Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dealing with Shunning

Shunning is a technique that the Watchtower uses not only to control their current members, but their former members as well. The Watchtower uses very effective methods of teaching their followers that former members (also called apostates, especially if the former member has joined a Christian church) are persons to be avoided and feared. When a Jehovah’s Witness is disfellowshipped, disassociated, or just walks away from the organization, he or she will be shunned. Family and friends are not only encouraged to shun the former member, but they are required to take steps to no speak to the former member and not even say hello to the person. The Watchtower teaches their members to practice rudeness to their former members. As someone who has experienced shunning very recently, here are some examples from my own family: While visiting a non-JW cousin in the hospital, the older brother of the non JW took it upon himself to turn his head the other way if I were nearby. If I said, “hello”, he just ignored me as though he did not hear me.

Another JW family member has literally turned her back toward me so she would not have to look at me. My own brother just reacts as though I am invisible.

My JW family members have behaved that way since I gave my life to Jesus Christ and have Jesus as my savior instead of accepting the Watchtower as my savior.

I believe that the Watchtower organization teaches their members shun their former members because they do not want the truth about their organization being told to by other family members who may have stumbled upon the real history and truth about the Watchtower organization. So the Watchtower builds fear and phobias against the former members. It is a “separate and destroy” type of mentality. Some examples are:

"What if we have a relative or a close friend who is disfellowshipped? Now our loyalty is on the line, not to that person, but to God. Jehovah is watching us to see whether we will abide by his command not to have contact with anyone who is disfellowshipped.—Read 1 Corinthians 5:11-13. 

Consider just one example of the good that can come when a family loyally upholds Jehovah’s decree not to associate with disfellowshipped relatives. A young man had been disfellowshipped for over ten years, during which time his father, mother, and four brothers “quit mixing in company” with him. At times, he tried to involve himself in their activities, but to their credit, each member of the family was steadfast in not having any contact with him. After he was reinstated, he said that he always missed the association with his family, especially at night when he was alone. But, he admitted, had the family associated with him even a little, that small dose would have satisfied him. However, because he did not receive even the slightest communication from any of his family, the burning desire to be with them became one motivating factor in his restoring his relationship with Jehovah."
 Watchtower 2012 Apr 15 p.12

"Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above everything else - including the family bond. … Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail." Watchtower 2013 Jan 15 p.16

"By cutting off contact with the disfellowshipped or disassociated one, you are showing that you hate the attitudes and actions that led to that outcome. However, you are also showing that you love the wrongdoer enough to do what is best for him or her. Your loyalty to Jehovah may increase the likelihood that the disciplined one will repent and return to Jehovah." Watchtower 2011 Feb 15 p.32

When it comes right down to it, the Watchtower teaches their followers to hold a grudge against the former member. This grudge can last many years, even forever. I have been out of the Watchtower since 1980 and became an Evangelical Christian in 1982. It has been over 34 years since I left the Watchtower and 32 years since becoming a Christian. They do not forgive me because they consider it a sin to leave them.  I have to understand that they may never forgive me as long as they remain in the Watchtower. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they are ‘in the truth” and that their religious organization is the only one that teaches the truth from the Bible, apparently they do not understand the concept of love and forgiveness from scripture.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:14-15 NIV)

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV)

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; (Daniel 9:9 NIV)

Christians reading this need to realize how much a former Jehovah’s Witness needs love and acceptance. Many are very afraid of Evangelical Christianity because they have been told stories about demons being in the church and paganism. When I was a JW, we were told that anyone who is a Pentecostal Christian is demon possessed if they speak in tongues. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses are told so many negative stories about the Christian church, it is very difficult to get them to come to church with you because of the fear that is instilled in them. They have been told that attending church services will make them an “apostate”. In the mind of the former JW, this is the last thing they want to have happen to them. I once had a lady come to my support group who admitted to promiscuous relationships, drugs, and alcohol. In her mind, none of this was as bad as becoming an “apostate.” She was very terrified of becoming an apostate.

Those of you who have never been in the Watchtower can learn to minister to these former members if you meet them. If you meet someone who is a former Watchtower follower, get to know them and bring them the love of Jesus Christ. Pray for them and pray for their mental and spiritual healing. Many of them are hurt and quite damaged from all the abuse they have suffered as the result of shunning and losing all of their friends and family. Do not preach at them and give them sermons. Just bring the love of Jesus Christ to them and let them know that Jesus truly loves them despite what the Watchtower has told them. Many of them even believe that they are deserving of this abusive shunning! Some scripture you may want to share with a former JW who does not know Jesus:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10 ESV) 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39 ESV) 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Eph. 2:8 ESV)

It took me awhile to understand all this once I realized the Watchtower is a false prophet and teaches false doctrines concerning the Bible. I had to get all the junk out my mind and all the triggers that caused fear and phobia. If you are helping a former JW go through this process, take it slowly. It took me a long time to realize that God really does love me and always has! There are many websites that give a lot of helpful information on debunking Watchtower doctrines and point out their false prophecies. A few examples are:

There are also in person support groups for former Jehovah’s Witnesses such as the one I run. It is very cathartic for the former JW to meet others like themselves so that they do not feel so alone. Help them to find such a group if they are available. There are many online groups too, but I believe it is much better to go to one meet in person, such as my monthly meetup group. Contact me if you are interested in this support group for yourself or someone you know.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to you. I am cut off by my family as well. though not as the same way as you have been. Thank you for sharing your story.