is the somewhat deeply entrenched, even narcissistic, ‘one-size-fits-all’ disposition – a culture that is mandated from the top down – which not only suffocates respectable alternatives, but is itself inherently inimical to the notion of balance, and, at times, even an unconscionable affront to the fundamental principle of one’s (‘god-given’) autonomy as a free moral agent.
MY FINAL DAY AS A WITNESS
I walked into the parking lot dressed in casual – all black ‘errythang’ – black sneakers, black socks, black jeans, black belt, black vest, black shirt, black shades. I hadn’t been in the Salle du Royaume (‘Kingdom Hall’) since the convention. One of the elders, the one called Loison, had sent me an SMS the previous Sunday evening seeking the pleasure of my company that following Tuesday, because, as he said, the elders wanted to ‘have a word’ with me after the meeting. Indeed, a ‘meeting’ with elders is seldom a good thing (at least from my experience); a mere invitation to such typically leaves a foreboding taste in the mouth. Eish, bafunani manje?
So I wrote back to Loison and told him I’ll see them that coming Sunday rather, because, as I wrote, I too have something to tell them. It had, in any event, been my intention all along. I was going to use that week leading up to Sunday to apprise those persons I felt deserved to know, or, at least, deserved to hear it from me directly, that I was leaving. This would afford such ones an opportunity – narrow as it might be – to ‘interrogate’ me, and, if so inclined, to say their goodbyes. Not only was this an agreeable courtesy, but, I also appreciated that, for their peace of mind, some people need to feel like at least they tried, you know; so you create a notional avenue for them to try, even though you appreciate that the vast majority of them do not, in the remotest fashion, possess the requisite ‘vocabulary’ to anchor you, as most Witnesses, at times such as these, generally appeal to your emotions rather than to your mind: ‘O, don’t leave Jehovah…’
Truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to endure more than a week of that. I was in bad shape. I had over-extended myself. My mettle was worn. What is more, my law exams were looming on the horizon, provocatively. This particular saga, however, was taking up too much real estate in my mind. It had to go. I needed this to be behind me so I can have a fighting chance in ‘Hall 29.’ Failing which, it would certainly have plagued my mind throughout that critical period, if not outright sabotage me. So, after I’d subordinated my anger, and having gained mastery over my frustration, I gave myself time to think. I bathed in pro-longed considerations, until I finally knew what I already knew: I had to get out of this ‘plantation.’
Of course, I also appreciated that in extending this courtesy there was a real risk that someone would try to be a hero, steal my thunder, so to speak, by tipping the elders off ahead of me. It wouldn’t have surprised me really. God, I resented the thought! So, I had to make a value judgment, and, after much contemplation, the way of courtesy nevertheless seemed more ‘noble’ as to outweigh the corollary risk; so I ventured that route, despite any conceivable breach.
Now, the last time I walked into a Salle – under normal circumstances – dressed in casual wear, was way back when at my first meeting back in 2003. I didn’t know better, you see, but I sure wised up by the next meeting.
After ‘booking’ my seat, I stand outside the Salle – as I normally do – and I stare in the general direction of Cresta Shopping Centre, just a few meters away; the green domes were always an agreeable sight to gaze upon, an anchoring point of sorts. I suspect that this contemplative habit was borne, however, not merely for the sake of fresh air or for want of a watchman, but, primarily, of the need to find peace within the ‘chaos.’
I walk in and stroll around the Salle, as I normally do, to the magazine counter, to the literature counter, as elegantly as usual, as if all of this ‘blacknificence’ is typical. I locate ‘the-beautiful-one’ and her sister, and I shake their hands with an affectionate normalcy, despite the palpable awkwardness generated by certain intimate revelations in what is now the final part of my last chapter as a Witness.
I think I know what it feels like to have made your peace with death, knowing you only a few moments left to live; herewith was my rehearsal for that inevitable day. All the pettiness melts away – your defences, your guarded inhibitions, your pre-occupation with self and image – doesn’t seem so important anymore. It is synonymous with removing your armour and allowing yourself, at last, to be touched by the elements. Suddenly it’s not a difficult thing to walk up to a sister and say, ‘Wow! You look really pretty today,’ and really mean it, having no hidden agenda, nothing untoward, being simply satisfied with what you know, and just generally being unencumbered by how you might be perceived. It is a clarifying, almost saintly, moment… like a nexus to divinity itself, or a prelude to something mystic. It is a clarity such as is peculiar – almost vouchsafed – with the unfolding of ones demise.
