The Documentary, “Witness to Murder,” for ID Discovery Channel
By Jim Kostelniuk, a participant
As the father of two murdered children, Juri and Lindsay Kostelniuk, it may seem difficult to understand how I can be objective about the documentary. However, I didn’t produce the show, wasn’t in on the editing process, and there are some things I only had an inside track on.
What I did do was gather a team of family friends and experts together (five other persons besides myself originally connected with the case) to be interviewed in Vancouver by a film crew from LionTelevision in New York City.Read More
The facts are clear. Being a Jehovah’s Witness is not fun. The Watchtower offers nothing to its members. There is no joy in their Kingdom Halls. Preaching door to door has become passe, not to mention being nerve-wracking drudgery.
There really isn’t anything for young JWs to do and their pool of friends is often quite small. They can not look forward to birthdays or holidays, engaging in school sports, clubs, or other after school activities. Instead of getting a college education, they need to learn to become janitors and window washers. Having “wordly friends” like kids at school or in those living their neighborhood is discouraged – and by some JW parents, strictly forbidden.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are always on the lookout for “bad influences” – constantly on guard against anyone who might be “an apostate” or an expelled JW that must be “shunned.” Witnesses can not have deep theological discussions even between themselves, because they might venture into “apostasy” or generate self-doubt about their beliefs as they actually do honest research.Read More
Several support groups providing support and education services to former Jehovah’s Witnesses and their families have set aside July 26, 2014 as “Watchtower Victims Memorial Day.”
Bo Juel, a former Jehovah’s Witness (and himself a victim of the Watchtower’s cruel and unjust child abuse and pedophile protection policies), has been a leader in educating the public. Based in Norway, Bo has made his presence and feelings known by getting his message out throughout northern Europe and North America. Whether he appears on television or before local news reporters, he refuses to “pull his punches” and is very straightforward in describing his disgust with Watchtower leaders and policy makers.Read More
A few days ago while I was walking my dog around my neighborhood, I saw a group of familiar looking faces.walking toward me. The men were dressed in suits and the women wore modest length skirts with sensible shoes. All were carrying what looked like book bags.
As my pup and I began passing them, one of the men made a point of glaring at me while one of the women whispered to the other next to her, furtively glancing at me. Wow! I thought to myself. The group looked familiar – but then again, I live in a small neighborhood – so that’s not unusual. But these people definitely knew who I was and were none too happy to see me!
As I walked up the steps to my building it finally occurred to me who these people were and that I knew them at one time.Read More
My parents were active in the Methodist church and they loved and trusted their minister. The minister once told my dad to never listen to the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they were a “cult.” But Mom did not hear his warning.
In fact, Mom actually disagreed with their minister about which books of the Bible were authentic. His opinion was that only two of the gospels were likely to be true.
Shortly after my brother was born, two Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking at our door. Mom asked them if they were the group who gave “free home bible studies.” She started her indoctrination (studying) to be a Witness in 1974.
Dad was curious about what the JWs had to say, so he soon began talking to them. He was impressed with how quickly they could find scriptures in the Bible. When they challenged Dad to find where in the Bible it talks about people “burning in hell” he searched but could not find anything. After that he started listening to them and what they had to say.Read More
Every month I get emails and contact messages from Jehovah’s Witnesses asking me whether or not they should “take the leap” and try to leave the Watchtower organization. I wish it was easy for me to answer their questions – but it’s not. I know that while I have a very strong opinion, leaving has to be a decision that each person must ultimately make for oneself.
What I do try to get them to understand is that they will be just fine – no matter what their ultimate decision might be. If they are happy being Jehovah’s Witnesses (and many are quite content in that lifestyle), then I would be the last person in the world to suggest that they leave and face the complications that come from making that decision. On the other hand, if they are unhappy and really want out, then I urge them to set aside their fears. I want them to know that even though their lives will change, they will survive through everything they may have to face by making a decision to leave.
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t admit it publicly but would really like to get out. No one knows the actual numbers for sure, but there are far more than the Watchtower would admit. Because the religion promotes and encourages shunning of those who leave, Jehovah’s Witnesses face issues that many people simply can’t deal with. Even many high-profile former Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to face the effects of shunning by family, friends, and even close business associates. When their own parents, siblings, and children are willing (or are forced) to break off all connections – and then say that it is the fault of those leaving – many Jehovah’s Witnesses simply feel they can not choose freedom. It’s a price too high for them to pay. They would rather stay in the cult and live with the pain than face being shunned by their own family.Read More
In mid-September I received an interesting invitation from a journalist calling himself “The Thinking Atheist.” He told me that he had seen one of my websites and was intrigued by my take on the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Part of my appeal, he said, was that I did not seem to be “angry,” nor was I busy trying to promote some other religion as my preferred substitute for Watchtower doctrine. He asked if I would agree to be a guest on his podcast scheduled for Tuesday, September 17th. I enthusiastically said “Yes!”
My segment was actually recorded a short time before the broadcast via a telephonic hookup. Seth Andrews (his real name) assured me that he could edit for any serious technical issues or interruptions that might come up during the recording session. That turned out to be a good thing. During the recording call my little Maltese lap dog saw someone walking their Golden Retriever in front of our house and started yapping at the top of her voice for about 20 seconds. As you can tell when you listen to the edited podcast, he did a great job. Other than that small glitch, what you hear was our totally unrehearsed and non-scripted conversation. Absolutely!!!Read More
As a Jehovah’s Witness teenager I was always hoping that someday I would be found worthy enough to be accepted as either a missionary and go to Gilead school or become a Brooklyn Bethel volunteer. I knew being given such a privilege would make my parents proud and would forever seal my reputation as a “faithful Witness of Jehovah.” I also figured that when I returned home from those assignments I would likely be promoted to become an elder (called “servants” in those days).
Fortunately, neither of those opportunities came to me and in my mid-20s I was pretty much done with being a Jehovah’s Witnesses. That did not make my parents proud of me, but my life became a lot more enjoyable and productive. Reading Brock Talon’s new book made it clear to me that I made the right choices.
“Brock Talon” would be a great name for a fictional Marvel Comics’ superhero. But “Brock Talon” is actually a real person with a real story to tell. And now, after reading his story, he’s definitely a hero in my eyes.
I’d never met or even heard of Brock Talon until a couple of weeks ago. Until I received a pleasant email from him suggesting that I check out his new book, I didn’t know he existed. While I still haven’t met Brock (and maybe never will), I feel that I know him as well as my own brother.
His new book, Journey to God’s House, is exactly as the subtitle describes it: An inside story of life at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1980s.Read More
For three years from 2002 to early in 2005, Carl helped shepherd Mariuca, always giving her balanced advice. When she was sick with polymyositis, he and a fellow elder visited with her regularly. Even after she had partially recovered, she enjoyed going in the door-to-door service with Carl’s family because they worked at a slower pace and took it easy on her.
During one conversation with Carl, he privately told her that he was seeing a therapist. This was a bit of a shock because she knew most JWs frowned on going to professionals. At the same time, it was comforting news for her. She also found and met with a reputable therapist who helped her identify several key issues.
Once during the summer of 2005 after going door-to-door, Mariuca was riding in a car with Carl, his wife and their seventeen-year-old daughter, Maggie. For no apparent reason, she asked, “If you don’t have your mind, what have you got?” She had been thinking about her relationship with her paranoid and schizophrenic grandmother, wondering if she might eventually become just like her.Read More