When you meet someone with a name like Danmera Dinglebum, you know there must be a juicy story to be told. My task now is to show and tell you that story, and explain why I think Danmera is such a remarkable person. What she has accomplished in the last year-and-a-half is mind-boggling. That said, at some point in the journey you will likely want to ask her, albeit incredulously: “Why did it take so long?” Even now, as I punch out her story on my keyboard, I pinch myself. Only in JW-La-La Land could anything like this happen.
Danmera is feisty, passionate and in-your-face whenever you see her. But she hasn’t always been known by that name. You see, Danmera Dinglebum is the two-year-old pseudonym of Mickey Hudson, who was born during the summertime in the mid-sixties, on one of those few days when it did rain in southern California.
At age three, Mickey’s life took a bizarre twist when a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) knocked on the door. Mickey’s mother was a single mom, trying to cope with three fatherless kids, of which Mickey was the oldest. It was like boy meets girl, and you know how that turns out. Mickey’s family of four started attending the Kingdom Hall. When she was five, her mom married a JW elder, thus sealing Mickey’s childhood fate.
Until Mickey went to public school she thought everyone was a JW. She had no problem with not celebrating holidays and birthdays as a kid. Not saluting the flag, however, made her feel unnervingly different. She didn’t like it. Still, she believed JWs had the truth. Armageddon was the real deal, and all non JWs wouldn’t make the final cut during the forthcoming slaughter fest.
A rude awakening
All was well until she started babysitting at age twelve. On one occasion, after putting the kids to bed, Mickey decided to explore the master bathroom – just to sneak a peek at all that make-up and jewelry that kept Sister Porter looking so attractive. She would be like a little princess, pretending she was all grown up.
Then she started opening drawers. Nestled atop a pair of skimpy panties was a Hustler-like magazine. Mickey gasped! She should have quietly closed the drawer, but she was curious. She picked the magazine up and started turning pages. Graphic scenes of copulation and oral sex burst into view. It was hard-core pornography, something Jehovah finds repulsive. Filled with guilt and shame, she decided to never again baby-sit for this couple.
The next day, Mickey informed her mom of her sudden resolve not to baby-sit for this family any longer. When asked why, Mickey remained tight-lipped. However, after nearly two hours of relentless badgering, she finally caved in. Two weeks later, Mickey was asked to appear as a witness at a Judicial Committee hearing. In attendance were three elders and Brother & Sister Porter. Mickey was asked several questions, explaining what she had seen during that fateful night.
Back at the Hall a week later, the Presiding Overseer announced that he was saddened to report that the Porter’s had been disfellowshipped for conduct unbecoming a Christian. This was necessary business if God’s spirit was to flow freely in their congregation. No one was told that this decision was based on a sexually repressive policy that made it the elders’ business to monitor what goes in a married couple’s bedroom.
It was easy for Mickey to decipher the crime, but she was very troubled by what she had just heard. Not yet old enough to comprehend things like invasion of privacy and elder voyeurism, she saw herself as the guilty party. If only she hadn’t snitched. It was a traumatic moment, deeply scarring her self-esteem. Though she never stopped believing that JWs had the truth, life was never the same from then on.
“Why aren’t you baptized?”
When Mickey was fourteen she enthusiastically greeted her visiting Circuit Overseer (CO) before a meeting. After exchanging small talk, he stunned her with a question.
“Mickey, why aren’t you baptized?” he enquired. It wasn’t like she hadn’t heard the question before. Her parents had asked her about this several times, since it was a black spot on her elder dad’s otherwise gleaming resume. But this was the CO, and having him interrogate her on this issue spooked her.
Mickey admits that, as a kid, she could be stubborn at times. Tell her to go south and she headed north. But stubbornness had nothing to do with her decision on baptism. She genuinely believed she simply wasn’t ready. Jesus didn’t get baptized until he was thirty, and no one put him in the dock. She was not ready, and no amount of guilt tripping could get her to change her mind.
