Byline: Melissa A. Glass
Instructor: Barbara Presnell
Introducing, Ms. Melissa Glass…
Finding Faith Through Apostates
“By his mouth the apostate brings his neighbor to ruin, but by knowledge the righteous are rescued,” said Bible writer Solomon (Prov. 11:9,New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures ). This scripture is one of three in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures Bible that specifically references the concept of “apostasy.” The Bible does not give a blatant description of apostasy or those that act upon it, apostates. However, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary calls it the “renunciation of a religious faith.” Simple enough, but not quite the profound answer to my original inquiry of what apostasy is. When I began my research on that question, I found more information on the personal experiences of those who made conversions from one religion to another. This made me think more conceptually about apostasy as well as personalized the topic. Reading the experiences of those who underwent conversions, or committed apostasy, reminded me of the true originator of my inquiry. Her name is Angela Marie Baxley Glass.
Angela started me on my search for the truth behind apostasy because of the accusations surrounding her that she was an apostate. As the wife of my father, she is heavily involved in my life. I have defended her status because the consequences of being an apostate in the Jehovah’s Witness religion—my personal faith—has great ramifications. My entire friends and family social circle consisted of Witnesses, including my father. Angela was also raised in the religion, but due to severely unfortunate circumstances and experiences with her congregation she mentally renounced her faith. But there is more to her than that, just as there is more to the definition of “apostasy” than provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
“SpunkyGidget: Artificially Intelligent, Naturally Beautiful, Divinely Designed, Connected, Networked, and Crazy”
Angela Marie Baxley married into the Glass family in the summer of 2013. She married my father, Darryl Glass, thus becoming Angela Marie Baxley Glass. In the social media world she is known as SpunkyGidget, and boy is she known in the social media world. She moved from San Francisco, California back to her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where my family and I currently live. In San Francisco she worked for Apple, Inc. as a user experience specialist, but quit when she made the transition to Charlotte. But let’s backtrack for a moment. The Baxley family does not have a positive reputation around Charlotte. They are basically known as a family of Crazies, a reputation that’s built around more than 30 years of living in the area. So, when people heard that a Baxley was re-entering the scene, there was quite a stir. Then a whirlwind of talk was created when they heard that she wasn’t just moving back, but that she was marrying into the Glass family. Almost immediately there were rumors about her level of spirituality, as well as my dad’s. Spirituality is such a weighty topic for Jehovah’s Witnesses because, for them, the degree of spirituality one has can decide the amount of association he has with those around him. The basis for this belief is from the Apostle Paul, who said, “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits” (New World 1 Cor. 15:33).
Rumors spread quickly through members of the Jehovah’s Witness religion because they are such a tight knit group: before Angela stepped foot into her new house in the North Davidson arts district in Charlotte, or NoDa, there were rumors about whether she was a Witness or not. People claimed she was inactive, disassociated, and an apostate. I dismissed all of these because she had God in her life. I questioned, how could someone so devoted to God, so avid in finding Truth, be labeled so harshly? Angela admitted to us that she was not a part of the Jehovah’s Witness organization because of severe experiences she had with her congregation. Neither she nor my dad were actively telling people that she was no longer a part of it because they were aware of the social implications that it involved. Also, although she was not a member of the Organization, she studied the Bible, followed its guidelines, and endeavored to spread its knowledge. All of these are traits of the “typical” Jehovah’s Witness. Stepping outside of the situation and observing all of its aspect, I wondered, why are some so adamant about calling her an apostate then? What is apostasy, really? Where does it come from? Is it mislabeled today? I wanted answers to these questions because I wanted to be able to defend her. I wanted my association with her to be okay and not criticized. Thus, my search for truth began.
The Scriptural Backing to Define Apostasy
Although I’ve gathered my research from a multitude of sources, my main beliefs stem from the Bible. Apostasy is a religious concept, and the Bible is the most used religious text. Therefore, the concept of apostasy should be based on the Bible. There are three direct references to both terms of “apostasy” and “apostate.” I quoted the most blatant descriptive scripture of an apostate in my opening paragraph, where the Bible simply says that an apostate brings others “to ruin.” Ruin is connotative to images of destruction, harm, sadness, and darkness. It is archaically defined as “a falling down,” and also defined in relation to “physical, moral, and social collapse” (“Ruin” 1). So that scripture in Proverbs seems to be very broad and vague. Upon reading it provided me with slight feelings of confusion and resentment. The view that many Witnesses have on apostates is critical and narrowed, even though this scripture is so ambiguous. If I went off of this scripture alone, an apostate could be any ex-boyfriend that broke a girl beyond measure, or any gossiper that institutes negative views on a classmate, workmate, or fellow believer, or even the employees of the IRS.
