I was raised a Jehovah's Witness (JW) from about the age of 3. There is not
a time in my childhood that I recall anything else. My father became an
elder by the time I was a teenager. I learned early what to do and say to get
along within the social structure of the Jehovah's Witnesses while never
believing any of it. I never let anyone know of my skepticism. My brother,
who is 4 years my senior, voiced his concerns and I saw what happened to
him. Forget that, I would just play along until I could escape.

I played a good game. My father was the Elder in charge of the local
Ministry School. The congregation had its core people and then the other
many half hearted. Often on Thursday night various people simply would
not show up for their scheduled talks or bible readings. My dad would ask
for volunteers to fill in. No one would help, so I began helping out because I
just felt so badly for him. I was now in high school and rather proficient in
public speaking. I spouted JW doctrine with all the zeal of a TV evangelist,
the whole time not believing any of it. I graduated from high school when I
was 17 and then I was given a choice from my dad. Become a full time
pioneer and pay no rent or work and go to college/tech school and pay rent.
I opted to not pay rent for 3 months.

Shortly after I turned 18 I moved out of my parent’s house and moved into
my brother’s apartment. I stopped going to meetings about 15 seconds
after I moved out. I went wild with booze, drugs, and many girls. I wrote a
letter to the local JW Congregational Secretary, an Elder’s position, asking
for my name to be dropped from the roles. I sent a copy of the letter to my
father and a note explaining that out of respect I wanted him to hear it from
me first rather than getting hit with it by the other Elder.

He set up a time for us to meet and talk about it. It was the first time I had
been totally honest with my dad about anything and everything. I did not lie
or try to say the right thing so I’d look like a good little JW. I was not
disrespectful, but I was frank. I admitted to my drug use (cocaine) and
showed him my new tattoo (a rebel flag, no less). I told him I had taken up
smoking a pipe, and that I just did not believe the JW teachings on anything
and it would be best for me to drop from the roles. He convinced me not to;
saying that maybe I just needed to work out my wild hair and if I wanted to
come back later it would be much easier if I did not take this drastic step. It
made sense to me and did not really alter the fact that I knew I was not
going back so, I acquiesced. Oddly the letter I sent to the secretary elder
never arrived and my name was not dropped. However, 3 weeks later I was
contacted to come in for a Committee meeting.

I was a young punk in total rebellion at this meeting. They opened with
prayer, I slouched in the chair. They asked about my tattoo and why I had
gotten it. I told them that no body was going to tell me what to do any more.
I don’t gripe that they disfellowshipped me, I was not playing by the rules
so why would they not disfellowship me? What got to me is that all the
stuff they said was directly from my conversation with my dad. Why talk
me out of dropping from the roles just to have me kicked out?

Shortly thereafter I moved out of state. This is when things got seriously
bad between my parents and me. There were almost nightly phone calls in
which we would end up screaming at each other and one of the other of us
would slam the phone down. One night it was particularly bad and in tears
and rage I punched 3 holes in the wall of my apartment. I was just gong
crazy with the incessant bombardment. The next time they called me I put
a stop to it and severed contact with them. I felt I had to for my own sanity.

My roommate was a cradle Catholic. After a few months, my roommate
asked me to go to Mass. I wanted to check out the Church first before going
to Mass, so one morning I went in. It was peaceful, quiet, dark, cool, and it
seemed to invite contemplation. My roommate had a Marian devotion and it
was The Blessed Virgin that really grabbed my attention. The idea of a
perfect Mother really sat well, and considering my circumstances it’s not
hard to see why. I joined RCIA and became Catholic when I was 20. But
sadly, because my focus was on Mary and not Christ, I soon fell off going to
Mass and any semblance of Christian life left me.

It was not until I was 34 that I rededicated my life to Christ. The lady who
was instrumental in that is now my wife. My road back was through
fundamental Protestantism. I dove into Scripture and as I did I would ask
questions of the leadership especially about the workings of the Spirit. This
particular denomination felt that praying in tongues was wrong and that gift
had been done away with. Since Paul clearly and directly says, “Do not
forbid the speaking in tongues,” I knew that this Bible Only church was not,
in fact, Bible Only so, I left. I did the tradition American Protestant thing:
Church Shopped. Always finding cool people, but never finding any place
whose doctrine fully lined up with Scripture. I “settled” with a Messianic
Christian group. Their claim was that their worship style was centered on
the Jewish roots of the faith. We prayed Hebrew prayers, had Hebrew
Torah readings, adopted a lot of Jewish Liturgy into a free Charismatic
Worship style – it was really quite lovely.

Meanwhile, my new wife got a job at a Catholic College where the head of
the Library is an Orthodox Deacon (soon to be a Priest we’re going to his
ordination next month). He began talking to her and she of course was
sharing our experiences with the Messianic movement. I started talking to
him as well. His knowledge of early Church History is astonishing. So, I
started checking out what he was saying. Now you all probably know that
once anyone gets serious about Church history, Protestantism just does
not wash. Deacon Elias asked us to spend Great Lent with him. We
accepted. It was hard. We were still involved in the Messianic group going
to Church on Friday Nights or Saturday Mornings as well a small group
once a week. Then we would attend Sacred Liturgy on Sundays and the
Liturgy of Pre-sanctified gifts on Wednesday night. The Antiochian
Orthodox Church was far away, not even in the same state. So after Lent it
was just tiring to continue, and my wife had serious reservations about
joining the Orthodox Church. My study into the early Church continued and
I found myself at odds with the Messianic movement. When I challenged
the leadership about the Biblical Canon and the reasons for their ideas I got
lame answers. “The Apocrypha was never canonized” (ummmm it’s in the
same paragraph of Pope Sylvester’s canon list you point to for the proof of
Canonization of the OT and NT, how can you say that?). “Irenaeus shows
that the Jewish roots of the faith are the most original.” (umm Irenaeus is
the prime historian for showing the supremacy of the Pope, how can you
deny that?) So, the Messianic movement and I parted ways.

I had to rectify the question of the papacy in order to make an honest and
truthful decision of joining the Orthodox Church or coming back across The
Tiber. The Orthodox arguments at close scrutiny did not add up to me. It
seems (and I am not Orthodox bashing here, I love our Eastern Brothers)
that the Orthodox Church used the Pope when it suited them (Leo the
Great against Nestorians and twice against the Iconoclasts to be specific)
and neglected the Roman See when they did not like it (the whole filioque
clause fiasco). Being convinced that the Catholic Church was exactly what
she claims, I came home. It’s been a long and hard road and there are still
difficulties to over come. But, I am home.
The Long Road Home to Christ and His Catholic Church
by Bjustb