The Shunned Speak Out
Location: Seattle, Washington
Years Out: 11
Dan Adams was sitting in his car when he caught sight of his two daughters. It was his first time seeing them in six years. Instead of jumping out of the car from behind the driver’s seat where he was dozing off, he watched them from a distance. He noted, through the windshield, "how old they now looked," he said. The occasion was his mother’s funeral. His daughters had emailed him a few days earlier asking that he not try to speak to them.
"Knowing I would never see them again, I was trying to take in as much as I could, trying to remember every little detail." - Dan Adams
Dan grew up surrounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses, but he didn’t join until his first year of college. He was completely "love bombed by the Witnesses" at his Jehovah’s Witness brother’s wedding, he said. He converted within six months and dropped out of college.
Dan got married and became an elder. He and his wife had three children and were a model family. But things he saw behind the scenes as an elder bothered him, like the congregation not warning families when they had reasonable evidence that a member had sexually abused children. "What Witnesses are taught [in the meetings] is different from what we saw as elders," he said.
"I remember his words exactly, he said 'It's up to the parents to watch their own children, it's not our job to police the congregation.'" - Dan Adams
There wasn’t one particular instance, though, that led to his leaving after 27 years. The slow drift toward skepticism strained his marriage. "It wasn’t until I allowed myself to ask questions about what I was teaching and what I was learning that I started to see that it didn’t sit right with me," he said.
They divorced and Dan moved from San Diego to Seattle. He needed a new start because, even though he wasn’t disfellowshipped, everyone he knew from the Kingdom Hall shunned him. His family had completely cut him off.
The day he saw his daughters from inside his car at his mother’s funeral was his last time at a Kingdom Hall. No one spoke to him while he was in the building. He sat against a wall several feet behind his family listening to the sermon about his mother being resurrected to a paradise where he, presumably, would not be.
"I got an e-mail from my two daughters saying 'don't try to talk to us at the funeral.' So I went to my mother's funeral at the Kingdom Hall sitting off to the side by myself." - Dan Adams
But when he was driving away, a man who had said a prayer approached his car and thanked him for coming.
Dan Adams says that starting a retirement fund was a landmark moment of his new life. "Just knowing that there’s not some mystical force guiding my life and protecting me. I’m taking care of Dan now," he said with a tone of simple contentment, albeit one tinged with grief. Last year, he married another ex-Jehovah’s Witness whom he met in an online JW recovery group named Amy.