After the CO’s visit, her dad was removed as an elder. Shortly thereafter, Mickey was asked to appear at a judicial hearing, where three self-righteous old men ganged up on her on the issue of baptism. It seemed she had brought reproach upon her dad, but all would go well if she did the right thing. She refused, explaining the reason once again. A week later, at a meeting that Mickey attended, a talk was given in which she was labelled a marked person – a bad associate for the younger members at the Hall.
At this point I asked Mickey: “Didn’t you start to think that this might just be a man-made group of high-control religious fanatics? That surely the Big Guy upstairs was not directing this religious group, and that many JW leaders are unjust men?”
“Nope, I could not see it.” Mickey replied. “I thought it was the truth and it was me who wasn’t good enough to live up to the high standards needed to get me into the new world.”
From bad to worse
Aged sixteen, and by now a bit of a rebel, Mickey was summoned to attend her third JW judicial hearing. She had been seen smoking at school. She didn’t deny it, and again everyone in her congregation was informed of this rebel’s unchristian conduct.
Not long after, while working full-time at age seventeen, she arrived home late from work one evening to find three elders sitting in the living room with her parents. Everyone looked somber. Mickey’s mom was the first to speak, telling Mickey that she was a disgrace to Jehovah and His divinely inspired organization. Things would have to change. Otherwise, she could no longer live in their house.
Mickey glared at everyone in the room. Without a word, she walked into her bedroom, packed her clothes, and left without saying goodbye. Over the next two nights, she stayed with a worldly friend. Then she found a small, shabby apartment to rent, learning quickly what it was like to live alone.
After several months, she could barely pay her bills, and felt very unloved. She had hit rock bottom. This wasn’t how she wanted to live the rest of her life. Since she knew that her parent’s religion was “the truth,” she decided to venture back. She would tell Mom, Dad and the elders that she was sorry, and start attending all the meetings.
Mickey abandoned her worldly friends and tried to console herself with those JWs who could tolerate a young lady with a reputation as a rule breaker. Unsurprisingly, not many people at the Hall her age wanted to associate with her, partly because she still wouldn’t get baptized. So when a young man, a baptized brother at her Hall, took an interest in her, she was smitten. They started dating and decided if they didn’t want to commit the big sin against God’s spirit—sex before marriage—they should get married. Not very romantic, but if you’re a good JW, that is how it goes.
The nightmare begins
They were married in a small chapel, not the Hall, with many JWs wishing them well. However, her new husband was not what he appeared to be at the Hall. It turned out that he was a heavy drinker and enjoyed tripping on drugs when he was feeling down. If that wasn’t bad enough, when Mickey did not meet his high expectations, he treated her like a human punching bag. He thought nothing of hitting his wife whenever he was angry.
If the blows were on Mickey’s face or arms, he didn’t seem to care whether it left deep purple bruises visible for all to see. When Mickey reported these abuses to her parents and the elders, this was roughly their response: “Mickey, you have made your bed, what else can you expect? You need to be more submissive to your husband, and be sensitive to his mood swings. You have most likely done something to trigger his violent behavior.”
When Mickey became pregnant and a beautiful daughter joined the family, Mickey thought things might change. But they didn’t. Yes, there were good days – but it was always two steps forward, three steps back. Finally Mickey decided she’d had enough. She’d been told over and over that you don’t hit back – you just stoically take the beating. It will all end soon. But this time, she decided to fight back. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and she filed for divorce.
Mickey wanted nothing to do with the JWs who had advised her to suck it up and take the beatings – to wait on Jehovah because He would make things better if she “just hung in there” and didn’t divorce the brute. She was desperate to escape, and thought it best that her mother-in-law raise her daughter.
A difficult journey
Mickey found a good full-time job as a medical assistant for a doctor who specialized in helping HIV patients. During this time, she was befriended by many in her local community who helped her find a safe place to live. They made her feel special, and encouraged her to think for herself. Though she still believed JWs had “the truth,” she began to have second thoughts on a number of issues. Still a troubled soul, Mickey started binge drinking when she was away from her work.