This scripture in Proverbs needs to be cross-referenced with other scriptures that have apostatical descriptions but do not explicitly refer to “apostasy” or “apostates.” Two such scriptures are Acts 20:29-30 and Matthew 7:15. In Acts 20:29, its writer Lukes says, “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness,” following in verse 30 with, “and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves” (New World Acts 20:29-30). The scripture in Matthew is written by the Apostle Matthew, and says, “Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves” (New World Matt. 7:15). These scriptures are known to have apostatical descriptions because they support the original Greek term of apostasy, a·po·sta·si?a, to literally mean “to stand away from.” It also has a sense of “desertion, abandonment, or rebellion” (New World 1693).
Well, you might read that above literal translation and ask, to stand away from what? We must cross-reference some more, looking at the second scripture in the Bible that directly references apostasy. Paul writes, “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction” (New World 2 Thes. 2:3). This scripture is unclear unless the context is understood. Paul wrote this scripture sometime after Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and ascension to heaven. It was then left to Paul and other disciples to spread the message and teachings of Christ. However, apparently there were some already claiming “by a spoken message or by a letter” that Jesus had already returned (New World 2 Thes. 2:2). These false proclaimers made their message appear to come from the true disciples so that it would be seen as genuine. In the beginning of 2 Thessalonians, Paul is warning to be aware of these false messages. The most significant aspect of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is when it says, “concerning the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ,” because that is what the “it” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is referring to (New World 2 Thes. 2:1). In other words, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is to be read as, “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it [the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ] will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.” The apostasy that raises concern in 2 Thessalonians is to be inferred as the standing away from/desertion/abandonment/rebellion from the understanding of the presence of Christ, or the idea—or the apostasy—of turning away from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Coming to this understanding is paramount to understanding a critical trait of apostasy. Once I finally got it, I understood that these other scriptures must be read in terms of “turning away from the teachings of Jesus Christ.” In Proverbs 11:9, it means that an apostate “brings his neighbor to ruin” by convincing him to turn away from Christ. In Acts 20:30, the men that will “rise and speak twisted things” are bringing people away from Christ by creating false teachings. The vicious “wolves” spoken of in Acts 20:29 and Matthew 7:15 bring people to ruin and destruction by dragging them from the teachings of Christ (New World).
Once I developed a Biblical understanding of apostasy, I viewed other sources to see how others define and conceptualize it. How would someone other than a Jehovah’s Witness view Angela, without direct scriptural backing? What I found were actual theories on apostasy. One such theory was created by Scot McKnight, an Anabaptist theologian and professor of Religious Studies at North Park University who has specialized knowledge in historical Jesus studies, the Gospels, and the New Testament, and Hauna Ondrey, a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in their book Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy. They used the terms “apostasy” and “conversion” interchangeably, stating, “Theoretically speaking, all conversions are apostasies and all apostasies are therefore conversions” (7). My mind churned as I read this process that the book conveyed almost all apostates/converts go through. In this theory, the process of conversion follows a pattern of context, crisis, quest, encounter, commitment, and consequences. It theorizes that apostates emerge from a context as a result of a crisis to led them to convert. That crisis leads them on a quest to solve their problem. On this quest they encounter advocates of a different faith that convince them to commit to it. Finally, they have to deal with the consequences of life from undergoing this process. Although all conversions follow a similar pattern, no two are the same. Each instance is unique as each convert endures a specific circumstance that convinces them to leave their religion or faith (2).
I read this process in terms of Angela. Angela experienced a crisis from an ill marriage and lack of support from the congregation. In order to solve her crisis, she started to perform a quest of more in-depth Bible study. As she did this, she started gaining more Bible truths that were not explicitly taught by the Jehovah’s Witness Organization. As she learned and learned and learned, gained and gained and gained, she found this fervent need to share her knowledge with others. She encountered my dad, who held similar beliefs, and finally committed to her own personal study of the Bible. The consequences that followed are harsh criticism from her Jehovah’s Witness family and friends as she is condemned for apostasy because she does her own study rather than strictly following the Organization. Many of her Jehovah’s Witness family and friends believe that she has turned from Christ’s teachings by doing this because they believe that not strictly following the Organization—which they believe is directly guided and nourished by God’s Spirit—goes against God and his commandments.
