Real Life Experiences
Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Stance on ShunningSubmitted by Andrew on September 19, 2012 - 12:57 pm 24 Comments
I have heard it for many years, and I’ve seen quite a few comments on JWB, that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not shun former members. I’ve been called a liar, an apostate, and worse, each time I point out that this shunning behaviour is the sign of a cult.
Well, brothers and sisters, let’s turn to the Watchtower Society and see what they have to say about it. After all, for most Jehovah’s Witnesses, what the Watchtower says is the final word on any issue.
On the official Jehovah’s Witness website, there is an FAQ entitled, “Do You Shun Former Members of Your Religion?”
The article begins like this, and see if you can spot the initial deception.
Those who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer preach to others, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, we reach out to them and try to rekindle their spiritual interest.
Did you get it? Let me point it out just in case you didn’t. Is that paragraph talking about former members? No. They are talking about ‘inactive’ ones, not ‘disfellowshipped’ ones. So most people would read this first paragraph, see the ‘not’ in italics, nod their head in agreement that they don’t shun, and carry on their lives. But not me. I kept reading.
The second paragraph says:
If, however, a baptized Witness makes a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code and does not repent, he or she will be shunned or disfellowshipped.
Tada! They admit it. Disfellowshipped people get shunned. Plain and simple. No two ways about it. Jehovah’s Witnesses official stance is that former members of their religion get shunned. In fact, the above sentence also indicates that being shunned is the same as being disfellowshipped. Being disfellowshipped means being shunned. (I threw the italics in there because the Watchtower inspired me. It was that or holy spirit.)
What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah’s Witnesses? The religious ties he had with his family change, but blood ties remain. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings continue.
Ah! So if a man gets disfellowshipped, the marriage changes but carries on as normal… Are you confused? I certainly am. Let’s use an example. Say a husband gets disfellowshipped. All Jehovah’s Witness friends start to shun him. Obviously this can cause some stress in a marriage where a wife would want to carry on associating with people who treat her husband in such a way. Many marriages do carry on and problems get ironed out, but to say ‘normal family affections… continue’ is just a load of rubbish. Many Jehovah’s Witness marriages end in divorce when one member gets disfellowshipped.
That ‘normal family affections’ bit… That just isn’t true. I stopped being a JW only for my step-mother – the woman who raised me – to completely disown me and shun me. There are countless examples of teenage children being kicked out of their family home and shunned – here is a powerful example I encourage you all to read.
The shunning policy always seemed a bit harsh to me. I mean, I stopped believing that Jehovah’s Witnesses were the true religion. That’s all I did. I didn’t kill anyone or rape a child (which I might have gotten away with if you consider the JW policy on child abuse…). I simply had a different opinion to them. My punishment was to be completely shunned and disowned. I had the same punishment as someone who would get disfellowshipped for committing a crime.
The article concludes:
Disfellowshipped people who reject improper conduct and demonstrate a sincere desire to live by the Bible’s standards are always welcome to become members of the congregation again.
So what is ‘impoper conduct’, or grounds for being disfellowshipped? Well, in the Watchtower Study Edition of November 2006, it says “ Disfellowshipping takes place only if a member of the congregation unrepentantly engages in gross sin”.
A ‘gross sin’ sounds pretty bad. That must be like doing something illegal, right? Well, you can be disfellowshipped for having a different opinion to them, wearing clothes they don’t approve of in the Kingdom Hall, letting your child play with a Warrior Wizard toy, watching a magic show and even for saving your child’s life by giving him or her a blood transfusion. You can be disfellowshipped for going to the police when your child has been abused by a fellow Jehovah’s Witness. You can be disfellowshipped for reading JWB! Don’t believe me? If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness reading this, go to your elders and tell them you read JWB and will continue doing so. Basically anything you do that they don’t like, no matter how small, can be counted as a ‘gross sin’.
Before I finish up this article, I want to point you to the Wikipedia article on Shunning, which points out (with references) that “Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture.” Yes, folks, it is not an over-exaggeration to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses torture former members. Some people have committed suicide as a direct result of their friends and families shunning them in line with Jehovah’s Witness policies. According to several reports, Jehovah’s Witnesses commit suicide at a rate far exceeding (5-10 times greater) the general US population!
The article also says that there are two main reasons why shunning takes place. 1. To modify the behaviour of a member, and 2. To remove or limit the influence of a member. Yep. I thought it too – “Cult”.
So, don’t ever let a Jehovah’s Witness tell you that they don’t ‘shun’ former members and call you a liar. It says they do, in context, right there on their website. They’ll try and justify it to you and themselves, but at the end of the day, that sort of behaviour is a clear cut sign that they are a controlling cult.