“Paradise Bound” Reveals an Author’s Detour Out of The Watchtower
(Plus 4 more Recommended Books of Political and Religious Liberation)
Whether you agree with the subject-matter or not, “Paradise Bound” (2014) by newcomer Carrie Bee will leave your fingers page-turning bound. It’s the no.2 book on my latest list, and a novel about a young girl, an ordinary American redheaded girl-next-door whose life suddenly changed at the knock of the door. Most of the biographical stories about former Jehovah’s Witnesses run along the same lines, life was a bowl of cherries… until they came. It’s a bit worse in her case. The “they” moved next door.
Before her eyes Ivy Carle saw her cool dad begin conversations with the
seemingly-humble father-next-door and before you know it the man she
once knew for all intents and purposes left home. Don’t get me wrong,
he would occasionally visit to watch the hockey game or tinker with one
of his would-be inventions, but for all intents and purposes Ivy
experienced desertion and replacement of her dad without any legal or
“According to Dad, it was a perfect summer afternoon when he found himself a few feet away from the neighbor he had planned to avoid (they were after
all the neighborhood “religious fanatics.”). The dark-haired man was
attempting to start his lawn mower on the other side of the fence when
he looked up at Dad and smiled. Dad had no choice but to speak.
‘Beautiful day isn’t it? It certainly is, neighbor… my name is Gerald
Hooberman, you can call me Jerry… Did you ever wonder what the future
holds for mankind?’”
People nowadays are focusing on the contradictions of the Watchtower Bible
& Tract Society; pacification on one hand, divisive on the other.
Admitting their roots with the Freemasons, but denying this could be of
any influence on their doctrines and decisions today. Thinking that
money can now erase the pain of mostly-childhood sexual abuse, after
previously believing that if the victim couldn’t find “two witnesses”
to support their accusations, then it didn’t happen. Carrie’s
characterization of Ivy paints a life in a church with a dual persona,
insular and controlling towards it’s members, yet very public in their
evangelism. Much of this starts at Dad for her, even at a very tender
age she seems to have had a basic understanding of the gradual
transformation her parents are making. Children often are able to see
things with their young fresh minds that adult-cluttered minds simply
won’t pick up. She picked up that her parents were moving away from
her, the fact that it wasn’t literal made little difference. Hooberman
had them hoodwinked, in time benign words like “apostasy,”
“scriptural,” and “loving” took on new meaning.
Ivy was just a toddler-victim being made co-captive to a strange family
transformation, fueled by Hooberman’s rush to get her parents baptized
before 1975. “The summer of 1974, mom and Dad were baptized in New
Castle, Pennsylvania. I was nearly two years old and sat on the lap of
a heavyset black man who smelled like Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup. The
only thing I remember from that day was getting stung by a bee in the
eye. I can’t deny often wondering if this was a bad omen.”
From this point on Ivy’s visits with her extended family were starting to
dwindle, her parents had drank the JW-Kool Aid, especially her dad.
Visits to see her grandparents and cousins were replaced by visits to
other Kingdom Hall families with kids her age headed for equal or more
trouble than she was. Her mom was only more or less trying to go along
to get along. Thus began the life of knocking on strangers’ doors and
being subjected to their unpredictable behavior. By the time she
reached 13 she wondered if John the baptist didn’t get his head cut
off, would she have been able to celebrate Birthdays? She didn’t
understand the organization well enough yet to realize they simply just
would have found another scripture.
It wasn’t that Ivy wasn’t a spiritual person during her growing up years,
the problem for her parents the Carles and the self-appointed spies and
Elders within her congregation was that she was. On her own merit Ivy
was a very conscientious person. She found herself praying habitually,
always ending with a plea to Jehovah that she not get in a car
accident. While Jehovah seemingly answered that prayer, her accident
was getting more Witnesses. She also prayed for him to make more of her
relatives into JWs so they wouldn’t die at Armageddon, the dreaded day
the Watchtower blackmails Jehovah’s Witnesses to do their bidding (I
recall praying something similar in my youth). To the Witnesses the
A-word has more power, more joy and more pain than the use of it by the
general population. To the world-at-large all politics is local, to the
Witnesses Armageddon is local.
New Author Carrie Bee
When Ivy’s parents were reluctant to attend their non-Witness family’s
funerals-especially Ivy’s grandparents-this caused a deep social schism
between them that had lasting effect. Since the Watchtower Society
harshly condemned all religions (except theirs of course), the
prohibition against entering churches wasn’t just about Sunday services
etc., many took it to include funerals too. These were little maneuvers
the Watchtower used to keep their followers off-balanced and awkward.
Why should you think your blood relatives are cool, when you could
easily be persuaded to think the Watchtower is? There is no
middle-ground with them.
“Paradise Bound” is full of double entendres and PSTD-induced flashbacks I
suspect some of which are involuntary. “I raised my hand when Brother
Anderson read the question to paragraph 4. ‘Sister Ivy!’ He pointed in
my direction. The attendant quickly walked over to me with the long
black cord trailing behind him. The large penis-shaped microphone
wobbled at my lips. ‘If we pursue worldly education, we will face
temptations like immorality and drugs so prevalent in college.’” Ivy
hadn’t yet finally made it into the big leagues of Kingdom Hall
commenters; answering questions at meetings in her own words. This was
written by her mother, “carefully scripted” as she describes. What I
call the big leagues is really a road to nowhere which requires you to
repeat the methodology of your own suppression in a mantra among a
captive audience of Watchtower-zombies whom were anything-but awake.
Who else is required to underachieve at such pivotal ages, and made to
feel good about it? The numbers don’t lie. In a 2008 Pew Report of 19
religious and secular groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses rank dead last at 19
in post-graduate degrees and family income. There was a time when
Watchtower Society speakers would use such information during their
lectures and tie-in a humble man or woman angle. Today it’s not so easy
to do that in post-recession America. In the 2000s if you can’t compete
economically, you just can’t compete, a whole army of
middle-aged-to-senior Jehovah’s Witnesses were craftily convinced to
miss their window, there is nothing left for them but the Watchtower
Society’s promises, and hopes of Armageddon. You know what the real
scary part is? They’re not scared.
Aside from her parents getting baptized, two major events played a major role
in her dad’s distancing himself in her life, 1-When her dad “stopped
listening to ‘worldly music’ in the basement.”(Glenn Carle was a
Vietnam Veteran who listened to Dylan, Hendrix and the Beatles) 2-When
he was appointed Elder. As she got older Ivy began to blossom. In fact
her circle of friends would evolve throughout her teen years as she
went from Annette Hooberman, Amy Arbuckle and Jacqui Jo Wallace
(baptized at just 9), to Sabrina Chambers, Terrance Dunham, and Pookie,
three “worldly” black kids from her high school. Her expanding choice
of friends was influenced by a school merger, and a closet-passion she
developed for years; black youth culture. In particular it’s
entertainment and hip-hop music. She would become much like the
“Blossom” of the old TV series, learning the latest dances with
careless abandon. Meanwhile back in the jungle, her Kingdom Hall, a
one-legged man hopped on stage to announce that Fergus Mitchell was
placed on “public reproof,” followed by a “special needs” talk given by
her dad entitled “Masturbation, How does Jehovah View it?” Somewhere in
there is 144,000 jokes, until you remember how good the Watchtower is
at making people think that any Jehovah gives a damn about a boy in
puberty choking his chicken.
The Watchtower traditionally won’t publicly reveal why said individual got
disfellowshipped, disassociated, publicly reproved, (there is also
private reproof for these who sinned secretly but the elders were made
aware of it) or “marked” (reproved or marked are low-impact shunning
given as a warning to the offending party, and of course puts members
of the congregation on notice to alter their behavior towards them).
The world’s most unnecessary religion publicly humiliates a boy for
being a boy, this is the first hint of congregational ostracizing
“Paradise Bound” mentions. It gets much worse.
Ivy’s Dad-unknown to her and most others at the time-harbored sentiments
against more tangible beings than airborne-sperm, black people, in
particular Ivy’s friends at school. He probably wished he could give a
15-minute talk on them as easily as he did on Fergus the Fireman. He
certainly didn’t hold back at home once he found out about them and his
Ivy’s relationship to them. To understand this simmering volcano of
racism kept conveniently quiet until the other race makes it’s presence
felt, is to understand the area the Carle’s live in. Pittsburgh PA.
Blue-collar steel plant Pittsburgh, blue-collar Italian Pittsburgh. The
same Pittsburgh where a meat market gave out free Turkeys to the NFL
Steelers’ white players only during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Glenn Carle
was no anomaly as far as closet and not-so-closet racists are within
the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls, the really good ones can weave it
into their long-winded speeches about Jehovah’s high standards and
keeping the congregation clean. Glenn Carle laid it on thick to the
point of imbalance and almost insanity. No doubt much of the “worldly”
conventional white thinking on the blacks had infiltrated his worldview
in spite of him having one or two black Witness “friends.” He once
interrogated her for talking to a young black Steve Urkel-type (Amos
Adkins- “He had a lumpy head and was now wearing Sally Jesse Raphael
glasses”) assigned to the contribution box at one of the JW conventions
(in the Buffalo area any African American given watch over an assembly
money box was cause for a Black History moment), he didn’t even want
her associating with black girls.
“Daddy, if you had your choice, would you rather I marry a worldly white man or
a black man in The Truth?” She tossed that question out to him during a
time they were having a heated discussion because he suspected Pookie
was heavily in pursuit of her affections. He let her have it no-holds-barred.
“I’d rather you marry a worldly white man than a black guy in da troof.”
The Truth of course is a well-known inside buzz-term for the Jehovah’s Witness faith. It’s twofold implication also inferred that all other religions were false. Carle uttered this pronouncement after claiming he wasn’t a bigot because he had a black friend... the mailman.
“During our family study, Dad grilled me about working with worldly people. He
told me that I will hear a lot of dirty jokes and that I shouldn’t laugh at them because if I laugh at them, it means that I am in agreement with their dirty thoughts.” This type of stuffy overkill-counsel is commonplace among JW congregations. Micromanagement from the Twilight Zone. First of all if you stop laughing at dirty jokes, you stop living. It’s a terrible thing to stop living, just to live forever.
Ivy may have been a girl, but you can’t say she didn’t have balls. When she
hit sweet 16 she was preparing for baptism in the world’s most famous
doomsday cult, while at the same time embarking on dating a “worldly black
boy.” By then the Hoobermans next door had moved away, a black family
would move in. The Dunhams had a son her age who was a star athlete,
Terrance. How’s that for “special needs?” Much of this she chronicled
in her diary. Most of her white Witness friends were simply not cutting
it for her after she really got to know them, they were always
purposely or inadvertently setting her up for eventual encounters with
the elders who-like her father-expected her to walk on water.
The pressure became so unbearable for her that she made one attempt at
suicide. You see, Ivy really was trying to work the program, it just
wasn’t her program. Most of her friends came from high JW pedigree,
elders daughters, or had started earlier than she and therefore more
accomplished. But underneath they were spoiled, repressed, mischievous
brats. There were underlying reasons for much of this, Jacqui Jo for
example was sexually-abused by her JW father when she was
six-years-old. Nevermind the two witnesses rule, what about the one
police rule? Jacqui’s dad got his privileges taken away for three
grueling months. Though I read the whole book, I have only summarized
half the story. It’s up to you to check out the rest.
What has been lost in extreme religions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses is best
summarized by a young religion commentator named Kali Jenkins. “All
children are born free-spirited. Now in order to initiate children into
obedience and beliefs, parents have to first break their childrens'
spirit.” A lot of parents-especially today-confuse necessary
child-development and training with breaking their spirit. The
Witnesses lead the way in this. This is the overall message I think
Carrie is trying to convey in Paradise Bound. The clue is in the title.
Memoirs of Ivy are essentially Carrie’s memoirs. Today Carrie is a
mother of three as well as grandmother. Her parents are by choice not a
part of their grandchildren’s lives. If you were to ask them, I’m sure
they no-doubt would tell you they are not a part of a cult. After all
there are not immediately surrounded by cult trappings, they live among
regular society, a normal 9-to-5 working man and his housewife. They
aren’t part of a compound, or on a secluded island following a Jim
Jones-type despot. But they are still in a cult nonetheless. The
Watchtower’s biggest accomplishment was to turn the human brain into a bunker.
(2014): A brief and dangerous freedom. Joyce King (River Grove- ISBN
9781938416484). A true story of a broken system that incarcerates and
innocent man, and the DNA evidence that frees him. From the author of
(2012): Larry S. Gibson. The making of a Supreme Court Justice
(Prometheus Books- ISBN 9781616145712), Should be required reading for
law school students and young attorneys, especially black attorneys.
You can only become one of white supremacy's most troublesome
nemesis-lawyers by going to trial and doing the impossible, win. And
young Thurgood was Johnnie Cochran before Johnnie Cochran.
4-Blood On the Altar
(1996): David A. Reed. (Prometheus Books- ISBN 9781573920599) If you
want more insight into the Watchtower’s famous and infamous
blood-prohibition, mixed-in with their powerful-yet concise history
then go no further than Reed’s book. A former elder-turned
whistleblower, he uses news clippings of controversial blood cases from
around the world to coincide with the timeline of his story.
5-Awakening of a Jehovah’s Witness
(2002): Escape from the Watchtower Society. Diane Wilson. (Prometheus
Books- ISBN 1573929425) An JW Elder’s wife questions her and her
husband’s beliefs when she does her own research after some typical
congregational-nitpicking. You will witness her gradual departure after
wrestling with her conscience, and the ongoing aid and advice of a
clinical psychiatrist she consults throughout her story. Get an inside
look at how the behavioral science industry regards the Watchtower
Bible & Tract Society.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook (pointblank009), you don't have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the link below.