In Spain I enjoyed the company of numerous fine persons. Even here there were the same congregational problems with elders, just as there had been in the United States. My thought of escaping this disease was short-lived as various Spanish brothers and sisters came to me with their problems in the Spanish congregation. There were serious divisions over jealousies, political ambitions, and slanderous accusations. I would judge there were half a dozen serious complaints within the small congregation of 40 publishers. Some of these spilled over into the English Group. I tried to remain in the middle and the problem of the language probably helped in this.
Other congregations also came to me with their problems. One Welsh brother serving in a resort town congregation with wealthy brothers relayed a problem to me which involved the drunkenness of the presiding overseer. I suggested he apply the spirit of “Matthew 18” (a common suggestion among JWs) and when he came back he said the PO was now accusing him! He had come up against that political wall among elders and their double standards.
There had been several fraud cases among the JWs in this part of Spain. They were like those I had seen elsewhere. Many men, including elders, use their position to network some business scheme, which generally goes sour. Though this is discouraged by the Society, the fact is it goes on. Networking is a most modern way of building a business and there are any number going on among JWs at any particular time. Some in the southern California were so involved the nickname was coined to describe these as Johoba’s Witnesses, after a cactus soap. One fad will go and another come.
There were those in Spain allegedly involved in the diamond business73 and many invested their savings in these only later to loose their investments. One particular elder in Spain drove his expensive Porsche with wheels so costly a single one would have kept a pioneer in the ranks for a year.
|73||DIAMOND BUSINESS. One anointed brother was excommunicated allegedly for some fraud in this business.|
It is noteworthy that when it comes to money, the fact such a tycoon is disfellowshipped does not stop dozens of elders, ministerial servants and pioneers, from working with such an excommunicate, enjoying business luncheons and other association which would be forbidden other Witnesses. There is a sizable number among JWs, including elders, who are just as materialistic as any such “worldly” person. On one occasion in China one of these elders carried a book with him which bore the title: “How to Get Rich.” This phrase is very similar to 1 Timothy 6:9, 10: ‘However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.’ (NWT) I had asked whether this contradicted the spirit of this verse. These contradictions was to be repeated over and over.
I remember seeing various talented and moneyed people visiting the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. One particular image I will not forget: an artist dropping off some new painting to be used in the publications. His bright red Porsche Carrera was parked right at those august steps to the “center of the earth.” How can the GB adhere to the Nazarene’s teachings on “riches” when it needs this constant transfusion of cash to keep the watchtower burning bright?
In Spain I was to meet two particularly note-worthy people. In contrast to the Spanish diamond-merchant and Porsche owner, and that artistic Porsche owner back at the steps of the GB’s offices, there were examples of those who slave world wide on a meager income. This is illustrated in these two individuals who would later profess to be of the anointed. One to later disassociate himself, and the other to grow in doubts about the JW organization.
The first was Julian Marcus Raven, a giant of a young man, six-foot-four and weighing fifteen stone. Never was there a more jolly and likable Brit born in Spain. He was Jewish and had given up his chain of discos in Marbella to become a JW pioneer. By a set of circumstances we were to become friends. Unfortunately, this young man was to be exposed to that same experience I had in Brownwood, Texas 37 years before. Indeed, my own wife, after working in field service with the Presiding Elder, was later to utter to me a single name, indicating her fear regarding this person. It was the name of the Congregation Servant in Brownwood, Texas. I was at first shocked she had made this connection.
This young lad of Russian Jewish family, was one of the most inexhaustible servants of Jehovah I had ever met, and I had met many in my life as a pioneer. He worked among the African labor force which, like the Mexicans in the southwest of America, maintained the cheap labor in Spain. They were poor beyond imagination and this dear man served right among them. He was always attended by a half dozen or more at every meeting. He later was to duplicate this in the French language.
I will not relate the nonsense this genuine soul, Julian Raven, was exposed to on the part of ambitious and jealous JW elders. Through him, and my own experience, I was to have this disease confirmed: corporate ladder climbing and hurtful gossip through the JW slander-mill. He was effectively ruined by this spiritual corpse of an elder in the English congregation. I was ashamed he was an American from Garden Grove, California.
This young pioneer, at my encouragement, was to go on to work the freighters along the Spanish coast. He ended up having the courage to call on an American nuclear carrier and had a kindly chat with the ship’s chaplain. The man had no fear.
