Who Shuns Whom?

by Martha on March 19, 2018

Jehovah’s Witnesses commonly practice the shunning of those who have left the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. There are varying degrees of shunning, and for varying reasons, but there is one constant: the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Organization, aka the Jehovah’s Witnesses, propagate the practice of shunning among their members, and have for a minimum of 65 years (Nov. 15, 1952 Watchtower, Questions from Readers).

People outside the Watchtower organization rarely know that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun, nor understand the effects that shunning has on the members of this society. These effects range from divided families to suicide. Shunning is not to be taken lightly, but it might be conquerable.

For some, especially those who are disfellowshipped (officially exiled from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), being shunned means complete loss of contact with family and friends who remain Jehovah’s Witnesses. For these ones there is an abrupt rift, severe emotional pain, and the feeling of deep loss between the Jehovah’s Witness family member or friend who left, or was disfellowshipped from, the Watchtower Society, and those who are stay behind in the organization.

The purpose of this shunning is to cause the one who is shunned to be so miserable and lonely that they return to the “the truth” and to “Jehovah and His earthly theocratic organization.” This is the shunning in which the Jehovah’s Witnesses were recently instructed to engage at the 2016 Watchtower District Convention. (Click here for a ten minute portion of the talk.)

For others, shunning entails not being allowed to discuss spiritual matters with a disfellowshipped family member or be included in Jehovah’s Witness events. This type of shunning isn’t nearly as severe, or effective, which, of course, may be why they recently began enforcing their true policy on shunning. Even so, realistically, the severity of the shunning depends on the individual situation and the people involved, as well as their cultures.

For instance, at at our Make Sure Ministries support group for ex-Jehovah’s Witness in South Florida, I recently learned that Latino cultures are not likely to completely shun their disfellowshipped family members, because family unity in their culture is revered. On the other hand, I know Jehovah’s Witnesses who are simply appearing to shun but don’t fully believe and follow the organization on the shunning issue (and other issues as well). By comparison, I have a biological brother who is a great shunner and seems to like the doctrine because he feels superior when he shuns others. He has shunned me for 40 years and was shunning his oldest son when that son was tragically killed.

Regardless of the severity, this practice of shunning creates plenty of hurt to go around, and Satan relishes our suffering. The more a person is shunned, the more that person shuns those shunning them. It can become an endless cycle. We who are shunned can encourage this suffering by doing nothing and playing the victim, or we can act to try and put an end to this destructive practice in our own lives. It is frightening to think about engaging in this practice, because we all fear rejection and judgment. But to overcome the work of the devil, which shunning most certainly is, someone must take the first step. We who are shunned know it won’t be the Jehovah’s Witnesses who will take the first step toward reconciliation.

I can’t say that all who are shunned can overcome all our family members who shut us out, but we will never know who will or who won’t agree to see us unless we try. I can say it only takes one person, on either side, to try and stop this unloving practice in their life by dialing a phone or knocking on a door, repeatedly if necessary.

We can be like the persistent widow who kept coming to the “judge in a certain city” with the plea, “‘Grant me justice in this dispute with my enemy.'” After ignoring her for a while, he finally proclaimed “‘…because this woman is driving me crazy…I am going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” (Luke 18:3-5 NLT). Be persistent. Who knows? You may have a breakthrough.

I have recently been trying to gather the courage to visit my Jehovah’s Witness mom and sisters; it is not easy, and I keep putting it off. My mom is in her mid-80s, and I fear time is running out for me to do so. My fear both to go and not to go is great, and, so far, it holds me back. But if I put my trust in God, then why should I fear them? It is God’s rejection I should fear, and His wrath, not theirs. (Luke 12:4-5)

God has put it in my heart to visit them and share the good news of Jesus Christ. If I don’t obey because of fear, I am jeopardizing the closeness of my relationship with Him. Even though I know that they will not reach out to me, and that they may reject me completely, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t reach out to them and keep reaching out to them for as long and as many times as it takes.

I know that my Jehovah’s Witness family purposely shun me, but I shun them also, out of hurt and rejection, along with the dislike of their judgment and condemnation.  So, for me, it isn’t just the active Jehovah’s Witness in my life who keeps this practice alive, it is me, too, who is a new creature in Christ. Other ex-Jehovah’s Witness family have expressed this same thing to me. In my family, the shunning door swings both ways. Does it swing both ways in your family too?

Because I’ve experienced shunning from multiple sides, such as in my own family and in the congregation, and as the shunner and the one being shunned, I have the advantage of understanding multiple sides of this issue; and it can be so for you, too. This understanding can lead us to empathy, which can lead us to forgiveness, which can lead us to peace about this evil practice, and maybe even inspire us to act to correct this wrong.

I’ll let you know how it goes with my family. Let’s all pray about this seemingly endless cycle and ask the Lord’s wisdom, mercy, and grace.

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In My Opinion / Divide and Conquer

by Martha on March 3, 2018

Point / Counterpoint

POINT: I saw a Facebook post recently about some ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who staged a “flash mob” at a Kingdom Hall, a protest really. They decided that the perfect time and place was right after the first song and prayer. I disagree. Rudeness, which I believe was the case here by the protestors, is never acceptable and will often result in conflict. [Click here to see the YouTube video of this event.]

