The Jehovah’s Witnesses do flip-flops on their theology. It is an “on-and-off” system of belief when it comes to the issue of disfellowshipping members they judge as “sinners.” In a span of five years, they went from “don’t shun it’s cruel” to “shun! It’s our tool of power and tyranny that finds no parallel!” The most revealing discussion I found is located in the January 8, 1947 issue of their Awake! magazine in the article called “Are You Also Excommunicated?” which speaks to Catholics who were excommunicated:
Image from January 8, 1947 Awake! in which Jehovah's Witnesses hypocritically criticize Catholics for excommunicating members.
In 1947 Jehovah’s Witnesses openly condemned the practice of excommunication. Objections included comparison to Secret Societies and Catholics. They roundly criticized Catholics for “disfellowshipping” their errant members. In fact, they said it was altogether foreign to Bible teachings. Jehovah’s Witnesses stance was “don’t shun, it’s cruel.”
Let’s take a quick look at those scriptures in the JWs Bible, called the The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). Matthew seems to indicate that it is proper to speak to someone if you think that supposed “sinner” hurt you somehow. Good if they listen, but if they don’t, treat them like anybody else. But, don’t mistreat them because what you loose on the earth, you also loose in heaven. That’s my take on Matthew 18: 15-19 — Karma will get you? In other words, don’t shun.
To me, the scriptures at 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 16:22 seem to indicate that Jesus is the one who does the judging, and such a responsibility would not be left up to faulty human reasoning. Another “don’t shun” scripture.
Galatians 1:8,9 warns that if some theology beyond what is written in the scriptures is promoted, the ones responsible would receive judgment. Yet another “don’t shun” scripture.
Condemning another soul is equivalent to blaspheming. That’s my take on 1 Timothy 1:20. Hmm…still another “don’t shun” scripture.
What I find especially of interest is that excommunication was declared a pagan practice of ancient Greece and the Druids. Jehovah’s Witnesses decided that the Catholics were remiss in adopting an ancient “pagan” practice. Jehovah’s Witnesses affirmed the religious hierarchy would never adopt any pagan practice of some superstitious Greeks or pagan Druid folk. It was supposedly a tyrannical power play which the Jehovah’s Witnesses opposed.
“as the pretensions of the Hierarchy increased, the weapon of excommunication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history.”
Hmmm…”the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history.” I find that statement by the Watchtower people to be of great interest. Why?
1952 JWs Endorsed Shunning
Five years passed and Jehovah’s Witnesses changed their stance on excommunication. Then, someone must have flipped a switch. A pagan practice was suddenly a good thing if it meant they could blackmail people and hold their own members ransom. They began the shameful practice of disfellowshipping, as announced in their November 15, 1952 Watchtower pp.703-704. The power grab opportunity was too tempting for the cult to resist?
So, since the laws of the land forbid murder, Jehovah’s Witness members treat Apostates — ones who have left their religious organization — as dead. As in “spiritual murder”. Yes, my children and several of my flesh-and-blood brothers treat me as dead because I no longer wish to be a member of their oppressive family religion. I lost an entire network of people I thought to be “friends” after one short announcement at the kingdom hall, announcing my disenfranchisement. How does one treat another as “dead”? By shunning — completely ignoring — such ones. The new man-made rule of Jehovah’s Witnesses now eagerly included shunning. One thing is sure: I had false friends.
I speak from personal experience in saying it is embarrassing for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to admit that they shun anyone. Indeed, I couldn’t speak with anyone about my embarrassment. I was too ashamed to speak of treating my beloved mother in such a contemptuous manner. As a woman with young children, I was bullied into shunning my beloved mother because the elders judged her as wicked for leaving her abusive husband (my father). My choices were, “shun — or be shunned!” Then, years later, when I left the family religion, I was disfellowshipped and shunned. I am especially saddened to find out recently that I have two grand-children who I have never met. As a disfellowshipped ex-member of the family religion, I am being actively shunned, so my family would keep that news from me deliberately and intentionally.
Related Blog Posts
Shunning My Beloved Mother This blog includes a letter from the elder who threatened to disfellowship and shun me if I didn’t shun Mom.
Getting Disfellowshipped The painful story of my own disfellowshipping and experiencing the pain of being shunned.
An extensive discussion of the subject of shunning and disfellowshipping may be found off-site at jwfacts.com.
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