At age twenty-three, Mickey decided she needed a change of scenery. She figured if she moved to Texas, near her extended family, she could stop drinking and turn her life around. Unfortunately, in this new environment she proceeded to make one bad decision after another. In her mind, if she was going to die at Armageddon (and she knew she would), she would give Jehovah good cause for murdering her. For the next five years, Mickey lived on the wild side.
At age twenty-eight, Mickey hit deep-bedrock bottom. She had done it all, but was ready to work her way back. She joined Alcoholics Anonymous, stayed sober, and slowly started making friends with people who knew how to think for themselves. Staying focused, she learned new skills. Her self-esteem blossomed. At thirty-one she met a real man – a loving man, her “Mr. Don.” They started a new life together. A year later, they moved to New England where Don’s family lived.
Mickey became a productive member of society, living with a man who allowed her the time and space to be who she was. Their relationship was not about control – it was a partnership. Mickey took a sewing class and discovered her bliss. A born teacher, she was so good at her new craft that she was asked to teach it to others.
A pull from her past
Life was good, but something was missing. Inexplicably, she still felt deep down in her heart that JWs had the truth. At age forty-four (she is now forty-six), she told her husband Don that she wanted to go back. It was time to live the rest of her life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe, if she did well, both her and Don could survive Armageddon and live forever in God’s new world.
Most husbands would have thrown a hissy fit, but not Don – one of those rare birds, one of Mickey’s very good decisions in life. He said it would be fine if that was what Mickey wanted. He just needed reassurance that she’d respect his beliefs as an atheist. This was no problem for Mickey, since she knew that Don was a good person and not the evil guy that most JWs have in mind when they think of non-believers.
Mickey also promised Don that she would thoroughly research JW doctrines before going back. She needed to acquire a balanced understanding of the history and practices of the Watch Tower Society.
She knew JWs had incorrectly predicted Armageddon in 1975, and she was dubious about a few other things. However, in her mind, something might be wrong with her – something she couldn’t see. And of course, she knew she couldn’t read apostate literature in her research process.
In 2010, still convinced that JWs had the truth, Mickey agreed to a Bible Study with a JW. However, Mickey insisted that no books be used – just the Bible. For three months, once a week, it was one or two verses here, more verses there. Talk, more talk, and connecting the dots. Mickey wanted to believe, but noticed her conductor was always cherry-picking scriptures, often out of context. At times, Mickey would marvel at how weak the arguments were.
Mickey remembers her last study on the subject of baptism, and how she was told that she needed to acknowledge JWs as being God’s spirit directed organization. That was the final straw. She brought her Bible study to a swift end. At this point, she knew she needed to begin her own “no holds barred” research of JW beliefs and policies.
For six straight weeks she would spend time on the internet and at her local library. Some days she’d start at 7:00 AM in the morning and study through until midnight. One of the most shocking discoveries was the blatant hypocrisy of the Watchtower related to the United Nations. Even more onerous were the JW policies surrounding child abuse. The Society treats child molestation as a sin and not a crime, and pedophiles are protected within the congregation if they are deemed to show repentance.
The penny finally drops
And so it happened. On June 2011, after ten months of intensive research, Mickey knew it was all smoke and mirrors. What JWs believe is based on lies and misinformation. Armageddon is a joke, a scare tactic to keep followers in line. She saw the religion for what it was – a dangerous high-control group that wants to do all the thinking for its followers.
Not only has history given JWs a failing grade – their doctrines, in many cases, are not supported by credible Bible scholars. In particular, two JW policies related to shunning and domestic violence directly contributed to the hardships she herself had experienced as a child and young adult. So, at age forty-four, she had finally figured it out. JWs don’t have the truth.
All of this presents something of an anomaly. How could she have lived through the first forty-four years of her life, given her poor treatment, and still think that JWs have the truth? Why did it take her so long?
Before I let Mickey answer that question, I want you to know that her ten months of intensive research ignited a raging fire in her belly. For her, silence was now consent. She had to speak out, and she needed a new persona—Danmera Dinglebum—to be her spokesperson. It gets a little confusing here, as I’m not sure if it was Danmera or Mickey who produced the first of what would be 169 YouTube videos on July 11th 2011, lambasting unjust Watchtower policies.
A good friend of mine related the moment when she saw one of the very first Danmera videos. In her words, “The first one I saw, she was really angry so I wasn’t sure how to take her. The more I watched, the more I got to see her true personality. She really has a lot to say. It’s funny how she’s being shunned when she never even got baptized.”
Mickey is an extremely bright and resilient person. She is not afraid to challenge the slightest bit of stupidity. If she errs, it will not be on omission. But if you point out poor judgment on her part, she’ll respond quickly and gracefully. I know very few people who are as passionate about injustice and match that passion with their actions. And as resourceful as she is, she is one of the most unassuming people I know.
A Dinglebum is born
Those who are already fans of Mickey and the many YouTube videos she has made under the guise of Danmera will perhaps be wondering how she stumbled on her alter-ego. Well, the story of Danmera Dinglebum is slightly complicated, so I will let Mickey tell it herself.
“Danmera was my YouTube name long before I ‘woke up’ to the Watchtower. I signed up for it in 2006 to watch farting cats and laughing babies. Silly stuff. When I did ‘wake up’, I already had a channel set up. My intention was to do only one video. I was appalled by the fact that it was all a big hoax and I went off on a rant, but it was therapeutic each time I did it. So the next video I do—number 170—should be just as cathartic.
“The name Danmera came from a computer game. The computer generated names, and I liked this one. In the game, I was a warrior. I haven’t played it in years. Too busy producing videos to help people get out of that silly religion.
“Since I have made videos under the Danmera pseudonym, I’m comfortable with Danmera for this part of my life. When I later joined ex-JW Facebook, I just carried over the name. There are many people in the ex-JW community who only know me by Danmera, but there are some who know me by my real name. It’s not a secret. It’s just the way it turned out, ‘a rose by any other name’ kind of thing.
“The image in my avatar—Danmera’s icon—is Captain Kathryn Janeway from the Star Trek Voyager television show. After a few videos, someone said that I reminded them of Janeway. Being a big fan, I thought I could work with that. I added Sparlock the Warrior Wizard’s hat later, photoshopping it on.”
If you have not seen Danmera’s YouTube videos, you are in for a treat. One great example of her patient reasoning skills in full swing can be seen below. And you will see from the comments on her videos that she has developed an impressive JW following. It is a testament to her sincerity and teaching skills. Here is a woman who has been there, done that, and knows how to communicate and connect with all kinds of people.
Nevertheless, the question still baffles me: “Why did it take so long for Mickey to see that this religion is all about old men making up stuff about God, demons, apostates, blood transfusions, people never growing old and God being a mass murderer at Armageddon?” This is how Mickey answered that question.
“It’s all about mind-control, controlling people’s thoughts. JWs do it as well as anyone. They program you with death at Armageddon unless…., repetition, and ‘we’re God’s chosen people’. Their dogma is just that, and I personally couldn’t care less if that’s what people want to believe.
“But what gets my dander up is that the Watchtower tries to make you think that it’s demonic to think for yourself. It’s all about guilt and fear and a promise of everlasting life if you do what they say you should do. I know that lots of smart people get sucked in.
“Unless you get de-programmed, you live your whole life thinking it’s the truth, because that’s what was ingrained into you as a child. Yes, for me, it was a huge adjustment when I got out, but with a good support system to help me, I made it work.”
Mickey’s long journey trying to find evidence to support what she had been taught as a child was “the truth” is not that uncommon. If it’s any consolation, I would like to end this story with one of Mickey’s favorite quotes from a Mark Twain classic. “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
For further information on the Society’s damaging policies regarding domestic abuse, please click here.