Shunning, A Study In Punishment.
Source - http://web.archive.org/web/20060821084019/users.uniserve.com/~renford/shun.htm
The punishment levied against Jehovah’s Witnesses who by the judgment of men are unrepentant sinners. Sinners deserving of a social and spiritual death. It is said that such punishment is a loving gesture to teach the sinner that they are wrong and that shunning will bring them back to God. Is such a teaching or practice truly a loving gesture, what purpose does it really serve? Is this the way Jesus would have treated fellow humans? A person must ask oneself, if indeed a person is so wicked and evil, why would it be necessary for a ruling of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses to cut such people off. Surely, if a person did not want to be a part of the religion they would cease associating with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And on the other hand if one is a true Christian and lives by the principles of the Bible, would not their own conscience tell them not seek out and associate with such evil and wicked people?
Furthermore one must accept the premise that because of the imperfection of men, and the misuse of power, many mistakes in judgment are bound to take place. Meaning that many who are truly repentant are disfellowshipped needlessly, causing tremendous emotional upheaval and mental trauma. Moreover as history and documentation can testify this has happened thousands of times, and in many cases has contributed to the emotional breakdown of such individuals, leading some to suicide, it has also contributed to the breakup of many families. Why is this hard and fast regulation enforced upon people who claim to have the truth of Christianity, when there is so much room for abuse and misjudgment.
The following is an examination into this practice and why it is used, and the effects it can have on human lives. This is a story of some one who was disfellowshipped because they refused to treat their mother in such a manner. They could not bring themselves to shun the person who brought them into the world.
shun - to keep away from; avoid scrupulously or consistently. (Webster’s New World Dictionary) - to keep clear of; avoid. (Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary)
Why It Works
Why would I be afraid of someone who threatened not to talk to me unless I behaved a certain way? Why would I punish someone by not talking to them? Why would people try and try to gain the acceptance of a group who would look right through them without speaking or even acknowledge them when they chance met? What are the rewards for the shunners? What are the rewards for the shunned?
As one who once was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have shunned and been shunned. I believe many, maybe most, people when exposed to shunning are not attracted to or by it. When the disfellowshipping doctrine is explained to people who are not familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses practice of shunning they can not believe that such a thing is practiced, they stand there in disbelieve. When I was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses I remember once a disfellowshipped woman with small children had attended a Thursday night Kingdom Hall meeting that ended about 9:45 PM. She was required to sit in the back and she could not speak to or be spoken to by anyone there. When we left the meeting this disfellowshipped woman was still there after 10:00 PM deep in a residential neighborhood with small children and a broken down car. We all did our duty to the Watchtower and shunned her. We did not offer to help her. I never saw her again.
Why the threat of shunning helped to keep me in line is clearer to me today.
I believe that very night we “freed” the woman with the broken car, but we further enslaved ourselves to the teachings and doctrines of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society :
For two reasons:
(1) We reinforced each other by participating in a crime. In order for me to accept my own (truly un-Christian) behavior I had to approve, reinforce, accept, and condone the behavior of all the other members of the group. Shunning gave me the illusion of power. The illusion of power to a powerless person is a drug.
(2) The group members modeled for me what they were willing to do in keeping the commands of the Society. For a moment I put myself in that woman’s place, and I knew I didn’t want to be there. Raised by Witness parents and taught by the Society since age seven, all my real security was tied up with a Watchtower ribbon. The thought of leaving the group was unthinkable. Regularly scheduled portions of Kingdom Hall meetings were discussions on disfellowshipping, shunning, and the consequences of leaving “Jehovah’s Organization.”
Shunning means those whom we used to call brothers and sisters we would now pass in the market or street without acknowledging. When I practiced shunning while in the company of another Witness the act of shunning would, in my own eyes, be a witnessed proof of my loyalty to Jehovah. I was on spiritual high ground (a sort of religious “high”). While alone I was less bold when a shunning opportunity would arise, but if I thought that there may be even a chance that another Jehovah’s Witness might be watching I would “play the part” all the way. If it was a private situation, however, I might feel somewhat uncomfortable and maybe even make eye contact and nod.
Why it is Done
As mentioned earlier the reason that this is practiced is to bring people back to their senses as it were. To bring them back to God. However a close study of the practice suggests another reason why this is practiced. It appears that the reason is, control. Anytime you want to control a person or a group of people, the most effective method, is the use of fear. In the case of shunning, because of the fear of the effects shunning can have on people, the individual or group of individuals will submit to the controlling parties, in this case the Governing Body. Absolute control can then be exercised over the people involved. Thus, would this not indicate that this practice is unchristian? For the Bible says that the truth will set you free. How can a person be truly free and exercise ones own conscience if one is made to live in fear of being shunned. Would not our reason to avoid wrong doing be the fear of displeasing God. In all the cases I have observed in 30 years of association, the individuals that were disfellowshipped, were not wicked people, they were imperfect people who had weaknesses.
Shunning as Spiritual Abuse
Recently, during a conversation with another former Jehovah’s Witness, the subject of abuse came up. The question was asked, “Is there any context of involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses that is not direct abuse, indirect abuse, or a set up for abuse? We batted this around for a couple of hours and concluded that in every situation we could come up with involving Jehovah’s Witnesses there is a real or potential victim. Real or threatened, physical, mental, emotional, and verbal abuse is their power over members and often former members. Fear, guilt, shame, hatred, and later resentment and anger kept me with them selling Watchtowers on street corners, and from house to house.
Shunning is probably the ultimate rejection of anyone as a person and maybe the cruelest mental, emotional, and psychological form of abuse. The results of the shunning by Jehovah’s Witnesses done to people was substantial pain and suffering but only as long as it is allowed to continue.
Shunning is a Drug... ..and drug users need enablers. I've noticed a few things about abusers of people and things. A person who abuses other humans does it for a reason. It is the same as any addiction to a substance or behavior. The addict gets something out of it, a "reward." I have done research on the subject of addiction and have reached some interesting conclusions.
Addicts need a drug , abusers need a victim. Shunners are playing a mind game and they need a playmate who will follow the rules. Shunning is their drug. Abusers need help to carry out their abuse. They need enablers (victims). Without their victims they can not continue to abuse. Watchtower rules for shunning must be followed by both shunner and VICTIM or shunning doesn't work! Shunning is a show. To best work it needs an arena to be played in, and an audience. Emotional abuse hurts just as bad as physical abuse even though the scars are not on the outside.
It is true that many who have had just thoughts different from the Society have been expelled. Many tried to quietly slip away from the organization, only to be pursued and expelled because their views differed from that of the organization. There are literally thousands of such experiences worldwide. The emotional and mental anguish brought about by such actions have had a tremendous human toll. A toll of helpless anxiety, and emotional stress to the point where many have taken there own lives. Many have been victims of injustice, and are told to wait on Jehovah, and they wait and wait and wait. Many keep asking themselves, if the very ones that God has presumably put there to shepard and protect, do nothing to correct the injustice, how possible can God bless or even support such an arrangement? Many more go onto to ask, are these the actions of true Christians, and is true love evident? The love that identifies true Christians.