And then I read the stories of Christine Wicker and John Loftus, as described by McKnight and Ondrey. Wicker and Loftus were both devout Christians, and both eventually converted away. Their experiences are separate and unrelated, but they follow the theorized pattern and ultimately left for the same reason: independence. They wanted independence from those that did not support them in the way that they thought the religion should. Wicker was wanting sexual freedom. She started a physical relationship with her boyfriend and felt the “powers and weaknesses of sex.” It made her realize that she wanted to live her life “based on my [her] own experience rather than someone else’s” (10). For Wicker, a world without the submission to a strict faith was an exploratory world “filled with new ideas” (11).
In the case of Loftus, he was “a Jesus freak, a Bible-studying, devout young man, and then found his way to Bible college and two seminaries and pastored as well” before his faith collapsed (13). It fell because of a former stripper who made their affair public after Loftus broke off the relationship, a cousin that influenced him to rethink his views on evolution and doubt the Biblical view of creationism, did not receive the Church’s support during his spiritually-troubled times, and was even suspected of trying to “seize control of the church.” Loftus sternly stated, “This was the last blow to my faith…” He strongly finished with a claim that completely disembodied his faith: “[this was] one of the reasons why I am an atheist today” (14).
Both of these experiences show that deciding to convert from a faith, or committing apostasy, stems from life experiences and human desires. It comes from the need for independence. Converts emerge from not understanding or agreeing with the information they are receiving from the church. The book Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy aptly calls it “intellectual incoherence.” The spirituality that they once knew, the spirit and morality that constructed and guided their lives, is lost. The faith that directed and nourished their livelihood “simply no longer makes sense” and must be “reconstructed from the bottom up” (15). However, it is the intellectual incoherence that finds them freedom. They leave this nonsensical entity and gain greater understanding. They quest for intellectual coherence and a resolution to their crisis, eventually finding “personal autonomy, freedom, and intellectual stability” (46).
Apostasy in a Religion Without Apostasy
After reading what apostasy meant to Christians going out of the faith, I wanted to know what it meant for ones going into the faith. During my search, I found many search results for apostasy in the Islamic culture. Kathryn Kraft, a professor at the University of East London who specializes in the School of Law and Social Sciences, wrote an article for the scholarly journal, Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. It’s called “‘Coming Out’ as a Faith Changer: Experiences of Faith Declaration for Arabs of a Muslim Background Who Choose to Follow a Christian Faith,” and it goes in depth on the concept of apostasy and its effects in the Islamic culture. As I dug, I found that Arab Muslims do not have any kind of direct concept of apostasy. However, Kraft states that “declaring that one has left Islam and chosen another faith” is seen as an act of “rebellion” to the Islamic community (96). I noticed the word “rebellion” again, relating it to that literal sense of the Greek term a·po·sta·si?a.
What struck me when reading about Arab Muslims are their strongly cohesive communities. These communities place great importance on traditional rituals and roles, which makes leaving the community very difficult. Some Arab Muslims in the Middle East make the decision to convert to Christianity. Once they have embraced the different faith, they face the path of disclosure to their families, friends, and community. They face the delicate process of “coming out,” a concept developed by Kraft (96). The way in which this is done involves various consequences for the convert, such as shame, disloyalty, dishonor, shunning, or even death.
Many converts hesitate disclosing their new faith because they do not want to disrupt their honor-oriented community. Many live their lives by multiple social circles, letting some in on their secret while shutting others out. Often times, family members and clergymen are kept in the dark about the convert’s new faith. The convert will purposely do this to stay loyal to the family’s honor, as well as because they will most likely receive the least amount of support from their family. The importance to a convert of keeping his new faith a secret becomes so strong that the “secret-keeping itself becomes a part of an individual’s identity” (101). The difficult adaption can have a negative effect on their psychological health and social arrangement as converts “build solidarity” by forming private relationships with a secular group of converts (101).
Some choose to “come out” by leaving the home, choosing a spouse outside of the faith, or their new beliefs may be discovered unintentionally. There are various degrees of it as well, depending on if the convert wishes to maintain the community’s honor or completely rebel against it. Some are “deeply committed to challenging” the community, others challenge by demonstrating that their actions are still honorable, while even others choose not to specifically disclose their faith until after they are sure they have the acceptance and honor of their family (102). For instance, one convert was “threatened, beaten, expelled” from the community because of his conversion. It wasn’t until years later that he was accepted back because of his honorable actions toward his brother. Once he had regained the status, he was warmly welcomed, even becoming a part of his father’s “affectionate” boasts as “the priest” (103).