Julian lived austerely, considering he had formerly been well-off. The poor soul’s large feet would only fit into sandals, for which he was criticized by JWs. We made every effort to assist him with shoes, clothing, food, and living expenses. No man deserved more help but was given so little by the local elders. (Galatians 6:6)
Our friendship grew. He was an unparalleled student of the Bible, but he respected I had walked the road 40 years before him. He had the habit of addressing me as “Maestro” which he ceased after my correction. We would meet from time to time for hours of Scriptural discussion as I did my best to aid him to first become familiar with the Bible itself and work the doctrinal matters out later. His goal was to read and re-read the Bible, particularly the Christian Scriptures. He had that ready mind of the Jew and was to go on to have a precise knowledge. He was highly respected among the pioneers and appeared on numerous assembly programs relating his experience of “coming into the truth.”
Some will suggest I was the one to “poison” him. He can be my witness that I never directed him anywhere but the JW publications. It is true I stressed a knowledge of the Bible itself, but I did this with everyone. If a question was asked at the time I would direct him and others to the “literature” or JW publications. I kept within myself that spiritual tornado which had been unleashed. We were to be in contact later in the United States.
There was another family who I had studied with in the US who will appear later, Paul and Christiana Parsons. They had begun to write me a couple questions involving the subject of the Great Crowd and the white robes they were wearing in the Apocalypse, chapter seven, verses 9 and 14. I had written them to find this answer in the publications. This was to have a startling reaction.
Progressively matters got worse and there were suggestions afoot to disfellowship my friend the Russian Jew. This did not surprise me at all. He was vocal on matters of truth and principle and his youth and excellent knowledge of the Scriptures, his charismatic bearing, could only lead to confrontation with men who were Pharisaic elders. Some might call them “theocratic nazis.” They are the real culprits in undermining this man’s faith in the Society.
Julian’s professing to be one of the anointed did not help matters. When he approached me on this subject I dealt with him the way I had always dealt with others throughout the years who had come to this realization. Like them, he had studied the words of Christ and his disciples exhaustively. How could any hope but that “one” not be aroused in someone who spent so much time drinking in such spiritual thoughts? (Ephesians 4:4)
That was the critical difference between the average “other sheep” and someone like this young man. The “other sheep” would study the publications, true, but not mainly just the Bible. I had once written the Society that the heavenly hope could never be aroused by reading the publications. It was the Bible that did it. It was a matter of time: if one had only so much time, and in one hand held the uninspired works of imperfect men (works which had the tendency to be right one year, and wrong the next) and in the other hand the inspired Word of God, which one would you read? Obviously, the inspired one!
Was an organization or “Christian publications” needed to do this? Not if I judged Paul’s words at 2 Timothy 3:15-17: ‘From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.’ Only one thing was needed for the individual “man of God” to be “completely equipped”, or “perfectly fit” (WMS) – the Bible. Not a single word about a “faithful and discreet slave,” or “Governing Body,” or “Christian publications.”
I cannot recall any discussions or thoughts, from either of us, which might be considered “apostate.” All our efforts were focused through that Watchtower filter. Though there were questions which I have chronicled, at this time I don’t believe there was any idea of “leaving the truth.” We were both still convinced this was Jehovah’s organization. It just needed to be brought back on course. It needed to make the correct “tack” to return to the real Christian path.
It was in Spain I was to conduct my last study with someone who “came into the truth.” How many were there all together? It is impossible to know. I never kept track. Surely, many score would be fair. It may have been hundreds. There are many congregations throughout the Bahamas and the United States where there were many who I had studied with or some family member of someone studied with over the years. When I later visited southern California there was not a congregation I visited in which there was not someone I had studied the Bible with.
This gentleman in Spain I studied with was a lovely Brit, a former police inspector, who had contact with the Royal Family in England. I thoroughly enjoyed his company. His family and ours were often associating together. There were evenings at our home, or theirs; beach outings, even one where we taught the Brits how to play baseball. There were happy hours at a local pub watching on television some terribly important soccer match in England and drinking strong English ale.
I do not believe there was a single thought or moment in our studies where he or any who attended this study, would suggest I was teaching something amiss and counter to the “literature.” I know before God there was not. As a result of these studies the man and his son were baptized after I left Spain.
At this time I had begun to put down in writing what my thoughts were. This original rough draft was later to become Nazarene Principles. (originally, The Seven Principles) It was a primer on the basic teachings of Jesus Christ using the Lord’s Prayer as a format or outline. I mention this here because it demonstrates, though my thoughts were beginning to sway from the Society, I was still functioning loyally. Somewhere in my mind I had told myself I would never deliberately stumble someone in their faith. I was not to speak of my own beliefs until more than a year later. My wife showed no interest in my many hours at the computer. Those brief moments when I made a rare passing remark she indicted no curiosity.
