Lloyd Evan’s tome, The Reluctant Apostate: Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses Comes at a Price, is an important addition to research on the history and inner working of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization. The book unfolds as a memoir, but then delves into the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and examines policies that hurt and entrap members.
Evans has done a fine job of pulling from previously written resources that outline the history of this organization that claims to be God’s sole channel on earth. Some of the resources are no longer in print or are difficult to find, so Evan’s work ensures the information will continue to be accessible. Evans then adds to the research by discussing issues that deserve more inquiry, such as the ban on accepting blood, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and the destruction of families due to the Watchtower’s shunning mandate.
The book opens with the questions and teachings that led to Evans disassociating himself from the organization. As he tells his story, he tells the readers the things he learned along the way. He spends time looking at the early presidents of the Watchtower Society, and asks questions like, “If this organization is God’s spokesman, why were its main leaders involved in scandal and acts that are illegal or immoral?” He offers citations and quotes to show what eye witnesses at that time reported.
Some may dismiss this and say, “That was so long ago, what does it matter, since the light gets brighter and brighter? That was then. This is now.” Evans answers that it matters because the dishonesty has never stopped. It matters because people are still being hurt and dying because of policies the leaders set. He cites the example of what followers were told about vaccines, and then how they were later told it was acceptable to get a vaccine. He asks questions like, “What about the people who obeyed and did not get vaccines during the years Watchtower discouraged vaccination? What about those who died from a preventable disease?” He shows the same trend with organ transplants and blood. How many people must die?
Evans brings the reader to the present day and discusses the policy commonly referred to as the “two witness rule.” Within the organization, if a person is accused of sin, they cannot be found guilty unless there are two witnesses to the sin, or an outright confession. Evans show that the policy is a disaster when it comes to a Witness who is accused of molesting a child. Pedophiles depend on secrecy and when a child is targeted, the Organization’s policies often prevent multiple things from happening. 1. The wrongdoer may go free because no eye witness, other than the child, is available. 2. The wrongdoer can continue to have access to children and target other children. 3. The police are not informed. 4. The victim gets no justice. 5. Other parents are not informed and are unable to protect their children; this includes both Witness parents and parents whose children may be approached as a pedophile Witness knocks on their door while holding a Watchtower magazine.
Even when the Watchtower Organization has been confronted on their policies, they refuse to change, as Evans shows through an examination of the Australian Royal Commission’s review of Jehovah’s Witnesses response to child sexual abuse. (Google the Australian Royal Commission and Jehovah's Witnesses and see the results yourself.)
This book is written for three audiences: current Jehovah’s Witnesses who may have questions, a curious person who is not involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses (to whom the writing may serve as a warning), and the ex-Jehovah’s Witness community. Throughout this work, Evans points the reader to current sources like YouTube and websites so that the reader can do further research.
The book ends with Evans offering an alternative definition of cult that is not dependent on group size. He argues that the larger a group is, the less likely it will be identified as a cult. But that alone cannot be a determination. He suggests looking at the harm caused by the group, but ultimately Evans argues that all religion could be considered a cult because people are not truly free from influence, and must suspend facts and science to believe (This is my interpretation of what Evans proposes as a definition of cults).
The Reluctant Apostate spans over 125 years of Jehovah’s Witness history. It adds to the research in a significant way. Coming in at over 700 pages, it is an intimidating work. I digested it in under a week, but I was familiar with some of the primary research that Evans related. I think this will be a significant resource for thinking people everywhere. Ex- Witnesses everywhere owe a debt to Evans for this work, which will bring further exposure to the Watchtower Organization and bring freedom and healing from the damage caused by it.
"The Golden Rule for chasing away the ghosts of cult indoctrination is and always will be 'the three R's': Research, Research, Research!" Evans page 667.
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