I sit through the meeting in my usual place at the back – the Public Talk, the Watchtower Study. At the end of the song and prayer, I walk up to the seated Loison and I advise him that it’s about that time, yo. We get into the ‘B’ school and I find myself in the company of three elders. To my left Loison, then Giambiasi, and, to my right, our newly-minted elder, Futa. The glass sliding door that divides the ‘B’ school from the main hall gets shut, and the blinds get pulled. Yes, I don’t think they appreciate how much I dislike the blinds being pulled. To me, that has always been symbolic of a lack of transparency. Why, I can’t think of a more perfect manifestation thereof.
Loison speaks. He tells me how he has noticed my style of dress, how he suspects that my aim is to leave the organisation. Shit! Is it that obvious? Thus, he asks if this conversation is going to be of any value to me, if they should even bother, in case I’ve already I made up my mind. Well, I tell him not to jump the gun and to go right ahead because, who knows, they might say something that might move me. Right…
He eventually goes on about how he has seen this before, how people have left the organisation because of this-that-and-the-other. Well, if you have all this experience, and you’ve seen this before, why didn’t you do something tangible about it? He asks me who is in charge of the organisation (‘Who is the head of the congregation?’) Already, I know where he’s going with this. This question is a gambit. So I give him a broad answer, but he prefers a narrow one. I eventually ask him to stop quizzing me and to just go right ahead say what he wants to say, yo. I wasn’t in the mood to play cat-and-mouse with elders, especially when I know the game plan. My dignity wouldn’t permit me to entertain these (scripted) questions. He’ll ask who’s in charge of the congregation, I’ll say Jesus, and then he’ll say, well if Jesus is in charge of the congregation then he sees everything that’s happening, right, and if Jesus allows a particular (bad) situation to persist then we should trust him, that he’ll sort things out in due time.
He eventually finishes his schpiel and I thank him, and I invite Giambiasi to have his say. Giambiasi gives me the same recycled rhetoric typical of most elders, nothing original. Why, if you’ve read the elders secret manual (‘Shepherd the Flock of God’), you’d have a road map and the precise co-ordinates of Giambiasi’s argument. It’s like watching a film adaptation of a book you’ve already read. So you know when elders take ‘artistic’ liberties, or when their actions are downright ultra vires. (But you ain’t s’pose to know).
The one interesting thing, however, was that Giambiasi spoke to me in French. I mean, yeah, sure, he’s a real Frenchman – not merely francophone – but he’s never spoken to me in French before, it’s always been anglophone between us. In fact, later on, Futa does the same. Mind you, I understood them both. Indeed, Giambiasi’s French, in particular, has always been good to my ear, to the point of almost therapeutic. Yes, our friend Giambiasi was a ‘pretty boy,’ one who knows how to work a crowd. Why, I’m told he wept on stage while giving a talk at the Remain Loyal to Jehovah convention. Hm…
When all three have had their say, I proceed with mine. I preface my conversation by saying, ‘You know what? I’ve known you guys for three years, and this is probably the longest conversation we’ve ever had’ (which, as it turns out, wasn’t very long). I openly acknowledge my contribution to that, because I am, after all, known for my reticence. I then swiftly confirm Loison’s suspicion, that, yes, I was leaving.
I maintain that the elders of this congregation, as a composite, have treated me with general contempt. Through their collective action, they’ve shown no respect for my time, my mind or the quality of my service. Not only is there a pervading sense of hierarchy, but there is an entrenched lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. Yes, it must be accepted, however, that these characteristics are by no means unique to this congregation.
While Loison astutely acknowledges elements of my sentiments, he would, nevertheless, have me forget what any elder might have done to me. He repeats the now ubiquitous get-out-of-jail-free-card statement that elders are known to invoke at times such as these, namely: ‘Leave it in Jehovah’s hands.’ (It’s such a popular statement, I’m surprised there’s no Kingdom Melody with that name).
