Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

The Watchtower Steps Up Their Demands to Shun, Even Family

Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses shun people who leave their religion, even family members, no matter their reasons for leaving. If someone has been disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for some perceived sin, including speaking out against the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their own family will cut off communication with them. This shunning includes blaming that shunned person for “leaving Jehovah” and for being the ones to abandon the family, even if the shunned person diligently tries to maintain a relationship with children, parents, siblings, etc. Note this example from the February, 2016, Watchtower study edition:

Capture anne

Capture anne2

Those who simply fade from the religion or who are called “inactive” perhaps get a bit more leeway; Jehovah’s Witnesses claim they reach out to these ones and try to encourage them to return, but I have rarely seen that happen. While family may keep up some type of contact with them, it’s usually somewhat limited as these ones are kept “at arm’s length.”

This is probably going to change after this summer, when Jehovah’s Witnesses have their round of regional conventions worldwide. I’ve been told by online sources that one discourse will be titled, “Shun Unrepentant Wrongdoers.” Here is the outline for that presentation, as it’s been given to me:

Jehovah’s justice benefits us
Jehovah’s law given to Moses protected God’s people physically and spiritually from bad or evil influences.
The Israelites’ loyalty was put to the test by some of these laws (Dt 13:1 -11)

Since the first century Jehovah has commanded us not to seek friendship or fellowship from unrepentant ones [Read 1 Cor 5:11 -13]
Disfellowshipping is a beneficial measure even though some from this permissive world consider it an excessive/cruel/radical (W15 4/15 29-31)
It helps keep Jehovah’s and his organization’s name clean. It protects us from bad associations, which includes messages from apostates or other opposers that are used to spread harmful ideas. (2Jn, 10, 11)
Disfellowshipping can help a sinner to return to Jehovah.

Loyal Christians should not associate with anyone “called a brother” and yet practices grave sin.
We have to do so even with unrepentant ones that have not been dealt by the congregation, like in the case of inactive ones.
It can be an especially tough test of our loyalty when the unrepentant sinner is a family member. We shouldn’t allow family ties to threaten our loyalty to Jehovah and his organization (w13, 1/15 15, 16 Paragraphs 16 – 20).
The following video will see how loyalty reaps benefits.
<video>

Jehovah understands the pain cause by the loss of a loved one.
Jehovah’s reaction to the rebellion of the people of Israel helps us understand how he felt when some of his spiritual children joined Satan’s rebellion (Sl 78:40, 41; w07 1/15 17, 18)
Jehovah does not let his emotions get the better of him. He punished the Israelites severely (Sl 78:60-62)
He also took measures against rebels in the spirit realm so he could protect the rest of his heavenly family (Jud 6; Rev 12:7-9)

Respect Jehovah’s discipline
Disfellowshipping can be a painful measure, but those that accept it are seen as righteous once again by God [Read Heb 12:11) (W12 4/15 12 paragraph 16)

Here they outright mention inactive ones, and discuss at length the need to shun family. They openly admit that disfellowshipping is used as a means to force people to come back to their religion, while talking bluntly about the need to “punish” those who leave.

Inactive Now Means Gravely Sinful

It’s interesting how Jehovah’s Witnesses say that those who have been disfellowshipped have committed serious sins, but this isn’t always the case. As I’ve brought out on this site before, a person can be disfellowshipped for simply disagreeing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, no matter how many times they change their teachings (see JWfacts.com for more detailed information about doctrinal flipflops over the years). My friend Bo Juel left the religion when the man who molested him and so many other children was welcomed back into the congregation for the third time; this too is not an uncommon reason for people to leave or to question the practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so why are they the ones who are sinful?

blasphemyThis information here now steps things up a notch, as it mentions those who are inactive, or simply not practicing the religion, as being “unrepentant.” It’s true that some inactive ones go off and live a life that would get them disfellowshipped from the religion, but some fade and simply live a life apart from the religion. They don’t cheat on their spouses, get drunk, take drugs, steal, beat people up, worship Satan, and so on. Some may be virtually indistinguishable from JWs, with the only exception that they don’t actively believe or practice the religion any longer. Yet, for this they are called “unrepentant,” and family are told to avoid them.

