After the Aftermath: My Thoughts on Leah Remini’s JW Special

A little over 24 hours ago, something incredible happened that I am still struggling to process. On a scale never before seen, the Jehovah’s Witness organization – the religion of my childhood – was exposed on primetime US television in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers.

This was personal, and not just because I was raised a Witness and continue to feel the vindictive punishment radiating from my former faith in the form of shunning due to my decision to leave on conscientious grounds.

Leah Remini had reached out to me earlier this year to give me the opportunity of being involved in the production of the show. As an activist, you dream of having this kind of exposure for the cause you’re passionate about. Now, nine months later, I am seeing the glorious end product of what was discussed in that initial nerve-jangling phone call.

It’s hard to express how surreal it was to be on set with Leah, Mike and the rest of the contributors. I’m a professional YouTuber and I earn a living from creating video content on my “John Cedars” channel. I’m also heavily involved in the production of a new documentary, The Truth About the Truth. Making videos is literally my bread and butter, and yet nothing could prepare me for two frantic days of filming the Aftermath special when I was flown to Los Angeles back in May.

The professionalism of the film crew was a joy to behold. I marveled at the spectacle of dozens of highly talented professionals scurrying around diligently attending to their duties. It was clear that no expense had been spared on the production. A large rented space somewhere in Hollywood brimmed with millions of dollars’ worth of cameras and equipment.

Yours truly (somewhere beneath several inches of make-up) with Leah and Mike after the first day of filming

In a corner of the studio, make-up artists busily worked at making the contributors camera-ready. (They certainly had their work cut out with me!)

There was catering. There was a table with snacks and coffee. There was even a table with medicine, if needed, and a medical support person on hand (who, interestingly, just happened to be an ex-JW!).

Leah and Mike were every bit as sincere and passionate about their work in real life as they are on camera. They listened to our stories attentively and were visibly moved by what they were hearing. I saw my role as predominantly one of consultation and fact-checking rather than sharing my personal experience, but when I felt moved to talk about my father shunning me, my wife and small child, my words were met with boundless empathy and compassion.

It was a highly emotional experience. On more than one occasion almost everyone was in tears. I later learned that even the film crew were having a hard time keeping it together behind the cameras and were blown away by what they were hearing.

By the end of the first day I felt emotionally drained, which only deepened my respect and admiration for what Leah and Mike are doing. If this is how I felt after just a few hours on set listening to heart-wrenching stories, what is it like for them doing this for months on end for each “Aftermath” season?

Fast forward six months, and now I’m riding another emotional rollercoaster by witnessing the reaction to what we created together, which appears to be overwhelmingly positive. Ex-Witnesses seem to be overjoyed at finally seeing their experiences portrayed and their feelings of pain and betrayal vindicated. They know we were only scratching the surface with what was discussed, and there was only so much we could cram in to 90 minutes, but by sharing our own stories we were, in effect, sharing the stories of thousands of our fellow cult victims – stories hitherto largely ignored. I’m profoundly happy to see that many ex-Witnesses are finding themselves able to heal now that the hurt they have experienced is being revealed and explained to the world.

More than anything, I’m personally proud to see so many commenting on how accurate and factual the show is. It was very clear to me from my earliest conversations with Leah that she is committed to exposing the truth and nothing but the truth, and at every stage of my involvement I have seen unwavering dedication to making sure the information presented is as accurate as possible. My offers to assist in fact-checking were only ever met with enthusiastic acceptance. Other contributors have commented that they too were impressed by the producers’ obsession with getting every last detail right. The end product is a show that, in my view, is the most significant and impactful piece of investigative journalism on Jehovah’s Witnesses that has ever been shown on television.

Understandably, many ex-Witnesses are already clamoring for more. I obviously want that too, but I guess we will need to be patient. The ex-Witness movement has taken a massive stride forward by gaining the exposure that Leah and Mike have granted us by allowing our message to piggyback on their Emmy-award winning success.

In time, hopefully this first step will lead to more exposure as Watchtower sheds its false “mostly harmless” reputation and the cult hiding in plain sight is laid bare to all. We will just have to wait and see. I believe we are extremely fortunate to have even made it this far. Leah in particular has very little to gain and much to lose by operating so far outside her comfort zone in taking on an organization that hasn’t impacted her personally, but it speaks volumes of her kindness and compassion that she has pursued this subject regardless. Whatever happens next, I will always be grateful to both Leah and Mike for listening to ex-Witnesses and giving them what they desperately need: a voice.

 

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25 Comments on “After the Aftermath: My Thoughts on Leah Remini’s JW Special”

  1. i am so gratfull so proud and so happy, many other jws may save their own lives by leaving this harmfull religion, cult. thank you so very much loyd, and everyone for exposing this cult.

  2. So very well said, and we’ll done! My friends at work are obviously familiar with my story, and they still were absolutely shocked by what they saw on the show. Several texted me to fact check during the broadcast. I kept saying “yes, absolutely 100% true”. I am so proud and fortunate to be one of your supporters and will be forever grateful for your tireless, ongoing efforts to help present and past victims of this destructive cult.

  3. I thought the show was tastefully executed and was a great overview of some of the doctrines and mindsets of JW’s. As an ex JW, I could relate to every story and would love to see more detailed discussion on those topics and more. It was an excellent production and I am thankful the Watchtower is being exposed for what they truly are, an abusive cult.

  4. Just a note to express deep gratitude for your combined efforts with all involved in this mountain like struggle to get hidden information and facts out to the public in a truth based way.As a Previous Highly Involved member in The Watchtower organization,I to feel an obligation and debt to expose and inform the innocent public with the facts of what is becoming of this organization and the results of becoming a member.Please know and be resolutely assured of my support and respect for you and those supporters of you. Please feel free to contact me with anything I may add my help with. Thank you, Thank you from the depth of a healing fathers heart !
    Sincerely,
    Gregory Hall

  5. I sat In surreal astonishment to see our story on television. Finally! In my 33 years I wasn’t expecting the world to know the truth about the “truth”. Your activism and YouTube channel was a part of me breaking free from the cults mind control and stress about the future and liberated me to walk my life free of Watchtower, Armageddon & think on my own. This was a monumental step in exposing what has been hidden for so long. Thank you and thank leah for having gone through your pains and turned it into something positive for so many, your pain is not in vain.

  6. Well-written my friend. My wife and I faded about 15 years ago, and were shunned by my side of the family about eight years ago. Your John Cedars channel was instrumental in me finally putting pen to paper and sending the congregation a letter of disassociation for my wife and I. Little did I know, my father is the coordinator of the body and received the letter directly. We we’re both raised in the organization and spent about 25 years in it to some extent. This broadcast was gut-wrenching and painful. I relate to the gentleman who said he had nightmares of Armageddon. I wake up terrified during severe thunderstorm with the same thoughts. I believe that comes from the graphic artwork used to indoctrinate the children. You are on a righteous mission and all in my family applaud your efforts to help others. Keep up the fine work.

  7. My mother is still a jw and she told me yesterday after it aired and before I was able to watch it on my DVR that she didn’t want to watch it herself(she’s not allowed) but her and her congregation were so excited about it because it was just another way Jehovah was getting his name out there and it’s his way of witnessing to the world… what do you think of that statement? I was silent and she dropped the subject. But I was dying inside because I don’t know how to talk to my jw family. I grew up as a jw and have been out for several years baptized but fell away so I wouldn’t lose family. Thank you for all you do I love your videos it’s my therapy!!

  8. Hi Lloyd,
    You cant’t imagine the wonderful human being you are by sticking up on what is the real “truth” inside the jw.org . I was born in the “truth” and stayed inside for 30yrs. Left almost 15yrs ago. No words can describe the frustration and anger i feel inside for believing in something i thought it was pure and it came from God; that turned to be a big lie after all. So much time wasted going to meetings; bible study; preaching door to door; hoping that i would see the end of the system of things and reach paradise. Im living with depression , ptsd and fear of dying because of this organization. Hope that one day all of the people who shunned me and called me apostate will open their eyes. That’s all i can wish for.

  9. Lloyd, this was a great review of the show and your feelings. We expierienced this same feeling when in Portland Oregon for a A&E filming on the witnesses last year. We met Nate and the other two that lost their brothers and it was so very sad and moving. The set looked the same, amazing how they find these places everywhere 🙂 Thanks again for all you do and we are happy to be a part of supporting your work!

  10. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure sitting on my sofa with my friend. We both walked away from the cult four months ago and never looked back. As we sat with our box of tissues and wept with you guys we also cried for ourselves. We cried tears of joy as well because you guys were making it happen. Yes this tower-monster was being exposed for what it truly is. We are greatful to you because when we decided to walk away the only ray of hope we had was the videos. These let us know we were not alone. We found comfort in the truth you told. Please let us know if we can be of any help at any time. Once again thanks for a job well done. I just wonder where do we go from here.

  11. 🖤 This was the right thing to do. Good job Leah glad to hear you are fighting the good fight.
    I was sold as a child and there is no help for victims. Scary time we are living in. I will continue to do my part out here in Salinas Ca. 🥀

  12. I couldn’t agree more with those words. I have a story of my own as each one does. Including a District Overseer abuse among other things and faking it back into JW land to have a relationship with my special needs daughter but the Dec. abuse magazine broke this camels back and I wrote a long letter to all family members, and my daughter. It is so hard to explain to anyone who has not actually experienced this the quilt of bringing children up as JW’S and them remaining and you leaving. You deal with the shunning but also the quilt of putting a child into a cult. My father was disfellowshipped when I was a pioneer and I shunned him. He died of cancer. I will always regret the years missed because of this cult. I sent request to all my friends on facebook to watch the show and please and to pass on the request to their friends also. Who knows the impact. Even if one child is saved it is worth it. Thanks for all you do. Also please send a link that we can send a thank-you to A&E and Leah and MIke.

  13. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. You guys did a phenomenal job, you validated so many of us in the ex JW community. You did it with facts humanity and grace! I will forever be grateful to you and all the contributors and to Leah and Mike ❤️

  14. Managed to watch it yesterday and I’m still raw.

    What an incredible piece of tv. Absolutely fantastic, and so so so SO accurate.

    When I first heard about it I was nervous that the whole thing would be embellished, exaggerated into sensationalism purely to gather shock value viewers.

    But it was so accurate and factually correct I was staggered.
    Yes I cried.
    And yes I found myself re-evaluating everything I knew about myself.

    I’m also left feeling proud, so so proud of this movement, how we are fighting back.

    Finally- thankful! So thankful to you and everyone who gave a voice to us.

  15. I tried leaving a comment earlier, but I don’t see it so I will try again.

    I want to congratulate all of you on the accuracy of the program. Whenever I hear someone say something that isn’t true, or isn’t quite accurate, I know that this will give witnesses a reason to ignore everything else that is said.

    This program was remarkably well done, and I would love to write to Leah and Mike and thank them. Could you let us know the best way to do that?

    Thank you for all that you do. Please know that is very much appreciated.

  16. Beautifully written Lloyd. It was surreal to see the exposure, to hear the personal stories that were so close to my own. It was emotionally draining for me in the privacy of my home to watch. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster that those on the set had. Our stories have been blended together in a loud and clear voice to say, “Enough!, No more families should go through this! ” May we all breathe in a huge sigh of relief that we are strong and resilient.

  17. I am so pleased with the program! I was moved to tears during this documentary, at the same time filled with gratitude knowing that Watchtower is being exposed for all the world to see. Ex jws are being heard, they have a voice. Awsome. Thank you for your continued hard work. Were your Wife and daughter able to join you?

  18. Thank you so much Lloyd for all you do. And a huge heartfelt thank you as well to Leah, Mike and her incredible team. I could visibly see how moved and focused they were on listening and learning in this episode. Its clear that Scientology and Watchtower are very similar in many of their teachings and practices. So I am betting they truly related to it all. I was thrilled to see just how accurate and unexaggerated everything was. I doubt any practicing JW could watch it and find anything inaccurate in it. That truly shows how dedicated they were to wanting to help. Thank you to all of you! It could not have been easy. We are all eternally grateful for you and your amazing work.

  19. As a “worldly” child with my paternal cousins in the truth I could certainly shed some light on this cult. Fast forward to year 35 when my father died because he refused the transfusion that would save his life. My “better than me cousins” are a mess and I’m doing just fine. Funny how it all worked out.

  20. I am an ex-JW and agree that the show was honest and also upsetting to hear. My life continues to be affected. I feel I have little history. I’m fortunate in that my kids and one sister left at the same time as me so I’m not alone. I shall watch the documentary again with my husband (barrister so no use for him in the ‘new system’ haha). I wish current witnesses would watch it but I can’t imagine they would. They would view it as inviting Satan into their homes. I want to rescue my brother who is a bethelite with his wife. But I know any reaching out to him would be counterproductive. They can always fall back on the belief that they are expecting persecution and I don’t want to fuel that belief. It feels lose lose. What can we do? Thank you for speaking out.

  21. I am overwhelmed and overjoyed with this. The moment I saw Leah’s first episode I begged her via twitter post to expose JW’s. This is truly a monumental step forward. I hope those still “in” submit to their curiosity,watch, and think. If anything it is validation to those of us that have lost our families and friends to this
    Cult. Continue the fight! You have an army behind you Lloyd !!

  22. I was so impressed with how the show turned out. Everything was very factual and direct. It wasn’t an aggressive attack. I was born and raised in the congregation. Most of my family was witnesses growing up. And a lot still are. I watched the original airing of the show and the re-air on Sunday. I feel like I am sitting in the room with you all telling my life story. It’s a situation I haven’t fully escaped and has redirected my life many times. I wish I could sit down with you all and talk through my situation, because these are the only people who will really understand the struggle.

    One thing I wish had been covered, and maybe it was just cut out, was that you have to be baptized to end up DFed. And that children are allowed to get baptized as young as 8 and then held to that decision and standard for the rest of their lives.

    Thank you for helping bring this to people’s attention.

  23. Thank you so much for going public. All of you are very brave and displayed an enormous amout of courage for going public and sharing your stories. I was very moved by all of you and have the upmost respect. I am not, nor have I ever been a JW. My son’s father was though. And I have watched the PTSD, the anxiety, the isolation and pain he has gone through because of this so called “religion”. He has struggled with his relationship with GOD since he was disfellowshipped. I have met some very good people who belomg to this organization that are very confused and lost “brainwashed” and I have met several that were the “brainwashers”. I am the so called “wordly” woman that came into my son’s fathers life and tried to be supportive and let him know this was not the true christain way. And after 8 1/2 years of knowing this man and watching his emotional struggles and use of alcohol because of this belief system , him thinking he wasnt going to make it to “paradise earth” anyway has been so sad. He has had no piece of mind and no hope. He too watched the episode with me , and I saw a light in his eyes for the first time , he did not feel so alone , and he felt as though some things had been clarified for him that he had thought about the JW’S the whole time. So thank you , now maybe he too can gain some peace in his life, begin the healing process and break free from a lifetime of this teaching and abuse. AND know that GOD LOVES HIM AND ALL OF YOU! Well done!

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