Thursday 18 June 2015

Jehovah’s Witnesses Shunning ex-members adverse effects on family relationships

pt: Salão do Reino das Testemunhas de Jeová, P...
pt: Salão do Reino das Testemunhas de Jeová, Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Majority of former Jehovah’s Witnesses believes the organization’s policy of shunning ex-members has had adverse effects on family relationships.

When you meet Jehovah Witnesses mostly they say they do not have any schisms in their organisation. None of them seems to have ever done something wrong when a Witness of Jehovah. Before they became a Witness it might well be that they did something wrong, but the changed and when a baptised Witness from then onwards they do not seem to do bad things any more.

Though we can find many ex-Witnesses. From those who left the organisation we do find some who kept to the Most High and left because their own changed views or where asked to leave the organisation because of their other views. But we also do find lots of ex-JW who were put out of the organisation because their lifestyle did not fit a lifestyle of a Christian.

98% of the people responding to the questioning by said leaving the faith impaired or destroyed their relationship with their family. Though we do have to question what was destroying the family relationship really. In the 1950ies we also in Catholic families could find quarrels about attending or not the church services and having family members going out of the house wanting to have an other way of life. It is also not so long ago that in many atheist and Christian families gay people became excluded form the family, and it still happens in such families today.
Big problem with the JW seems to be what happens when one family member quiets the organisation and what the organisation then demands from the other family members.

According to the survey, 76 percent of former Jehovah’s Witnesses are being shunned (minimized or no association) by their families. 90 percent were told it was due to the respective member not being a Jehovah’s Witness any-more. Strangely enough not so much effort was or is put in trying to get them back into the flock. We wonder how much time is invested in trying to keep the person in the faith.

Whereas the Catholic Church encourages association with excommunicated members and tries to keep them involved in the community, (or the Watchtower Society) admonish avoiding former Jehovah’s Witnesses all together.

Shunning was introduced by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1952, only five years after they had denounced excommunication as an instrument of “ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny” that is “altogether foreign to Bible teachings.”

Though we may not forget that also in many other religious groups excommunication exists and also brings problems in families making siblings not coming together any more under one roof or having children loosing contact with their parents. Certain social and gender reasons have also serious percussions in non-religious families.

JWalumni - Jehovah's Witnesses News asked former and active members
 “How have Jehovah’s Witnesses ( affected your family?”
in a survey* they conducted in May 2015 among 1,055 individuals in the USA, Australia, Canada, UK and Germany.

One of the bigger impacts for the JW members may come from them growing up in a religion where they are taught to centre their life around it. Everything is supposed to conform to specifications set out by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While the consequences are less drastic when it comes to recreation or one’s choice of entertainment, they are all the more dramatic in regards to association. Granted, the rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses all have a measure of contact with Non-Jehovah’s Witnesses through work or school. But the average Witness will limit their contact with ‘worldly people’ to such unavoidable occasions. So when they leave the so-called truth, they are literally on their own and do feel the shock only when they feel the solitude once out of the group, because before that they did not socialise enough with others.

Misha Anouk, Founding Editor of and author of the german-language bestseller Goodbye, Jehova! in her book Goodbye, Jehova!  describes the hell she went through in the years following her departure.

According to her the  system of shunning is purposely used to let the doubting or leaving person feel the loneliness.
The ‘shunning policy’ relies on: emotional blackmail through social isolation which will eventually make you want to go back. And the strategy sadly works in one of three cases.

Experts call the silent treatment manipulative punishment – something condemns in their literature.
Steve Hassan, Cult Expert at Freedom of Mind and Author of Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults says:
Information Control (all the others too: Behavior Control, Thought control, Emotional Control) is a major reason cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowship and threaten to disfellowship. They do not want people speaking with ex-members because they will start thinking independently. They will realize the phobia indoctrination (emotional control) is just that – people can leave and live a happy, spiritual life outside of the confines of the group. I do believe all totalistic cults need to stop violating their members fundamental human rights.”
When we look at the magazines and go to a Kingdom Hall meeting, at a service or at a Bible study meeting we can not ignore that the questioning- answering system has something of an indoctrination system. Often it looks like people are also not free to make their own opinion and to discuss their other view openly with others in the group.

Much too often we do hear that such person doubting or having questions about certain teachings do not want to receive the 'new light' or are not yet ready to see the light and should be more patient.

Very often families shunning other members of the family even do not want to see the real reasons of the other being disfellowshipped or why he or she wanted to leave the organisation voluntary.
Most of them added that the reason for them leaving the group had to do with what JW leadership commanded them to do.
We also cannot ignore that the organisation seems to victimize their members time and again, with horrific policies that hurt them when they stay and punish them when they leave.
The shunning often has had adverse effects on family relationships: two-thirds feel that Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine “destroyed or seriously disrupted” their family.
Shunning is an extreme form of excommunication (“disfellowshipping”) whereby a person who committed a sin according to the Watchtower Society’s standards or who has chosen to revoke their membership in the organization is then socially isolated by Jehovah’s Witnesses – including family members.The Watchtower Society, the corporation overseeing Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, promotes the policy of shunning former members
72 percent of families who shunned a disfellowshipped member did so because of what the Governing Body told them through the literature of And 59 percent admitted that the reason for shunning their relative was the hope they would return to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Only 2 percent of Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being shunned feel that the practice of disfellowshipping and isolating former members socially had no effect on their family.

In contrast, 52 percent stated that their Jehovah’s Witnesses family wanted “no contact at all”, with 17 percent only getting in touch when they “need something”.

The findings are not surprising, given the fact the not so family friendly shunning policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been called cruel and inhumane by cult experts like the Australian Psychologist Raphael Aron and is even categorized as psychological torture. Nonetheless, only 50 percent of Jehovah’s Witness families who are actively shunning a relative would welcome a change in policy, despite the fact that they have hardly any contact.

Read more about it >

Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘destroy or seriously disrupt’ Families due to their Shunning Policy, Survey finds


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