Sunday, April 05, 2009

Shunning, A Study In Punishment.

Source -

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.


Wendy J. Duncan said...

All cults practice some form of shunning.

Wendy J. Duncan
Author: I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult

spiritualbrother said...

I agree Duncan.

Anonymous said...

Removing members from the congregation of God is based on Scripture. Even in the days of Moses, unrepentant sinners, who believed in Jehovah, were cast out. You may not approve, but God makes the rules, not men. He does so for our benefit. Removal from the congregation is nothing more than a disciplinary action. There is nothing oppressive or evil about it. Do you propose that those committing grave wrong doings unrepentantly be allowed to remain active in the congregation? Possibly spreading their sinful ways to those trying earnestly not to do such immoral things? Not to mention the damage to the reputation of a clean congregation among the nations? Can you not just hear their shouts now? Those JWs are no better than religion X! They allow all sorts of foul things to go on in their midst! Why should we listen to their message?

God's organization must be kept clean. The Scriptures tell us God cannot allow anything unclean in his presence. If he did not mind his followers committing acts of immorality freely in the congregation, he would have written it somewhere. Find me one scripture that says it is acceptable to be willfully immoral - which is the action all disfellowshipped ones are performing. I will find you MANY which say it is not, and that immoral ones will be removed from the earth eventually. Disfellowshiping is a way to attempt to get such ones, who have dedicated their lives to Jehovah - and have broken their 'marital vows' so to speak - to stop doing what is immoral, repent, and get back on the right path. Ask yourself - would you continue living with a wife or husband who was cheating on you, even after you found out about it? Our relationship with Jehovah, once baptized, can and has been likened to a marriage in the Scriptures.

Reaping the benefits of that marriage requires faithfulness.

Paul8bee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul8bee said...

Excellent post. This is great stuff. The JW's are one of the most baffling links in the chain of human evolution. You speak with authority on the subject. This is because you have been there.
I am practicing a form of shunning myself. After 12 years of being systematically harassed by this cult I have put up a sign on my door

Notice From the Property owner
To all members of the
JEHOVAH'S Witnesses and the MORMONS Groups

You are not welcome at this address
Please leave immediately
Do not knock on any doors, or make any vocal comments,
and do not leave any literature behind when you leave.
This is a private property, and as such We have a right to privacy. If you do not respect our rights, We will call the police and charge you with Harassment and trespassing


The last 10 JW's did not knock, but one of them got real excited. He called out to the house, "Have a nice day". He looked ecstatic, and seemed happy that he had been rejected.
I hope the next JW trespasser to my property is gay, but if they are not, they will be by the time they get out of jail.... You harrass me one more time and you "WILL BE CHARGED"

10:43 AM

Anonymous said...

If you don't want us knocking on your door, all you have to do is tell us not to. We'll promptly mark your house as not welcome.

Paul8bee said...

Anonymous said: """Find me one scripture that says it is acceptable to be willfully immoral ""

Rape and Pillage
Deuteronomy 20:14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.

Forced Marriage
Deuteronomy 22:28-29   Suppose a woman isn't engaged to be married, and a man talks her into sleeping with him. If they are caught, 29 they will be forced to get married. He must give her father fifty pieces of silver as a bride-price and  can never divorce her.

Kill, rape and pillage without guilt.
Deuteronomy 21:9-11  9 So you will purge from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the LORD.  10 When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.

OK that was Three.

Anonymous said...

You twist the Scriptures to mean what you want them to. Those Scriptures say nothing about being immoral. One says that if you ARE immoral, by having sex with a woman before marrying her, that you need to make it right and marry her. So I don't see how you can take that as immorality. Forced marriage? Obviously, the woman and man wanted to have sex in the first place - so nothing forced about it.

Rape? So somehow you read that it is ok to rape someone because the Israelites were told to take care of the women and children after their wicked idolatrous child sacrificing husbands were put to death by divine judgment?

You may not agree with God's judgments, but they were his to make. He had every right to do so being the creator of the universe.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, 21 envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21)

So too Sod´om and Go·mor´rah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before [us] as a [warning] example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire. (Jude 7)

In my letter I wrote YOU to quit mixing in company with fornicators, not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, YOU would actually have to get out of the world. 11 But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do YOU not judge those inside, 13 while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:19-13)

Anonymous said...

To Label me is to negate me. The military has long known that it's easier to get a soldier to kill a gook or a chink but not a Mr. Smith. As a former member of jehovah's witnessess I now see how effectively they use labeling to negate the world thus enabling billions to be destroyed without a second thought. After all they are worldly evil people members of Babylon the Great the Harlot. How disgusting these people are. But also note how they label each other for control and rejection reasons. Care to name a few. How bout inactive, worldly, irregular, untheocratic, bad associate, disfellowshipped, reproved and I bet you can think of some more. I always felt, being an idealist, that the only names we should have had for each other was Brother and Sister. On the flip side of that coin is validation. Every witness male desparately seeks validation through a title or appointment. Even the lowliest responsibility of handling the microphones on the sunday question and answer is sought after by grown men who feel rejected if they are passed over. I once had a brother literally cry in my home because he was not allowed to handle the microphones. He was a weak publishers, oops another one. How often have you met someone and been informed immediately that he was a pioneer, ministerial servant, elder, presiding overseer, bethelite,exbethelite and many more. It's not that these people are evil or even egotistical. Though I don't rule out ego in many of the cases. It's that validation is needed and men seek it in order to feel good about themselves. The brother who cried in my home was really saying I'm a good person why don't the brothers see that. This is particular true when it comes to the structure of the watchtower society. In other words if you don't have a position here's your sign. (Refer back to labels and pick one.) The watchtower uses this as effectively as any . Go in peace my fellow reader if you struggle with leaving. The love they say that they have well is it's just another thing to say.