One concept that is interestingly accepted in the Arab Muslim community is that of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I found this the most intriguing idea about conversion out of the Muslim religion because it means that the family knows and is okay with the conversion solely because the convert has not officially stated his new beliefs. It’s not until after the convert openly and directly states that he is different from his birth community and faith that that he is shunned. Otherwise, the convert can talk about his new beliefs and actions and the family will comply with the conversation. Hence, the family won’t ask and the convert won’t tell. The family can “pretend it is not there” so that the apostate’s “honor in the community is secure” (104).
For a religion that is so fickle and indirect about their concept of apostasy, it is apparent that they have harsh consequences and reactions to it. There are not different levels of apostasy, put simply for Arab Muslims as the conversion out of Islam, but rather varying degrees of coming out. Announcing new beliefs can be seen as an act of rebellion or as an act of rebellion against the family, so the one renouncing must be careful with what he says, to who he says it, and how he says it (99)
On the Inside, Looking Out
I looked at what apostasy meant for Christians leaving the faith, for Muslims entering a new faith, and now I’m going to consider the views of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs on apostasy. I conducted two interviews, the first one with my grandmother Joyce Glass and another with an Elder in my congregation, Pete Stoute. I interviewed my grandmother because of her devoted 63 years to the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Her lengthy and in-depth study of the Bible and the Organization is valuable because it has made her knowledgeable on many religious topics. Stoute has the role of an Elder, which is an older one in the congregation that helps take the lead in the congregation and has a wealth of Bible knowledge. He has been a Witness since 1976, converting from the Catholic religion. Stoute is a valuable source because he actually underwent the process of converting from one religion to another.
I wanted to know the viewpoint of a zealous Jehovah’s Witness on one of the worst acts that is possible for a Jehovah’s Witness to commit: apostasy. I asked Joyce what her views on apostasy are, where apostates come from, what she thinks they do and how they act. She told me that all of her beliefs come from the Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, was able to cite specific scriptures to back her beliefs, and emphasized that apostates talk against both Jehovah God and His organization. She used some of the Scriptures I talked about earlier, such as Matthew 7:15 describing apostates as “wolves in sheeps clothing” (a slight misquote but same concept) and Acts 20:29-30. One she used that I didn’t describe earlier was 1 Timothy 4:1, from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which states, “However, the inspired word clearly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired statements and teachings of demons.” It is this Scripture that some use to describe the Great Apostasy that happened after Jesus and all of his Apostles passed away. Joyce mentioned that apostates perform personal Bible research to find their own conclusions separate from the teachings of the Organization. One thing that stuck out to me in our interview was how she applied the concept of apostasy only to Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is her full response:
“To me, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, apostasy is when an individual who was once a dedicated and baptized Witness of Jehovah God and later became dissatisfied and questioned our teachings so the individual began searching the Scriptures on their own, drawing their own conclusions, thereby turning against Jehovah’s Organization.”
Her response is technical and well developed, and it represents the common view of many Jehovah’s Witnesses. Across the span of many religions, it seems that apostasy is applied on the basis of each religion’s specific principles and not looked at as a concept in its entirety.
Stoute said that his views on apostasy stem from what he’s learned about the Bible as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He didn’t know much about the concept until his conversion because Jehovah’s Witnesses place more importance on how to prevent apostasy and how to view it; as a Catholic he didn’t think about it much, whereas as a Witness he gives it more serious consideration. He quotes the literal Greek translation of the term “apostasy,” which means to “stand away from.” So, for Stoute, an apostate is anyone who actively opposes and speaks against what the Bible teaches as truth. Stoute acknowledged, “it is more than someone just losing or doubting their beliefs,” which insinuates that he is aware of the misconceptions about apostasy. He continued his description of his beliefs by describing apostates as anyone who is “actively opposed and speaking against what the Bible teaches as truth.”
Stoute is an interesting case. Since he is a convert, I had expected to hear that he was shunned or criticized by his family for making a conversion. However, after relating that Catholics don’t put much emphasis on apostasy (showing that for this religion, conversion/apostasy is not a big “no, no”), he said only that “there were some feelings of guilt” from his mother because he left “our [the Catholic] religion.” I was happy upon reading his answers because it showed me that, although apostasy is a serious matter for some religions, it isn’t for others. It also shows that despite this act of conversion, some family members and friends are still treated the same. When I asked Stoute if he was considered an apostate to the Catholic religion, it took him back because he had never thought of it that way. He gave me the above answer about the feelings of guilt, but noted that generally his family accepted the decision. So, as far as his family was concerned, no he was not an apostate. However, as far as the official Church doctrine, he wasn’t sure.
