Matthew 10:36 came to mind today. Now, don't get me wrong, I am useless on the Bible. I remember this verse because I am good at remembering scenes and dialogue from films and this was supposedly chosen by Breaker Morant to be his epitaph, when he was executed after being court martialled for shooting prisoners in the Boer War, despite it being clear that orders to this effect had been given by Lord Kitchener.
Anyone who knows of my time in the JA might very well imagine that I remember the verse in that connection. But not so. Funnily enough, I have found that while the JA have been able to present a consistently unified front, its detractors have been a disparate bunch, all speaking from different positions, and sometimes undermining each other.
I envy the JA its sense of being right, its moral certainties and its absolutism. But the simple fact is that until you meet an ex-member outside the church, you do not really know him or her. He or she can then be seen as an individual, and the trouble with individuals is that they cannot be controlled, coralled, etc. They will have their own say, so it isn't hard to see why the JA so anxiously discourage "MINDiness", "opinionation" and "independence".
As well as there being many individuals out here who were once members, each with their own stand to make, there are others with their own interests: anti-cult groups of various types, Christian groups with different emphases and crackpots of various shades and others with an interest in the JA but no direct connection to it. And the simple fact is that while it might simplistically be imagined on some forums that we all share a common goal in expressing concerns about the JA, this simply is not the case.
Within this "household" of critics of the JA is one who has spent the last few years as a very disruptive element, so much so that I have chosen not to post on the forum he lurks on for a good 10 months, because when I do so, it almost invariably leads to skirmishing which detracts from the purpose of the forum. It is counter-productive and reinforces JA prejudices about us.
I feel I should add that at times I have behaved quite badly in these scraps: goading this particular "Troll" (as he calls himself) and allowing myself to be goaded. I don't think forums are good for me (are they good for anyone?) because their inhuman anonymity brings out people's worst instincts. I decided about 11months ago not to go on them anymore.
I have always maintained that we must be scrupulously honest when we tell people what it was like for us in the JA. I do not share the view expressed by many that a lie about the JA is fair game as long as it harms them. So when the Troll broadcast the claim that Noel Stanton was a paedophile, I immediately jumped in and insisted that such a scurrilous and unfounded assertion was more damaging to us than it would be to Stanton. Troll resented this very much and made a point of insisting that my position therefore made me a defender of paedophilia. I am not particularly comfortable publishing this here, but at least this way, the truth of it can be seen.
The paradox of Troll's unpleasant claims about me is that they coincided with his concession that he had no evidence for his claims about Stanton, but had "just flung some shit around to see if any stuck". He resented me not being willing, as a leading critic of the JA, to let the lie stand, whether or not it was false. He resented me not giving him my endorsement. Perversely, though he has dropped his claims about Stanton, he keeps up his claims about me.
Yes, I have mellowed over the JA, and yes, I have shaken hands with Noel and Mick and sought to put the past behind me, but that does not make me any less concerned about some of the less palatable aspects of life in the community. Nor does that make me an apologist for them.