For those who are not familiar with their practices, Jehovah’s Witnesses shun family members who leave the religion, no matter the reasons for having left. As many people know, I worked to edit the book, “The Least of God’s Priorities,” written by Bo Juel, who himself left the religion after being the victim of child sexual molestation and physical abuse, and his family shuns him to this day for that decision.
His situation is, unfortunately, not unusual. Note the following excerpt from the February, 2016, Watchtower study edition:
Lies and Assumptions
Let’s first examine the statement this “Anne” made to her mother, that the mother had cut herself off from the family. Well, obviously this isn’t true because the mother is the one who initiated communication with her daughter. The family cut the mother off by deciding to shun her and turn their backs on her.
Note too that Anne assumes that the mother was disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for “wrongdoing” and for being “unrepentant.” However, a person can be disfellowshipped from a congregation for simply disagreeing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses have failed repeatedly in predictions about the world’s end, and have had to change their teachings constantly over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see members who leave simply because they know that Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously have no special understanding of scripture or guidance from god.
Consider also the example I mentioned above, of activist Bo Juel. He left because the man who molested him was being welcomed back into the religion for the third time, and after having molested many other children. Also, as I bring out in this post, a woman can be disfellowshipped for not screaming and fighting when being raped.
The point is, it’s a huge assumption to make, that a person has been disfellowshipped only for “wrongdoing.”
Check the Bible
Interpretations of the bible are always up for grabs, and certainly Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own interpretation of scripture in order to justify this shunning arrangement. However, there are other scriptures that might be interpreted to show that shunning of your family, especially parents, is outright wrong. Note:
Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith. ~ 1 Timothy 5:8
The scripture doesn’t say anything about their religious beliefs, if they’ve been ousted from the congregation, or anything else. It simply says to provide for your own household.
Note another very damning scripture that might also be applied:
In reply he said to them: “Why do you overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Let the one who speaks abusively of his father or mother be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have that could beneﬁt you is a gift dedicated to God,” he need not honor his father at all.’ So you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you when he said ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, for they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” ~ Matthew 15: 3-9
Again, this scripture says nothing about the religious beliefs or standing of the parents in the congregation. Jesus even refers to these words as a “commandment” of god, not a mere suggestion or something that comes with caveats.
It also shows the seriousness of speaking “abusively” of one’s parents. If you outright lie by telling your parent that he or she abandoned the family when you’re the one doing the abandoning, and assume that they’ve been put out of the religion for “wrongdoing” and being “unrepentant,” wouldn’t that count as abusive speech?
“Honor your father and your mother” is also one of the ten commandments. This puts it right up there with telling people that they shouldn’t murder or steal or lie. Failure to “honor” your parents would then put you in the same class as murderers and thieves. Again, the command doesn’t say, “Until they decide on a different religion.” It doesn’t even say to stop doing this if they actually commit a gross sin!
Jehovah’s Witnesses choose to ignore these scriptures when it comes to shunning family. They choose to interpret other scriptures about shunning and not associating with those who have been ousted to mean that this includes anyone, even family, and also includes any association. They make a choice as to which scriptures to apply, and then quote-mine the scriptures that they feel justify their practices.
What is also obscene about this experience is that the very same magazine shared this example:
Consider carefully this story; “Alice” changed her religious beliefs after studying the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and for that, her family disowned her. Alice was “shocked and deeply hurt.”
To which I might respond by saying, It hurts, doesn’t it, when people treat you exactly the way you treat them.
Think about it; if Alice’s family were the ones to change religions by no longer being Jehovah’s Witnesses, she would have done exactly what Anne did to her mother and virtually disowned them. Yet, when family disown you for leaving another religion, you’re “shocked” and “deeply hurt.”
Does Anne not realize that perhaps her own mother is just as shocked and hurt by her actions? Jehovah’s Witnesses so easily express their hurt emotions at being shunned by their family, but never consider the emotions they put their own family through by doing the same thing to them.
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