Picture this: You’re a 19-year-old Jehovah’s Witness girl living a sterile life. Aching for some fun, you go out to a bar one night with a workmate, and while there you meet a gorgeous guy who pushes all of your hormonal buttons. You’ve had a couple of drinks so your inhibitions are lowered. Before you know it, you’re waking up in a strange bed with said gorgeous guy snoring beside you. As the shock explodes in your brain, you realize you have committed a grave sin – one that could result in disfellowshipping.
You’ve been indoctrinated to confess your sins to the elders (Jehovah knows anyway) and let them “handle” the matter. However, you realize that your workmate and the gorgeous guy are not going to rat you out, so maybe you can get away with it. Conscience be damned.
Then, at the next meeting one of the elders asks you to step into the library for a moment. With your heart in your throat you tremulously enter the room and find another elder already there. Neither of the elders is smiling, and your guilty conscience keeps punching you in the stomach. Brother Elder #1 opens his bible and invites you to turn to 1 Timothy 5:16 and read it out loud. “Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may get healed.”
Gulp. How could they possibly know about your indiscretion? There’s no way they could know! They would have to have two witnesses to establish the matter. You decide to bluff.
“What does this have to do with me?” you ask.
“Sister Guilty, Brother Elder #2 and I and our wives were out in field service last Saturday morning, and we happened to see you leaving an apartment building wearing clothing that is more appropriate for the evening. Could you explain why you were there?”
You think of possible excuses. “Um, I was staying over at a friend’s house for the night while my apartment was being fumigated.”
Oh boy, now you’ve opened a can of worms. Your workmate is “worldly” and therefore bad association. Why would you seek her out after work hours? And then there’s the matter of clothing. Why were you wearing evening clothes? Did you go to a bar? A party? (More bad association.) Why didn’t you bring appropriate clothing for the next morning?
Peering out from deep inside the hole you’ve just dug for yourself you can see the elders don’t believe you. The jig is up. Tears sting at your eyes, and you sob out the whole story to them. The two brothers stand up.
“Sister Guilty, we’ll need you to come to the kingdom hall on Monday evening for a judicial hearing.”
The words hit you like a cold shower. This could be the mistake that ruins your life.
Monday evening rolls around, and you’re in the hot seat at a judicial committee hearing. Brother Elder #1 and Brother Elder #2 have been joined by another elder, Brother Rigid. They open the hearing with prayer and then the inquisition begins. They want all of the details. ALL of them. How much did you drink? Did you use illicit drugs? How many times did you do the deed? Did you climax? Did you use contraception? Could you be pregnant? Is the man a regular partner? Did you participate in oral or anal sex?
For some reason, the floor does not open up and swallow you. Crimson with shame and crying profusely, you answer their questions, even though they are absolutely invasive and inappropriate.
Once the elders are satisfied, they dismiss you to wait in the main auditorium while they deliberate. In a short time they call you back in and tell you that they will have to disfellowship you since people in the community know about the matter, tarnishing the reputation of the congregation.
At the next meeting your disfellowshipping is announced. Several confused publishers furtively glance at you, but you stay in your seat and endure the humiliation. Humility is conduct befitting repentance, something you’ll need for the next stage – applying for reinstatement. It will be at least 6 months or maybe longer before the elders will even consider reinstating you, so it will be a long haul of shunning, sitting in the back of the kingdom hall in the row of shame, and enduring snide glances from your former friends and family.
Next week: You can go back, but it will cost you.