Also interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about how god punished the Israelites severely, in the context of shunning one’s family. How is this not blasphemy, putting yourself in the position of someone who needs to punish another person for sins they’ve supposedly committed? How does a child feel it’s their place to punish their parent, as “Anne” does in the example above?

Time for Introspection

If you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would strongly urge you to consider this information very carefully. Don’t simply dismiss my words as being from an “apostate,” but think of the information itself, not just the source. You’ve been told by a small group of men that they are god’s mouthpiece on earth, without anything to actually prove this; the governing body cannot perform miracles, predict the future, and so on. They have actually failed in many of their predictions and prophecies, meaning that you should openly question their authority and their “right” to tell you what to do. Obviously they don’t have some type of magic holy spirit guiding them, or they wouldn’t need to consistently change their understanding of bible verses and their own teaching! Can you point out any other true prophet or spokesperson in the bible who kept getting things wrong, time and again, including predictions? Probably not.

Consider too the misinterpretation of scripture that is used to justify this shunning process. Jesus said that a man’s enemies would be persons of his own household if they were to turn on that household and persecute them for believing in Jesus; he didn’t say that his followers should turn on them! Shouldn’t you carefully consider these words, in their proper context, along with the commands to “provide for your own household” and “honor your father and your mother”? Who are these men in New York to tell you to disobey those words?

Think carefully about those who leave, not so that they can go off and live a life of debauchery, but because they have real, genuine questions and concerns over the legitimacy of the religion. Consider those who’ve been the victims of child molestation, domestic violence, child abuse, and the like. Are you really ready to cast these ones off as sinful and needing punishment? You’re ready to explain that to your god one day?

Compare this practice to that of other “religions.” Scientologists have “suppressive persons,” or SPs, who are thought to be dangerous to Scientologists and what they believe, and SPs are avoided just like disfellowshipped ones. This includes family members, even children and parents. Do you look at Scientology and immediately think of how horrible they are, allowing their fallible church leaders to tell them to discard family because these ones leave the church of Scientology? Yet, you are willing to do the same thing? You recognize the ludicrous nature of this practice in one cult, but don’t see how yours is so very similar?

For those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses and who may simply be studying with them or contemplating joining, have you thought seriously about this information and what it means? Are you in agreement that those who simply step away from the religion need to be shunned and punished, even by their own family? Are you ready to be separated from your own family, or toss them aside in this same way, based on the words of some men who have failed miserably, time and again, to prove any type of actual direction or divine guidance from god?

I would strongly hope anyone and everyone reading this considers those words carefully. If you are ready to follow through and shun your family for nothing more than walking away from a religion that hides pedophiles, misinterprets scripture to prohibit blood transfusions even for their own children, grills and disfellowships rape victims, and thinks nothing of child abuse when hidden under the guide of “discipline,” you’ve got until this summer to say goodbye to them. Tick-tock.

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27 replies »

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim they teach against shunning now. At least, the ones I’ve locally spoken to. But I didn’t believe them when they said this, my gut said it was a lie. When I talk to a witness and they plaster on their fake smile and dole out niceties like it’s going out of style, I think back to when I was a child who didn’t even have enough years of life to commit any real “sin”, but I was shunned or disowned or bullied by the other kids (most of them elders’ children, of course) and basically shunned just for missing a meeting or not going in service enough. I hated the hall because every time we went we would come home abd I’d get whipped with my dad’s belt for being a kid. I’d be 3 years old, no I can’t sit still and be quiet that long, and of course I will run in the kingdom hall after a meeting is over and be active like a child who has been forced to sit still out of fear of the abuse that would later ensue if I did not… But I’d be so severely punished for this later after every meeting, this went on for years. Sometimes I’d even get spanked with the best in the hall bathroom. That was very humiliating. As an adult I still carry those scars with me, but I’m healing now that I understabd why they are there. I also remind myself that while they can act friendly at first, it isn’t until you have experience in their religion that you will fully understand the crucial need to turn down home visits and their material. Honestly, I truly believe JWs are narcassists. The ones I’ve known definitely are. There is also a major pecking order in this religion, which, if you are not a part of, will leave you high abd ddy, friendless and in constant worry of judgment. So as a kid I had the anxiety and fear of God and thunderstorms, but I also had a fear and the anxiety of my “friends” and the JWS too. Because of thus, I suffered severely with low self esteem. I had major trust issues, insecurity etc. I’m thankful to be past that part of ny life and recovered from the abuse of my past. This religion advocates and promotes abuse and they twist doctrine to support those agendas.

  2. Jesus ate with a tax collector and had a prostitute wash his feet in one bible account, and the Pharisees were appalled and asked him why he would dine with such “riff raff” basically, to which he replied in so many words, ” I am here to help sinners, the spiritually sick, not those spiritually “well”. Jehovah’s Witnesses are modern day Pharisees. Instead of helping the sick, they shun them and stick their noses in the air at they’re presence. They claim they will be the last religion standing when the United Nations supposedly “bans religion” as they claim the prophecy goes. But, if they can’t handle a family member having sex before marriage, or trying pot, to the point they have to shun them completely, how can such weak people supposedly endure this great persecution coming?? A Jehovah’s Witness would never do what Jesus did and dine with the “sinners” he came to help. They would instead label them “a goat” not worth even acknowledging. Ready for destruction. Its sick.
    I was unfortunately raised in this religion. I was excommunicated for trying pot as a young adult with depression. I lost my best friend and closest relative because of this. My sister married a complete psycho because of the religion. She is so physically sick now from his psychotic behavior and abuse, she will probably die early from it. She wouldn’t dare divorce him, they teach that divorce is sin.
    I miss my sister. I miss my best friend. I was surrounded by fanatics that call themselves “pioneers”. The ones spending the most time banging on doors and annoying people trying to go about their day. I was even pressured into becoming one by who I now consider to have been a possible pedophile. I was so miserable in this religion, and when I saw some one being shunned I made it a point to hold the door for them, and make eye contact and say hi so they didn’t feel a type pf rejection no one should feel. Even when in it I had this strong feeling something was wrong. Now I feel it every day. I battle a bad attitude towards other people everyday because of how being raised in this religion effects you. Its amazing how that self-righteous thinking clouds judgement,
    All I can say for sure is, if Jesus were here today and saw what they did, he’d treat them just like he did the Pharisees and fake religious fanatics of his day only out for glory and money…he’d shun them!
    If there is a god out there, he can’t consider this the only “true” religion otherwise the verse “God is love” is a lie.
    This religion is a virus that will infect and destroy family bonds. If it wasn’t for it, my sister would have married some one she deserved, we’d be close, and I’d have the emotional love and support most people take for granted from their families. My sister didn’t even call me when I had got deathly ill, or after the birth of my daughter. She has never even made the effort to meet her niece who is now three.
    This fanatical religion will destroy your family, and try to make you think they are some how wicked and its a sign you must avoid them. Never listen. If anything is sacred, it is the bond between family members. I know many witnesses I still consider good people, its is the leadership of this “organization” that is corrupt.

    • I never understood shunning, but after seeing how things are on the “inside”, I now know they shun because if they allowed active JWs to socialize with a person who left the organization, they might leave as well. If enough people begin to see that the JW’s who are shunning are usually the worst sinners, they would leave and then where would the money come from to run the organization?