Before this effort to put down on paper exactly those conclusions I was reaching, I had already developed a strong friendship with Ralph Slaney, the British presiding elder in charge of our English-speaking group. We worked together often in the field as we were both pioneers. This man from Oxford had a lovely wife, Phyllis and three brilliant growing boys, Javan, Zaphiah, and Zephan. He lived most austerely on about 300 pounds a month. I do not believe I had ever met such a family. So completely devoted to make their meager funds work, his wife lived just as most of the poorer Spanish women did. She had to use the bus to get to the best markets each day to find the cheapest prices. They ate a meager diet. We had them to our home often. After I realized their destitute condition my sister and I managed to somehow sneak weekly gifts unknown into their meeting bags or field service briefcases.
This fine gentleman was my weekly companion in the field. I had discovered the British JWs had a tendency to be critical of the publications and the organization. There was no harm in this, for they were loyal to a fault. It was just their manner of expressing their doubts or misgivings about this or that point. Several times “out in service” my English friend would raise a subtle question. I do not believe there was a time I altered from the Society’s position. I may have indicated that this was a question which interested me but I told him that I had written Bethel about this and if he was not satisfied with the Society’s position he must write his own letter.
I was unaware at the time that my friend was entertaining thoughts regarding the heavenly hope. Neither he or I gave any indication we were having doubts about Brooklyn and its Tenth Floor definition of the truth. Here I had nearly completed an entire book, The Seven Principles, and I could have taken full advantage of this had I had an apostate heart.
My health had plagued me all the time I was in Spain. I had been confined to bed with one ailment after another. I was using the cane when walking. I was always in pain and taking a daily dose of several medications prescribed by a Spanish doctor. On top of this, I was plagued by “spiritual problems,” which had others known, there would have been a general panic among my family and friends. There was also another problem which was getting worse now.
My wife was going through menopause but was in a serious state of denial. Both my sister and I had suggested a doctor, for her moods would swing so severely I did not know which woman I was dealing with each day. I will comment on all of this at the end of this book, but let me just say here that my life with her was becoming more and more miserable. I knew she was going through terrible frustrations with me and nothing I did was right. I knew I was the main source of her frustrations, irritations and agony. My wife would behave one way in front of others and entirely a different way in private with me. She was always a bubbly, effervescent person. There were few people who disliked her. I realized that, in the end, I would play the part of the “bad guy” but I was willing to accept this. I truly only wanted my wife to be happy; and, if that meant a separation between us, then so be it.
Our visas were expiring and all us of knew legally we had to return to the US. When this was discussed my wife was adamant about staying in Spain. She said she never wanted to return to the US. My sister and I gave up on trying to encourage her to return to the US. We made plans for her to find an apartment on a golf course inland. My sister and I made plans to return to California.
The open bitterness of my wife and her attitude was very obvious to me. She would put on her happy face with outsiders in which she was very outgoing and hospitable. But with me she was distant and morose. We had one particular bad argument in which I begged her to see a doctor. The more I did the more irritated she became. At some point she confessed to me in private she was bothered by what had happened to her as a child. Her grandfather had attempted to rape her when she was twelve. Her family had covered this up and went on treating the old bastard like a loving member of the family. I believe this took its emotional toll on her. That, combined with her present menopausal state, conspired to bring her considerable grief. I was the nearest one to blame and this she did.
I must tell you here I was a husband who never left the house or returned without a warm hug for my wife. I never passed her without touching her. I never let a day go by without telling her she was beautiful. I told her I loved her frequently. But she would not believe any of this. Everyone who observed me could see me with my arm around my wife during meeting prayers or while singing hymns. I truly loved my wife, but now thought the only way for her to find happiness was in my absence.
It was very emotionally cold at the airport the day my sister and I were to return to the US. My wife was distant and was to show no affection at all on our parting. Before we left I had my laptop stolen along with all it contained, including storage disks. All my work was gone, save one hard copy of The Seven Principles. I had asked my wife and sister to watch my computer case when I visited the water closet. When I came out, from fifty feet away, I could see the case was gone. I asked them what had happened and they looked at me in disbelief. While I was gone a stranger had diverted their attention, while his companion stole the computer. I must say my wife’s expression and manner was one who could not have cared less.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved