The March, 2018, Watchtower simplified edition contains a study article titled, “Listen to Discipline and Become Wise.” This article, like so many others in Watchtower literature, refers to disfellowshipping, or excommunication and subsequent shunning, as “Jehovah’s discipline,” or an arrangement from god himself.
As usual, the magazine says nothing about all the many reasons why a person might be disfellowshipped, including behaviors that are not condemned in the bible, such as gambling, “extreme physical uncleanness,” “obscene speech,” use of tobacco, taking up professional boxing, and disagreeing with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses.¹ Child sex abuse victims have even been threatened with disfellowshipping for wanting to report their abuser to the authorities,² and a rape victim can be disfellowshipped if she did not scream and fight and resist her attacker enough to satisfy the elders of her religion (see this post).
All that having been said, an experience related in this particular article shows the disturbing, disgusting treatment of those who are disfellowshipped, as it endorses the practice of shunning, not just the disfellowshipped person himself or herself, but any extended family related to that person, including children:
Notice how this woman says she wouldn’t spend time with her disfellowshipped daughter, or her granddaughter. Not speaking to a family member because they’ve left or have been kicked out of a religion is bad enough, but this woman wouldn’t even speak to her own granddaughter, a child, simply because that child’s mother was disfellowshipped.
Granted, the magazine doesn’t say how old the granddaughter was, so we might assume that the grandmother would need to have some type of contact with her disfellowshipped daughter in order to see or speak with the granddaughter. However, this certainly doesn’t excuse this practice; in reality, if the grandchild is still a little girl, it actually makes this practice worse!
Being so cruel and arrogant that you won’t speak to your own adult child because they don’t share your religious beliefs is one thing, but if you refuse even just brief moments of contact in order to see your young grandchild, that is outright despicable. What did the granddaughter do to deserve to be punished and isolated from her own grandparents this way? Why would grandparents withhold their love and attention from a child, because of some supposed sin on the part of that child’s mother?
This is something to remember when Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that they “work to build up families,” as they boldly assert on their own website. They easily neglect family, even children, when they feel it’s their place to punish someone for no longer being in their religion.
Literature Above the Bible
Note, too, that this woman says she looked for loopholes “in our publications,” meaning literature produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. What she didn’t do was look for instruction and guidance from the bible.
This is very disturbing, as it actually elevates Watchtower literature above the bible itself. If she, or anyone who claims to be a Christian, needs guidance on what to do in a situation, I would think the first and only place they should look would be the bible. Yet, she doesn’t even say that she read the bible and Watchtower literature, but only looked at Jehovah’s Witness publications.
Endorsing this practice is pure blasphemy on the part of the writers of the Watchtower. The bible is supposedly god’s communication to humans, but it isn’t even mentioned when talking about what to do when someone in the family is removed from your religion.
Perhaps there is a reason the writers of the Watchtower don’t want someone in this situation to consult with the bible. If this woman had read it, she may have come across this scripture:
“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
While this verse was talking about providing materially, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that it’s also talking about providing for them emotionally, as that’s the entire function of a family, to have strong emotional ties with each other.
Jesus himself also scolded the disciples who tried to keep young children away from him and told them how he felt about children, which is another scripture this woman might have come across, had she read the bible instead of Watchtower literature alone:
“Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such ones. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a young child will by no means enter into it.”
– Mark 10:14-15
The Awake magazine of December 8, 2000, even included an article titled, “Children Deserve to Be Wanted and Loved,” and it said outright, with quotes from the bible:
“Child neglect is a form of mistreatment that betrays a lack of what the Bible calls ‘natural affection.’ (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3) … Regardless of the form mistreatment takes, it sends children the message that they are unloved and unwanted.”
Despite this, the writers of the Watchtower literature endorse this very same child neglect when that child’s parent is disfellowshipped, completely ignoring how these grandparents are sending the message that their grandchild is “unloved and unwanted.”
The Ironic Hypocrisy
Ironically, Jehovah’s Witnesses also consistently admonish children to stay close with their grandparents; the April 22, 2001, Awake magazine featured the article, “Why Should I Get to Know My Grandparents?” which said, in part:
“In bygone days, grandparents were a foundation stone of family life, particularly among worshipers of Jehovah God. The Bible commanded the Israelites to respect and esteem older ones. (Leviticus 19:32) Grandparents were considered especially worthy of honor.—1 Timothy 5:4. … In many parts of the world, older ones—including relatives—are no longer treated with due respect. (2 Timothy 3:1-3) …there is great value in getting to know your grandparents—especially if they are God-fearing. And if you have not got to know them, you may very well be missing out.”
The hypocrisy is obvious and appalling. Jehovah’s Witnesses admonish children to care for and respect their grandparents, but endorse the idea of grandparents easily casting aside those same children if their mother or father leaves the religion.
Shunning a family member for not belonging to your religion is a form of emotional blackmail and abuse, and that alone is enough to demonstrate how cruel and unloving the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses is, but now we clearly see how far JWs will go to express this draconian control and haughty self-righteousness of theirs. They endorse an example of someone who is neglectful and abusive to an innocent child; not only does that child miss out on the love and closeness you can get only from grandparents, but she may wonder what she’s done wrong, or what is wrong with her, so that grandma and grandpa won’t speak to her.
Whatever perceived sin this disfellowshipped daughter may have committed, I would say the grandparents in this example are the ones who are unforgivable.
¹”Shepherd the Flock of God In Your Care”
²Australian Royal Commission Inquiry, Case Study 29, Transcript, Day 148, page 15291, lines 25-39:
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