While his statement is not without intrinsic merit, Loison does not understand what he is asking me. I don’t believe so. Picture a man who plants a dagger in your gut and watches you exsanguinate. This man then pretends not to be the cause of the injury and floats about on a cloud of innocence, all the while enjoying a reputation he does not merit. The hands of time, naturally, keep moving, and, eventually, everyone suffers a case of collective amnesia. Of course you don’t forget, and it’s not necessarily because you don’t want to forget. The actual and factual pain is a constant reminder, you see. It fashions your behaviour. It colours your outlook.
Indeed, a physician who looks at a gun wound (that he himself was party to – directly or indirectly), making no concrete attempt to remedy it, hoping, instead, that it will resolve itself, and insisting that the patient should ‘leave it in Jehovah’s hand,’ is not only a physician in denial, but can hardly be described as competent. The wound has been putrefying, and, at the end of the day – and I don’t know how – we find ourselves blaming the patient. It’s you, you’re doing this to yourself…
Eventually, however, you master the ability to walk around like you’re whole, even though you are void. Only those with eyes will discern that there is something vitally broken inside of you. Yes. And this is the stuff that Loison would have me forget. His words have no probative value to me, they are manifestly escapist in nature. No sense of accountability. No notion of amends. It is a disposition that does not envisage the quantum of the damnum.
No! He does not understand what he’s asking. I could try and explain it to him, but I suspect that it won’t compute. I’ve had visions, however, that a well-executed punch to the gut might invigorate his senses and articulate it better… more eloquently, perhaps, than words could. But… far be it from me to do him that divine favour.
I take a (proverbial) deep breath and I venture to explain to them, as gracefully as I can, that being elders does not make them all that. I regretted this venture even as it formulated in my mind, even before I gave birth to the first word. Nevertheless, I treaded down that treacherous path anyways, because, sometimes, this is the sort of thing that needs to be said, you know, despite its inherent potential to indict you. I tell them that their ability to stand on stage and to follow a talk outline may project them as wise and knowledgeable, but that that is no true measure of spirituality.
Now, in retrospect, I can certainly appreciate that it might have sounded harsh; but, man, I didn’t mean for it to be, I was just putting it in plain language because there simply was no time for tap-dancing. It was a frank statement, yes, but, if modesty prevailed, I trust that even they would agree that there was a fundamental and unassailable truth to be gleaned.
The one called Giambiasi starts to laugh, his face painted a smug certainty. For a split second, the idea of ending his life crosses my mind. When his laughter simmers, he advises me that he has heard enough, that he knows where I’m going with this. Well, now, I’m not entirely sure what he means by that, because even I wasn’t sure where I was going with this. This particular ‘venture’ was a total ad-lib on my part.
Giambiasi proceeds to command the rest of the meeting, and, from the moment of his interjection, one can safely say that the notion of a robust conversation went flying out the window; we had somehow migrated to the realm of ‘lecture.’ That said, it struck me as odd that at a time such as this, such a watershed moment, he saw fit to interrupt me and commandeer the conversation… especially after the comity I had extended them. I indulged them. I really listened, permitted each one of them to have their say, despite my believing that they had nothing worthwhile to share. Now I was being censored? Well, now, the lack of etiquette was disconcerting to say the least. Truly, the art of listening is not the gift of many. This, I believe, is a latent defect of a not so few elders, they don’t understand the concept of a meaningful ‘horizontal’ engagement. It is a consequence of self-certainty, I suspect; of a belief that one has something more important to say. To be sure, I’ve had more meaningful, complex, conversations with vagrants than I have with most elders. From my experience, when elders seek a meeting with you, they’re not really there to talk, they’re there to ‘handle’ you. It seems they have this memo in their heads, this script, that they want to offload and swiftly move on from; and, of course, you, like a good amenable Witness, are expected to be contented with it simply because it comes from the elders.
Giambiasi puts on his serious face and proceeds to give me advice – believe it – about what I should do, about the way forward. This is the guy that just interrupted me, derided me; now he wants to give me advice; this, of course, requires me to lend him an ear – the irony. But, surprisingly, I pay him the courtesy (I don’t know why). He tells me not to be rash, but to go home, you know, take a week and think about it, to mull over the words of wisdom that they’ve just shared with me.
Some part of me wanted to laugh, but, by the grace of God, I somehow succeed in maintaining my composure. It’s the way he said it. He said it like they’ve told me something new, something that actually warranted my needing to go home and think about it, like – like they’ve deciphered some complex parable for me, one that my simple mind was incapable of parsing hitherto.