To my grandma, there’s no way Stoute could be an apostate, to Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses or any others. Joyce’s in-depth description of apostates talks about them with expressions of malicious intent. She thinks they have a goal of criticizing, tearing down, and disturbing Jehovah’s Witnesses. She believes they talk in “distortions, half-truths, and outright falsehoods,” and that apostates present facts taken out of context with the objective of “drawing others away from Jehovah.” “Nothing [they do] is upbuilding,” she finishes. I connect her words to my early images of apostates as evil creatures lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on their next victim. Going off of this harsh description, one would think apostates are inherently evil people that just by touching them you could gain their “disease.” However, Stoute does not fit this description. Oddly, Angela fits half of the description.
Because Angela had such a negative experience with the men in her congregation, as well as other research she’s done on the Organization, she believes it is her mission to pull people from the religion because she views it as corrupt. She lumps Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as every other religion, under the category of “false religion.” Angela does not want to draw people away from God, but rather wants to spread the Truth from His word, the Bible. What many don’t understand about Angela is that she thinks it is her job to save everyone from the wickedness of this world. How does she intend to save them? By teaching them Truth.
Angela teaches people by orally preaching to them. Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their door-to-door preaching work, which Angela does not do (because she does not consider herself a Witness) but she will preach to others at any given chance. Also, she promotes many of her beliefs through social media. As I’ve mentioned earlier, she’s popular in the Twitter- and Facebooksphere, commonly known as SpunkyGidget. She constantly posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her website every one of her opinions and beliefs. She has no filter on what to and what not to display on a social media. One of her posts on her website is wholly dedicated to writing about her life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses before her conversion. Her posting all of her information online reminded me of something that both Joyce and Stout contained in their description of apostates. They both mentioned that apostates distribute their literature at meeting places of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As many Assemblies and Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I’ve been to, I have yet to see this. It made me assume that this happened more in the 20th century than the 2000’s, although Stoute admitted that their literature is mostly distributed on “internet websites.” However, as Joyce put it, apostates are “always on attack against Jehovah’s Witnesses”; since technology is such a prevalent aspect to our society now, apostates will reach their audience by whatever means necessary.
The last question that I asked both Joyce and Stoute was if either had met an apostate. Stoute answered no, but if he had he would “kindly but respectfully decline to engage them in a debate.” This answer seemed to contrast his earlier reason for his conversion. He converted because he started a Bible study with a neighbor Jehovah’s Witness with the intent to prove him wrong. However, the more he studied the more he realized he could not defend his then-Catholic faith. As I saw this transition, this development in his spirituality, I concluded that he is content with his conversion. As for my grandma, Joyce said, “I have not met an apostate personally.” I heard the answer and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course she had met Angela, the one accused by many for being an apostate, but her answer meant that she did not view Angela as an apostate. As austere as my grandmother is in her beliefs, Angela is not an apostate to her.
Although Joyce said she had not met any apostates, she did talk about one disturbing encounter she had at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1950:
“I was attending a large convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York. One afternoon an airplane filled with apostates flew over our convention site (Trailer City in New Jersey) and dropped millions of their tracts from the airplane over Trailer City. All the attendants at Trailer City began picking up the tracts as fast as they fell and trashed them immediately. The convention grounds were completely cleared of the tracts as soon as the airplane disappeared.”
I don’t know if I would call this experience apostatical or just religious fanatics. Whatever it is, it’s extreme. It would make me worried to be a member of an organization that forces its way onto other religions or organizations.
Is SpunkyGidget an Apostate?
Yes and no. It depends on the context, the religion, and where your understanding comes from. According to Jehovah’s Witness standards, she is. According to the Bible, she is not. She only fits half of the description of apostates from Joyce and Stoute. She lives in a culture that is more tolerant of others beliefs than any other time in history, but in regards to the context of which she was raised, as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, she is misnomered as an apostate because she now questions some of the common beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization. Angela still avidly follows the teachings of Christ, and keeps God in the forefront of her life. However, whenever she is surrounded by friends and family members that view Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s Spirit-directed Organization and she goes against that, it does seem to put her spirituality into question. And whenever she, at times, takes her views to the extreme, it does not help her case. She does not try to ruin her neighbor, but rather wants to charitably help all. Also, she follows the theoretical process of apostates, and has found freedom by converting away from Jehovah’s Witnesses. To many on the outside she is an apostate, but in her heart she is True.
