Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Death of a Conscientious Objector

I found out yesterday that Ray Franz passed away. Who is Ray Franz, and why should anyone care about his life and death? Well simply, Ray Franz was a member of the ruling body (called the Governing Body) of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr. Franz held that position between 1971 and 1980. Mr. Franz was also the nephew of the Jehovah's Witnesses most highly regarded "scholar" and former President of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, Fred Franz. However, this is not what makes Ray Franz important. What makes Ray Franz important is that he is the highest ranking member of the Jehovah's Witnesses to ever chronicle his experiences on the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.

In April of 1980, Mr. Franz resigned his position as a member of the Governing Body due to conflicts between what the Bible said and what The Watchtower officially taught. He later detailed these conflicts in his books Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom. It was his first book, Crisis of Conscience, that increased the velocity of my exit from the Jehovah's Witnesses. I recommend this book highly to anyone that is currently a Jehovah's Witness and to anyone that has an interest in counter-cult ministry focused on Jehovah's Witnesses.

His second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, is really geared towards Jehovah's Witnesses. In it Franz speaks of the search for the freedom that the New Testament speaks about rather then the legalistic dogmas of the Watchtower. Both of Franz's books can be ordered has either bound books or PDF files at the Commentary Press website.

Of Franz's two books, Crisis of Conscience, had the most impact on me. I found this book in 1986, and bought it. This was a huge issue for me, as I was still living with my JW (Jehovah's Witness) parents. If they found this book, they would have to turn me in to the local body of Elders, and a Judicial Committee would be formed in order to determine whether or not I was an apostate Jehovah's Witness. However, they never did. This was a small miracle, since my mother had the uncanny ability to find any Playboy or Penthouse magazine I stashed in my room.
It was in the pages of Crisis of Conscience that I learned of the many double standards the Watchtower leadership applied to JWs in different parts of the world. It was in this book, that I learned that personal integrity was more important than corporate cooperation.

Mr. Franz wrote about his "crisis of conscience" and his subsequent resignation from the Governing Body. However, that resignation was not enough for the hard-line members of that body. They went after Ray Franz with a vengeance, and began looking for ways to disfellowship Franz and his wife. Why? Because they were potentially dangerous and could begin to influence others to leave the Watchtower. This belief was prevalent in spite of Franz's admitted desire to live a quiet life as a rank-and-file JW. Eventually the Governing Body's wish was granted due to trumped up charges against Franz based on a tightening of the rules regarding JW interaction with those that voluntarily left the JWs.

Franz's second book, In Search of Christian Freedom, did not have that much of an impact on me. This was due to the fact that I already had confessed Christ as my savior, and had begun to learn about the Christian freedom that he wrote about. However, it was interesting to read about his journey towards Christian freedom.

Ray Franz, is a name that has no popular association with people. However, he and his two books had an impact on hundreds of thousands of people that have read them and exited from the Jehovah's Witnesses, I among them. I believe that these books will continue to have an impact on JWs that are in search of truth and freedom.

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