  3. My parents, grandparents, and now kids are shunning me.

    I’m a father of three teenage daughters and was married for 19 years – all as a JW. Parents, Grandparents, 1/2 of my extended family are in – was raised in it. Disassociated myself at the age of 37, politely, explained to elders and family that I just didn’t believe it anymore and I didn’t want my family policing me if I tried to fade away. Just wanted to be up front and honorable about it. Parents, grandparents, everyone shunned – and I mean total cutoff. I’m an only child. Wife stayed a witness, same with kids. Was a prisoner in my own home (they went out with friends, I could not go, had to hide, etc)

    FFWD 4 years later, I’ve had split custody of my kids. My ex fought to give me ZERO time in court. I’m a good dad, loving person – it doesn’t matter. I never brought up religion with my girls and treated them respectfully, supporting whatever path they took. My oldest daughter (20) is now shunning me. We were the closest. My two other daughters, soon to be 18, will likely follow suit. My ex wife’s new boyfriend sleeps at my parents house when he visits. It’s truly disturbing.

    I don’t regret it. But this seems like it should be illegal. An organization that teaches children to walk away from their own parents – I’m unsure how the blanket of “religious organization” gives them latitude to do this.

    • What if my whole family bought a membership to a gym – we all dedicated ourselves to healthy living and exercise. But I decide to stop going? If that Gym instructed members, including my own kids, to treat me as an outcast – to bully me into returning while distancing themselves from unhealthy people – I’m pretty confident there’d minimally be slander lawsuits galore.

      Along with that, minimum age to sign up for membership at a gym is 18. Yet I’ve seen 10 year olds get baptized as Witnesses, making life commitments that are frankly more serious than joining the military.

      This needs to change.

    • I was always happy I wasn’t a JW long enough to make friends I would truly miss. They give their so-called God chosen elders way too much power and respect. I left because an elder was rude and disrespectful to me and I was not going to allow him to make jokes at my expense any longer. Would you believe I was told I should tell him how I feel and that I did not have a forgiving heart? And if I loved Jehovah, I would continue to attend meetings and go out on service! I am a God fearing christian but I also have a little self respect as well.

  4. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, got baptized early fully believing in the authority the elders have and that they’re appointed by holy spirit and such. However, even from an early age I easily saw how they have have a confusing way of interpreting the bible. To top it off, it was easy for me as a child to see how the elders spread a lot of personal opinions and how a lot of them mistreated my family. Within the congregation instead of seeing the love and unity that was supposed to exist, i just saw how everyone talks negatively and judges everyone around them for the most futile things. Nevertheless I chose to ignore it and follow the “Truth” because that’s what Jehovah supposedly wanted me to do. This lead to me being heavily bullied by those in the congregation because I received a lot of recognition and “privileges” (an expression used to make it seem like we earned a right to work for free while they pocket millions and millions of dollars of donations). they spread lies about my family and I, accusing us of the worst things, even accusing my mother of disloyalty to my father, while she was extremely devoted to us and him 100% of the time through hard times and good times. This led me to completely lose faith in them and so I went out and got a girlfriend to be cool like the other kids and also to have some much needed companionship. Her elder father was so abusive that unfortunately she ended up committing suicide which basically drove me crazy and led me on a path of drug abuse and other things. Unfortunately I ended up overdosing twice when I was 17 and fortunately I survived. shortly after I decided to get clean, I sobered up and went back to the elders for help. a well meaning elder decided that it was best to help me personally and keep it a secret from the congregation, which i thought was a good idea. Thankfully it worked, and I’ve been sober ever since, but, now in clean moral standing i returned to a different congregation where I found that a large number of teens and adults were engaged in drugs, and many many other disgusting things, one of which was a pedophile who was allowed to stay by the elders, and no measures were taken to protect any of the children many of which i found out ended up being sexually abused by him. Again as a teen I made a mistake and went to the elders for counsel and they completely ignored me, for 3 years none of them met with me, yet somehow attempted to talk to my father and convince him they needed to disfellowship me. I was enraged and left the congregation with much disgust. at some point my mother convinced me things had changed and i should give them another chance, which the part of me that wanted to see some good in the congregation believed and so i went back. almost immediately the elder who had helped me claimed he had no idea of my drug use and accused me of lying and they disfellowshipped me without even discussing anything with me. I protested this but they refused to listen to anything i said and claimed I was unrepentant because i didn’t go to meetings, although it had been over three years since i had taken any drugs and had done everything to come clean about it years prior to this. Shortly after I was kicked out by my family, my sister refuses to talk to me with them fully knowing the truth. I cannot be more disgusted with this religion that brainwashes its subjects to abandon their families and then claims that its some sort of loving arrangement. Sorry for the long rant but what I wrote is the truth, and has affected me tremendously, fortunately I still am sober and have a great career but cant help but miss my family regularly, and they harshly refuse to talk to me. Anyone that is studying, or attempting to join or anything needs to be warned, and to run away in the opposite direction as fast as possible.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. The more personal stories we get of how “unspiritual” the religion is, the better. People should look past the surface and realize there is nothing special about this religion, the elders, or anything.