Well, when the futility of this meeting dawns on me, I re-affirm that I’ve made up my mind, that my coming here in person was, not merely to underscore the point, but to dignify them with my presence, that I could have resigned myself to writing them a letter and it would have sufficed, but, that it was important to me that they should hear it from my mouth. I tell them that it has taken a very long time for this ‘ship’ to point in this direction, and that, consequently, it is unlikely that they have the capacity to alter its course, especially in the negligible minutes that we’ve just spent. To think they could do so at this eleventh hour, would not only manifest a lack of modesty, but would, at the very least, be a strained attempt at a Hail Mary. Their lackadaisical effort is a day late and a dollar short. So, no, there is no going home to think about it. I’ve been thinking about it. My mere presence in this room, under these circumstances, should itself be indicative of the fact that the die has been cast. I’m not one for theatrics.
Giambiasi looks at me, and, with his delicate French accent and sharpened eyes, says: ‘Can I ask you some-sing, Clément? Does zis have some-sing to do vis higher education?’
I just about want to exhale my last breath and hand my spirit over to the Most High. Take me now Lord… His (rhetorical) question reveals something to me: These men don’t want to accept any liability as a body, their ‘skating’ is insufferable; so it has to be something else, someone else. It must be that g’damn higher education. Yes, I’m almost certain that, in my absence, this is the narrative that will be proclaimed. He left because of higher education. Des longues études, chers frères et soeurs, voilà pourquoi.
Well now, because I didn’t have energy for the rabbit-hole that this might prove to be, coupled with my determination to end this amicably, I assured them that I don’t blame them, that my departure was not owing to them. This, of course, was an oversimplification on my part. Truth is, yes, they had contributed to my departure – they sure as hell made it easy – however, their contribution was simply in concert with other more compelling factors of a systemic and ideological nature.
Besides, based on their collective temperament, I had since developed a sense that I was throwing pearls before swine. Indeed, a great number of elders are akin to a pre-programmed answering machine with rudimentary features, they can only answer you in the binary. This, I submit, is a prolonged consequence of subordinating (scriptural) principles to (organisational) policies. When such is the case, then, we must accept that some innocent folks will fall between the cracks – and fall they do. As far as that goes, I hold the governing body vicariously liable.
Somewhere along the line, a statement about my ‘not qualifying’ gets thrown into the mix. I don’t interrogate the statement, but I suspect that the qualification of which Giambiasi speaks concerns that of being a ministerial servant – and hence the lack of appointment. It registers to me that Giambiasi thinks I’m leaving because they didn’t appoint me. [laughing]
Well, to be fair, I can certainly appreciate why he would think that. In the absence of anything definitive, he must grasp in the dark. Truth is, it was no secret that I had no esteem for these elders – as spiritual men, that is. And, no, it was not owing to a lack of readiness on my part, but, rather, of not having witnessed any appreciable spiritual aptitude befitting such esteem. Instead, in my personal interaction with them, I’ve been inundated by what seemed like mediocrity coupled with a ‘gnat sifting’ disposition. They walk around with big titles that carry such promise, and, yet, in my extended appraisal, I have often found that there is no there there. In consequence, I must confess, some part of me started to find this whole notion of being ‘spiritually appointed’ very suspect. To be sure, there is a type of elder that is about as ‘spiritually appointed’ as a hadeda sitting on a street light defecating on passersby. I wondered, perhaps, if bethel wasn’t taxing them too much, such that by the time they got to the congregation they were simply ‘papsak.’ There is no modest way of putting this, but I considered a lot of elders to be (demonstrably) beneath me in ways that mattered; by that I mean, I did not consider them to be my spiritual superiors. Any ‘superiority’ was purely cosmetic. And, yet, by some joke of the universe, these guys were my overseers.
And, yes, I’m aware that there’s not a shortage of scriptures that will indict me for speaking so plainly. Perhaps my outlook reveals a defect in my character.
A further statement to the effect that I was ‘spiritually weak’ was made. This boggled me. It genuinely boggled me. The one they call Loison had previously presented the same idea to me some two years back. I just – I couldn’t understand. Like, where do these guys get this idea from? I’ve never felt so in tune with my spirituality.