The problem with this type of attack on the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they most often backfire on the protesters. The Witnesses actually believe that this is persecution from the devil which only serves to strengthen their resolve that only they have the truth.

When they are attacked at a meeting, there is not one person in that Kingdom Hall who is going to stand with these protestors, even if they agree with them, because they must keep up appearances in front of the other Witnesses. I believe these protests, while entertaining to the protesters and to outsiders, are mostly ineffective if not counter-productive. This type of tactic will only serve to make a member of the Watchtower Organization become even more dug in, entrenched, and downright obstinate. Anyone who was a Witness should know this already.

God bless all who those are trying to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but interrupting a meeting is just ill-mannered. They could have at least waited until after the talk. By doing so, they may have been able to acquire more information for their cause, and may have been able to engage some of those in attendance in a productive debate instead of just having brothers forcing the protestors out of the building and calling the police.

This makes the protestors look worse than the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the eyes of the police and in the eyes of someone who is having doubts about the organization. Direct conflict simply doesn’t work on those deeply embedded in the Watchtower; it just makes them dig in their heels even more and may turn away one who is seeking the true gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many different ways to reach Jehovah’s Witnesses which may not reach as many individuals as staging a protest at the Kingdom Hall, but will most likely be more effective.

The best way to protest is to show them a better way of life through our actions and our faith, to let the light of Jesus’ love shine through in everything we say and do, no matter where we are or what we are doing. You never know who might see you and respond positively, and desire what you have found in Christ.

I believe we need to reach out to those who have been abused and abandoned by these hypocritical and self-righteous false teachers in leadership in the Watchtower. I believe those who have been disfellowshipped and who have no plans of returning to the Watchtower are the ones for whom we need to pray and to whom we are to minister–they have taken the first step, or had it foisted upon them. I believe a more subtle, compassionate method of outreach works best with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

For instance, I have a magnetic sign on the back of my car that reads jwfacts.com, which is in the same shape and color of the Watchtower’s website jw.org. I have no idea who may see that sign and access the site, but as much as I travel it could be hundreds by now.

While I was traveling recently, I came upon a vehicle on the expressway with a license plate that read “AGAPE.” I know that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use this term to describe the love they have for one another. Just on the chance that they might be in the Watchtower Organization, I moved my vehicle around and in front of their vehicle so that they would see my sign jwfacts.com.

In my opinion, because I have been on both sides of this proverbial fence, when trying to minister to a Jehovah’s Witness, divide and conquer is the best method, because when you get a Jehovah’s Witness alone, or maybe even two, they are more likely to listen and agree with you–because they are less impacted by the “mob” of other Witnesses–in my opinion.

COUNTERPOINT: There was a lot of discussion on the Facebook post that prompted me to write this. I still feel this way, but many defended their position about direct confrontation and helped me to see that this type of protesting may reach someone who is sitting in that Kingdom Hall, one who is being abused by the policies and practices of this organization.

A direct protest such as this may be the only way or time that such an individual is able to hear that they are not alone and that there is support in a global community of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. This may give such a person the courage to look at some “apostate” websites, and encourage them to question the validity of the Witnesses’ claim to having the “one and only TRUTH.”

So both sides of this argument are very persuasive; neither is necessarily wrong. I have come to understand that God leads each of us according to our individual abilities and His will. So, what I am led by God to do could be drastically different from what God leads others to do. Who am I to judge how God is leading another as long as it is with in the bounds of the teaching of Scripture?


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Happy Holidays?

December 4, 2017

It’s that time of year again–the Holidays. For most children in the United States, the holidays are a time of excitement and anticipation. There are some children, though, in every part of the world, who dread the coming of the holidays. These are the children of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many people know that Jehovah’s Witnesses […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Part 2g

October 2, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2g, the final installment From our previous Part 2f, we learned that God is connecting the pieces of our sufferings, whether we understand them or not, so that He can help us to reach our destiny; to have a deep intimate relationship with Him and to […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Part 2f

September 22, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2f Not only did the LORD God restore Job, but he actually gave him a double portion as we learned in Part 2e. Job 42:12 says “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more then the first…” God didn’t restore him by bringing back […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Pt 2e

September 15, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2e From Part 2d, each of Job’s friends agree that his suffering is because of his own sin and that he is making things worse by not going to God in repentance. Their consolation turned into condemnation as Job rejected their reasoning and demanded a hearing with […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Pt 2d

September 8, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2d From Part 2c we found that in all his excruciating trials Job did not sin in what he said. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Of all the things Job could have said, even lashing […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Pt 2c

September 1, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2c From Part 2b we imagined the deep pain Job must have felt as the hedge of protection of his livestock, both a measure of his wealth and more importantly his means of atoning for sin, was stripped away from him. I wonder just how many […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Pt 2b

August 25, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2b From Part 2a we learn that in just moments Job is stripped away of his livestock and herdsman, his servants, his children and his home. Job 1:13-19 tells of how each of these were taken from him. Verses13-15 tell of a messenger who relayed the […]

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Disfellowshipped–Blessed by God’s Providence: Pt 2a

August 18, 2016

IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS Job and Joseph Part 2a In Parts 1a through 1e, we learned that Joseph knew and understood God’s sovereignty and providence. He trusted God no matter what he went through and in the end God worked everything out for His glory and Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord was blessed. Joseph […]

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