Revelation It's Grand Climax At Hand! was the very first book that I remember that our immediate family studied when my dad joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. I was 8. We started going when I was 6 but I don't recall what came before that book. I had kept my copy and the religion had us study it cover to cover three times. I loved that I had my copy from 8 years old, and that my notes from then and also from 15/16 years old were still there. I refused to get the new copy each time they issued a new one. Before each study they changed some text and some key beliefs. They wanted everyone to destroy the earlier version. Part of their business model is selling books to their members with a "suggested donation." For people like me, they provided a paper print out with changes that you could slip into the book at key locations. I thought it was interesting to see what they changed side by side and discuss it. Half of that book is unintelligible speculation and they attempt to draw strange correlations with happenings from the early 1900s. It seemed from what I was learning, that we were in a modern faith that barely resembled what they were doing or believing back then with the founder of the religion. I found it really hard to believe. They tried so hard to build a bridge to what seemed to me an entirely different religion. Later, members told me that if I was caught reading the books in the church library, written by the founder, I could get in serious trouble for thought crimes and apostasy. I could get kicked out of the religion for reading their own books! A friend and I started sneaking them out and reading them. You can't even get this book on Revelation anymore from Jehovah's Witnesses. It seems the modern version of this religion doesn't want anyone to know they wrote this. I wanted to use a copy in an interview with a young Vietnamese former Jehovah's Witness I met in Hanoi. I went to their website to get it but they no longer offer it. I had to download it from a website that exists only to expose the differences in beliefs and teaches by this religion over time. They try to cover up their own past like in 1984 by George Orwell. I printed out a full color copy of this book so she could read it on camera.
The Bloody Tuesdays 1st album - Hymns Of A Millenials Dawn
The 3rd time around studying Revelation, I was 23/24 years old. I had grown very confident in my disbelief around many parts of this religion. So much of what was in this Revelation book never stuck and made no logical sense to me and I wasn't the only one. Going through it verse by verse with their 2-3 pages of modern interpretation of what it supposedly meant, per verse, reminded me clearly that not only did it not make sense when I was eight or fifteen but that it never made sense. For example they attempt to make a modern connection to a verse written in the 1st century by an elderly prisoner, John, who, from my perspective, was either losing his mind or on a steady dose of psychedelics given the fantasy nature of the text. They wrote extensively on how this part of a bible sentence connected to a public convention in New York City that the early religion had put together for a few days in 1918 in the Americas, land not even imagined for another 1400 years. Imagine the one true god of the universe selecting a small group of window cleaners and uneducated door-to-door sales folks pedling immortality 1800 years later as the fulfillment of an important prophesy before the end of the world. Simply given the coded bizarre language of revelation it seems to have been written by a senile 90 year old who fancied himself as a wizard.
I had left the religion at 19 but later returned to it at the request of my father and we made a pact that I would only participate, given that I disagreed with them on many topics and policies such as disfellowshipping (expulsion) and the resulting punishment of shunning for independent thinking, if I could live and participate on my own terms. He suggested that I ignore the members of the religion, various dramas in the chruch, ignore the policies that I didn't agree with. His version of faith as he described it was pretty simple. It was based simply on his relationship with his god, getting to god's kingdom and living by basic rules as the path to get there. He believed then that this faith had cracked the code on how to live forever. He even mentioned that we really don't need this religion, only our relationship with god. My terms included, maintaining playing live music in the band The Clones! that I was in, starting my own band to play and record my original music as ADD Chronicles (later Waking Life), pursuing work I was excited about (visual arts), going to university (photography & digital media), reading any books that I was drawn to etc. He insisted that I speak with the elders about the issues I disagreed with and that he'd give me half price rent to live in what had been the music studio for our county though highschool if I preached door to door 50 hours per month as a Jehovah's Witness. They call that auxiliary pioneering. I suprisingly agreed to this during mid Wisconsin winter but I insisted on only speaking with atheists and agnostics. We made our deal. There are so many questions and oddities about this that it's hard to believe that was what was discussed and more importantly, is what actually happened.