    • I surely understand what you mean. I was baptised at age 21. I married a man who was a witness. This man was abusive to me in any way possible. I kept telling the elders and they just kept talking to him without disfellowshipping him. I eventually left him and eventually met another man and of course I was disfellowshipped because of that. I tried to get reinstated once with the 21 years that I’ve been disfellowshipped. I went back regularly to meetings for 6 months and wrote a letter asking to be reinstated but I was denied and told that I wasn’t ready yet. I have one child who is a jehovahs witness who’ve I’ve been in regular contact with for the past 7 years, however she just went to the 2016 convention and since then I’ve gotten a letter from her telling me that she can never communicate with me again under no circumstances unless it’s a life or death situation or unless I get reinstated. I’ve been crying for days and don’t know what to do. How did you all handle being in this situation with a child or family member?

      • I also don’t know other than trying to cope. It’s a process of mourning and grieving. I have to miss my sister for example and there are many others facing similar situations. If you feel really down try seeing a therapist, this may help.

      • I too was raised as JW….I was married 23 years to JW and have two sons. I was in a very unhappy marriage and turned to alcohol (both parents were former alcoholics and JW). I was subsequently disfellowshipped and divorced. My mom and dad took me in until they received too much pressure from my family and Elders. I was left homeless with nowhere to go. I’ve since gotten sober and met a wonderful man. My family will have nothing to do with me. This hurts the worst from my son’s. I will be having a granddaughter born next month but not be able to witness it. I thought maybe my family would just be happy about my sobriety. Very depressed and feel unworthy if anything.

    • I have a lot of similarities to your story, my parents were/are devoted in JW its their whole lives they would and have given up everything for it being converted to it at age 30 or 40 at the same time. i fully believed the jws and thought te elders were god inspired and really believed everything I was told.I also noticed the pettyness and the judging and negativity but that became my personality too until I left. Our family was not liked by elders as my dad would pull them up on their wrongdoing or hypocrisy and my family were bullied by elders for years we moved halls a lot and our ‘dossier’ followed us so elders there would treat us the same way, eventually we moved back to our original hall and the elders there told the youth not to associate with us even though we were devout and had done nothing wrong and they also disfellowshipped my dad for some trumped up charges something like ‘you made a sister cry one day’ (elders wife coincidently) and ‘you swore at an elder on the phone’. he went through numerous judicials – lengthy kangaroo courts before being dfed, we wrote many LONG long letters to the society who didnt bother replying for ages and couldnt care less when they eventually responded in a cold distant letter and my dad the regular pioneer of many years was DFd for 4 years. I found the elders to be complicit in arranging his removal they hated him, there was loads of evidence of elders lying, abusing power, and being corrupt in lots of halls and just plain petty. My doubts that the society were from God started at that point when I realised they did not give a flying fuck. When I was booted out of my family home for having a boyfriend and refusing to stop seeing him I was rock bottom my whole world collapsed in one day and I started having massive panic attacks and crying everyday for 3 years i was depressed and moved to drugs quite quickly I didnt care if I died. Id grown up being taught not to care about this life so it was easy. and I went hard on the drugs I’ve tried most drugs and 2 years ago I got into a really bad addiction and nearly died of overdose. I am clean now altho I still have the odd dabble at a party for fun but since I left the JWs drugs had filled the void of not having proper family and realising i didnt have much of a childhood, it made me not think about it. I wonder how many ex JW got heavy into drugs? It hurts so much that my family shut me out it really hurts. I used to use drugs to cover that hurt but it was bad for me in the long run