Well, it’s not until you read the elder’s secret manual, the Shepherd book, that you start to understand why they gravitate to this idea like a crutch.
So, being critical of elders is a sign of spiritual weakness. Go figure! If that’s the case, then the likes of Jesus would not have stood a chance in this era. I mean, can you imagine, when Jesus criticised the Pharisees, openly calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, white-washed graves, offspring of vipers. What would they have said of him? Eh, Jesus, you’re spiritual weak…
At what point does the aforementioned criticism become ‘overly’? Who gets to decide? The elders?
Why, some two years back, in this very same ‘B’ school, it was myself, Loison and this one Belgian elder. Said elder permeated such hubris and megalomania during our private meeting that I eventually lost my debonair exterior and castigated him. (That I didn’t feed him a knuckle sandwich is an achievement of note). Now, I ask myself, was that a case of being ‘overly’ critical?
In practice, elders need not adduce any actual evidence of spiritual weakness, they need only harbour an assumption, and it’ll be enough to keep you in limbo. Such being the case, you learn to navigate these waters, you learn to be ‘streetwise,’ to downplay your aptitude, and pretend that all is well. Yes. When elders make damnable mistakes, you learn to STFU and toe the line, because, apparently, that is the hallmark of a spiritual person.
Well, now, this is not to say that all elders are of this making. No. In fact, there was one elder in Randburg-French, in particular, who struck me as human rather than android, the one they call Sooben, the Mauritian. He may very well have disagreed with me in ways that I’m not aware of – I’m by no means allergic to disagreement – but he had no airs about him, no sense of entitlement; he certainly didn’t project himself as a ‘know-it-all’ or someone who was owed a prominent seat at the table of my life; no, he seemed modest enough to respect boundaries, who sought an invitation where no ‘divine’ warrant was given.
Finally, the one called Giambiasi tells me that, well, if I’ve decided to leave then I have to write a letter to the body of elders stating so. I almost laugh. I tell him that it’s not necessary, that I don’t really have to. He protests somewhat; he believes that I have to. I almost tell him to go revisit the Shepherd book, because, if he had read it properly, he’d know that I don’t have to. But I stop myself from saying that, because if I did, then I’d surely be sidetracked by the peripheral issue of having to explain where the hell I got this ‘classified’ book from. Not in the mood…
Loison, the erstwhile co-ordinator of the body of elders (‘COBE’), then whispers something to his successor, our learned friend, Giambiasi, to the effect that, no, he doesn’t have to write a letter. Damn straight. Yes, even scriptural precedent bears that out. I expect elders to know these things, especially if said elders are highly ‘decorated.’
In any event, I tell Giambiasi that I will send them a letter… because I choose to. As it turns out, I’d already written the letter. I tell him I’ll send it either later today – if time permits – if not sometime tomorrow. I soberly impress upon them, however, that as soon as I step out of that gate, I don’t consider myself one of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ anymore.
Loison wraps up by saying, ‘Well, we can’t tell you what to do, we can’t force you to stay; it’s your choice.’ I smile and I thank him for understanding that. He gets up. I look at him, puzzled, and ask, ‘Are we gonna conclude in prayer (we hadn’t opened in prayer as it is)?’ He looks down on me and says, ‘We can’t pray for you, because you’re leaving Jehovah.’
I get up, while they stand and deliberate in undertones. I weave through the blinds, slice open the glass door, and I walk out. On my way out of the Salle, I pass Giambiasi’s wife, Véronique, confabulating with another under the threshold. I peel a smile, as I usually do, and wave a cordial au revoir to her as I walk past.
After a few steps, I stop. Eternity happens in that moment. I walk back to Véronique, and I hug her, for the first time ever… And then off I go…
 Romans 8:14-17.
 Joseph Franklin Rutherford was the second president of the Watchtower. It was under his administration that the ‘Bible Students’ adopted the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ back in 1931.
 Galatians 6:4, 5.
 ‘Hall 29’ is an exam venue at the University of Witwatersrand.
 Shepherd the Flock of God Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (2010).
 Hebrews 12:11.
 James 1:19.
 Matthew 7:6.
 Mark 7:9, 13.
 Matthew 23:24.
 Shepherd op cit note 5; compare Matthew 23.
 Shepherd ibid p.111.
 2 Corinthian 13:1. Compare Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16.