The entire elder body that I had known and grown up around had been removed from power while I was gone for the past year, living in the nearby Wausau WI, traveling on the west coast with my highschool friends for the summer, and living in Madison WI with some of the ExJWs I had met in my senior year. I can only think of one person I met in the religion who actually stayed in after turning 18 years old out of like 25 teens who I would have called a friend from that period, even if we only hung out during church events. Some of us stayed in contact. i lived with Emmy and Sean while in Madison. I enjoyed living with women. There was a really big exodus from the faith in those years 1999/2000. I still don't know what happened to the elders in our singular congregation in our county. Some strange power politics were at play. There were four elders. They even got rid of two former headquarters alumni called Bethelites who essentially have celbrity status. The other two were a father and son, both farmers on the family farm, who I actually had a lot of respect for. In fact I quite liked all of those guys. The two Bethelites were married into the same Dorn family. Perhaps it was a bit too family based that the JW higher ups couldn't control them. The leader known as the Presiding Overseer was a patriarch of the Dorn family, named Harlon. His son Brian lead our weekly home study. The other two guys Mark and Mark were married to Brian's sisters. I have fond memories of spending time with their family. I would consider all of those guys as wise and approachable. Harlon was pretty serious but the rest were pretty chill. We used to help out on their farm during harvest season and they would thank my dad with a freezer full of steak from a recent slaughter. I learned a lot from that. Now that I think back on it they are likely the reason my family joined the religion. They were true family friends especially Brian and Kelly. They were about the same age as my parents and had two kids the ages of my little brother and my little sister. They were very pragmatic and very kind and they knew my family well.
Preach to Atheists
The newly appointed elders were driving in from other counties. They had replaced the entire Dorn family and I never saw them again. I met with the new guys in my home, the studio, with my present position and the terms of my arrangement with my father. I'm sure my dad got an ear full from this but nothing ever really got back to me. These guys were super strict old school believers. My family was probably case in point a good reason to get new leadership. We really were not following the standards of this strict faith. One of the new elders told me he would work with me under an non-marketed program called The Pioneer Assist Others Program. To be completely honest he may have invented it just for me. I have never met anyone else who has ever heard of it. We met each week and focused on ways to approach an atheist and how to convince them that god and the bible are real and important. I did this for 50 hours a month for like a year or something crazy like that, asking other cult members for any atheists that they had found while going door to door. They'd tear out a page from their personal notes they kept on people they met. You can probably imagine what happened with those atheists. They ended up teaching me and helping me untangle from the mental traps of this cult.
A couple of years later my job moved to Minneapolis the nearest city, 4 hours away. There I had made some interesting, cultured, more-freethinking friends and ignored most of the rest of the more boring humans in my new congregation. The Witnesses study one book at a time in the homes of some more serious and stable members, usually a married elder. It was a weekly one hour event. Of all of their arrangements for bible discussion, this one was actually tolerable because it was personal, a little less formal, it only lasted an hour, and we got to sit on comfortable furniture. There were often home-made snacks after as well, so if I was forced to choose a favorite obligatory church event, this would be it.
The Bloody Tuesdays 2nd Album- Stranded on Saturn
Post-hardcore Rage Room
Some of those closer friends of mine were assigned to attend the same "Book Study" as me with only about 15 members in my neighborhood. It's essentially a formal book club. Often after the Revelation book study a they would come to my place for drinks and deeper conversation about what we really thought of the teachings of that evening. We'd openly discuss the the old lies they admitted to by providing us with those sheets of paper, with what they refer to as "New light" changes. We'd open the bible ourselves giving rapt attention to each person, wine or beers in hand, and make grand what-if statements and theories and then as we were getting lit, I'd open up what I can only in hind sight refer to as "the rage room". We'd scream at the top of our lungs, wind up a glass bottle and throw it at a brick basement wall in a beautiful display of our many inner frustrations punctuated by this delightful demonstration. The basement had a pile of broken glass at the bottom of the stairs after months of this, smashed against the raw cement foundation.
Imagine a full baseball pitcher wind up, bottle in hand, yelling/growling at the top of lungs, release, full volume continues until that crack, shatter, and shrill of breaking beautiful glass. We'd all watch and listen as each person threw and wait for the final delicate ring in satisfaction. Each person would participate in the ritual.
Create ceremony as you need it my friends!
Some glorious frequencies were likely drowned out by some post-hardcore of Omaha fame like the band Cursive, who we all loved.
Miss you Khai, Matt, Barry, Ross. What a memory!
The Bloody Tuesdays 3rd Album - Bloodless
The Bloody Tuesdays
In celebration of that memory I present to you an incredible body of work by the band The Bloody Tuesdays, created by David Quesada. He and his wife left the cultr recently, just before the Covid-19 global shutdown. His story is wild and the music he made after his exit deeply impressed me. Check out all three albums and listen in as he describes his exit from the cult withing the cult, in what I still find my best interview and the most on-brand highlight of post-cult art for the Witness Underground Podcast that I've created yet. I love this interview and the album art pulls directly from this very book. We were subjected to this doomsday art as young children. They include some pretty fantastic and even dark, end-of-the-world imagery and it inspired this grown ass adult David Quesada to realze this is a cult and finally get himself, his lovely ex-wife, and all of their children out. In my final cuts of our Witness Underground documentary, I also included a small sample from one of his songs. I'm proud to present this two-part interview and his 3 album body of work! Let me know what you think in the comments.
Go buy his albums.