  5. Thanks for the article, Alexandra. I had occasion to tackle this subject myself (thinkingwitnesses.org).
    From someone who knows the effort it takes to write a good article, trust me when say: this is well-written.

  6. I’m curious what the exact wording is going to be at the convention. Especially about the inactive ones.

    “We have to do so even with unrepentant ones that have not been dealt by the congregation, like in the case of inactive ones.”

    This can also mean to shun all those who practice grave sin, and that they mention inactive ones because those are usually not hunted down by elders. (Many exception stories exist though!) This would mean it’s not necessary to shun not-gravely-sinning inactive ones. So I’m doubting somewhat your caption “Inactive Now Means Gravely Sinful.”

    • You may be right, but even if they pinpoint inactive one who are specifically sinning, I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of JWs interpret this to mean that inactive itself is a sin, or that they should start looking for those sins and excuses to shun.

      • I agree- it is when they say one thing, but they actually mean another. It is carefully worded so that a lot of JWs will interpret it to be saying shun inactive ones- but they have the loophole in the way they worded it, so it can’t be used against them later. Mark my words- things are gonna get extra chilly this summer for us faders.

  7. ‘Leaving Jehovah’ is a mind control phrase just like ‘left the truth’. The Watchtower uses dozens simple hypnotic suggestions to control JW’s. They call it ‘theocratic language’. Leaving the Watchtower is not the same as ‘leaving Jehovah’. Leaving ‘the truth’ is also nonsense. The Watchtower doesn’t have a monopoly on ‘the truth’. They can make mistakes and tomorrow’s ‘new light’ may be different from today’s ‘new light’. ‘Leaving the truth’ is a phrase that controls minds. Victims feel guilty and compelled to go back. JW’s are NOT leaving ‘the truth’. They are leaving because they no longer agree with some or all Watchtower doctrines. Changing your religion is not a sin. The Watchtower twists the truth to control minds.

    • Over the past year I’ve been even more frozen out of my sisters life – she used to visit me in the summer holidays with her kids and the cousins would play for the day and have loads of fun and she wont visit me anymore I can only see her at my mums and that is generally one time a year or twice if im lucky. I miss her so much she was m best friend before I left 12 years ago. They never say why they just leave you out of stuff and I kept wondering why she wont see me I havent seen her at all this summer holidays and Ive met her new baby (nearly 1 YO now) one time at 3 months. thats why I googled whether JWs have said anything recently about shunning inactive people and I found this site. I like the way you worded that end bit it made me laugh even tho its not funny!

  8. JWs need to feel pious or “righteous overmuch,” to borrow a phrase, and, therefore, they must avoid all who know that the Watchtower “emperor is naked.” This is the only explanation for their policy of shunning exemplary Christians who have left the religion for conscientious reasons or those who have simply faded and become inactive.

  9. Talk about a coincident, the two sisters who studied with me made a surprise visit to me today to ask how I was doing and brought me Watchtowers and meeting workbooks. I told them I still felt the same way about what the elder did and that I felt he was a hypocrite. I also told them I could never accept correction from a person like him who thought it was OK to be rude just because he was an elder and could get away with it. They reminded me who put him in that position. I said I have been studying the bible diligently and I feel I know Jehovah well and I don’t believe Jehovah put him in that position and I also feel Jehovah is not happy with the way I was treated. They just said that I am making Satan happy by not going to the meetings.

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