As a religious people, should we not put the teachings of the Bible before the word of Man? Admittedly, the ones taking the lead over the Jehovah’s Witness Organization have done much more thorough investigation of the Bible and it’s principles than I have. However, it is easy to be misled and to stretch the truth through weak connections and explanations when trying to develop a tough concept. But when the majority of the world are followers, the followers allow the leaders to have an absolute say and to follow them unquestionably because they crave that leadership, despite these questionable explanations.
Many religious ones make conversions and commit apostasy because they want to deviate from this leadership. They want to think for themselves, find their own answers that satisfy their own questions. If their religion does not appease their inquiries and desires, they look somewhere else. In the words of McKnight and Ondrey, apostates are disregarding what they no longer believe and “what they find wrong with Christianity” (52). They find their way to works that entice their thinking, works that “guide their own thoughts, deepen their resolve” (52). A common theme among converts is the freedom that they gain by leaving their religion, finding an “affective sense of relief” (57). A few examples in Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy, put converts’ emotional resolve like this: “…happier now than ever because for the first time in a long time I am being honest with myself,” “I have finally found the peace and consistency that I had been wanting for many years,” and “The break . . . had been difficult, but once it was done, I felt free . . . like a captive released from prison . . . reborn—into real life.”
The book that those examples are pulled from are written based on theories about apostasy. However, they are real examples and feelings of converts, realizing that the truth lies in their heart condition. Going back to Christine Wicker, she felt “a connection with God” even though she wasn’t avidly looking to him (Finding Faith 58). But as I was saying before, my personal beliefs on apostasy will be soundly based on the Bible. We all need to make a better effort to study the Bible and find the truth that it reveals. That is what Angela does, yet she is derided, criticized, and shunned. Rather than jumping to conclusions and solely following the direction of others, we should learn the ideas and understand the concepts ourselves. Of course, others’ opinions should be taken into consideration to help develop our beliefs, but we should not completely subject ourselves to others’ thinking. Our beliefs should follow the teachings of Christ as set out in the Bible, with no gimmicks, no backlash, and no complications. Coming to know Jesus Christ and Jehovah God means, as said by the Apostle John, “everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (New World John 17:3).
Simple enough, right? Just as it is simple enough to say that apostates are simply ones that renounce their faith. Not quite. Humans and their emotional involvement makes things complicated. Humans are always striving for a better answer, a more complete explanation, a more definitive reason. That’s why religion can be so fickle, because the Bible does not always lay out easy answers. However, this is where faith enters the scene. We must have faith that the way we are acting is pleasing to God. As selfish as humans can be, we must share this faith in order to create even stronger faith among us. I know that is one aspect that Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to do by building up a united, international brotherhood that shares loves and faith, as brought out in Matthew 24:14: “And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations…” I know other religions strive to teach the Bible as well, so that is why I do not condemn them. My beliefs are the same for apostates or others who make conversions. They may seem false or wrong in their thoughts, but if their heart is in the right condition, then God will know and only He can judge accordingly: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, Examining the innermost thought, To give each one according to his ways, According to the fruitage of his works,” written by Jeremiah at Jeremiah 17:10.
Although we must do our utmost to find God and the Truth, whether it’s within an organization or personal Bible study, we must still keep an open mind to others and not shun them from our lives. We must always extend love to them and learn from each other. McKnight and Ondrey make a resounding point as they finish their their book with, “Listening to the critique of those who leave our faith teaches us about our faith. Both converts and apostates shed light on faith.” Maybe listening to others could lead us to an understanding we did not previously have, or it could possibly open our hearts more to those around us. Apostasy is the renunciation of one’s faith, but it is not the renunciation from one’s friends and family, even though it has that effect. Apostasy does not mean that we must dispel those who do not believe as us from our lives. They are simply doing just as you are, finding Truth, Faith, and Coherence in a world that is rampant without it.
“Apostasy.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Glass, Joyce. Personal Interview. 28 Oct 2013.
Kraft, Kathryn. “‘Coming Out’ as a Faith Changer: Experiences of Faith Declaration for Arabs of a Muslim Background Who Choose to Follow a Christian Faith.” Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. (2013): 96-105. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
McKnight, Scot, and Hauna Ondrey. Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy. Indiana University: Baylor University Press, 2008. 1-16, 46-61, 229-236. eBook.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 2013. 886. Print.
“Ruin.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Stoute, Pete. E-mail Interview. 31 Oct 2013.