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:
Those who simply fade from the religion, or who are called “inactive,” perhaps get a bit more leeway when it comes to shunning. 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. One discourse featured 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.
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)
And a snippet:
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 brought out on this site, a person can be disfellowshipped for simply disagreeing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, no matter how many times the religion might change their teachings.
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.
This new information now steps things up a notch, as it refers to 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 then 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 inactive ones may be virtually indistinguishable from Jehovah’s Witnesses, 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, and as this man uses in his discourse as an example of how to shun someone who is inactive?
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. Your religion’s leaders 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.
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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