The Friday Column: Shunning – a toxic practice in which EVERYONE ultimately loses
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The Australian Royal Commission highlighted the cruelty of Watchtower's shunning policy

The Australian Royal Commission highlighted the cruelty of Watchtower’s shunning policy

My fellow JWsurvey team members have written extensively on the Australian Royal Commission and Geoffrey Jackson’s testimony in particular. But I hope you will indulge me in revisiting what transpired, especially in light of Watchtower’s defence against Angus Stewart’s findings.

Jackson’s testimony gave the Commission, along with the entire internet, a glimpse into the inner mind of a multi-billion dollar high control group. His presence was unprecedented, especially when you consider that one of his colleagues was recently found evading a subpoena in America.

Early into his testimony, the Commission made sure Jackson understood that its purpose is benevolent, and not to be construed as an attack. He wholeheartedly agreed to this premise, and told the Commission that he was happy to testify.

The hard truth

Once the testimonies were complete, the Senior Council, Angus Stewart, released a report on his findings. On going through them it’s easy to see why they first stressed their good intentions. Quite simply, what they found was a slough of cruel and inhumane practices that put children, and the public at large, under threat.

Organized shunning was something they took a close look at. Among a list of grievances on the practice, they had this to say on its ultimate purpose:

“[The practice of shunning] is adopted and enforced in order to prevent people from leaving the organisation and thereby to maintain its membership”

If you’re going to submit a report about an organization that claims they employ emotional blackmail to maintain membership, it could very well be misinterpreted as an attack. And that’s exactly how Jackson and his Governing Body reacted. Their response, in the form of a submission of their own, was predictable (emphasis added):

“This suggested finding ought not be made because:

(a) there was no evidence given to the Commission upon which it could be based – no documents were or are referred to by Counsel Assisting and no oral testimony is referred to containing any admission which could support such a finding;

(b) it is not true as a matter of fact – Jehovah’s Witnesses are a voluntary faith-based organisation that persons are free to join and to leave;

(c) Jehovah’s Witnesses were not asked to address the Commission on such a question. Had it been raised beforehand, it could have and would have been addressed directly by testimony from persons inside and outside of the faith;

(d) it is not at all relevant to the Commission’s Terms of Reference;

(e) it is an unfounded, unfair and unnecessary attack upon a voluntary faith-based organisation that is law-abiding and does much to promote lawful conduct within Australia and around the world through its exertions; and

(f) if the finding could not be made in a Court of law, it ought not be made by the Commission.”

Simply put, the leaders of the Watchtower Society cannot handle the truth about their own practices. Historically, when anyone points out the cruel and unethical nature of their policies they can only cry persecution. Many times in the past they’ve been confronted with these issues, and they’ve reacted in the same way: by claiming they’re the victims of an “unfounded, unfair and unnecessary attack.”

It’s a standard religious cult defensive tactic. They deny and dismiss any and all criticisms while claiming their religious freedom is under siege. This can have the effect of garnering support from inside and out of the organization.

Professional victims

In psychology there is something called “playing the victim,” which can help explain the reasons behind the Watchtower’s behaviour when criticised. Sometimes, an abuser will try to persuade others that they are the one being victimised. When they do this, it can serve as not only a distraction, but a justification to themselves as a way of resolving their own cognitive dissonance that rises due to their behaviour. It also can serve as a justification to others, because it helps them escape the harsh judgement they may fear others will direct towards them.

On the last day of 2014 I posted an article that delved into Section 4 of the Watchtower’s new highly sanitised history book. The article was, in part, meant to bring to the forefront the Watchtower’s absurd view of themselves in the courtroom. They want people to see them as victims who rose to the challenge and fought off their oppressors with the helping hand of God.

No doubt they now see the Australian Royal Commission as merely another minion from the devil sent to destroy their reputation and attack their faith. Their submission is a prime example of why the Commission found their teachings to foster a distrust of secular authorities. How can any Jehovah’s Witness trust the Commission, or anyone who supports them, when the Watchtower has claimed to have been attacked by them?

It’s the same tired narrative that was played all throughout the 20th century by not just the Watchtower, but all religious cults. The 21st century, on the other hand, finally has a chance to close the book, because now the internet exists and is in full swing.

The real victims

The Senior Council rightly assessed the practice of shunning to be detrimental both to the shunned and the shunners. So sinister is the policy that it creates a “shun or be shunned” environment. It is well within Watchtower’s power to lift this burden from its members, but they flatly refuse.

I cannot help but be reminded of a story in the book of Exodus. Moses had been commissioned by God to go and deliver a message to the Pharaoh of Egypt. The king was to immediately free all the Israelite slaves, but Pharaoh refused to give in even under threat. Plague by plague passed by, and still the Pharaoh would not budge.

The woes that befell Egypt in the story serve as a sound metaphor for the psychological torture that mandated shunning causes in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How many more tragedies will it take before Watchtower understands that it is unethical, and lets people go from the scourge of this cruel and inhumane practice?

It isn’t the Watchtower and their deity who are the victims here, it’s the millions of people who constantly live under the threat of losing access to the ones they hold dear. It’s the people who cannot be with their loved ones simply because they no longer lead a lifestyle that the Governing Body endorses.

It’s high time for those people to be set free.

The bottom line

The fact is, Jehovah’s Witnesses have an enormous material value to the organization. Together, the membership spends upwards of 2 billion hours preaching in the field and making new converts each year.

They donate their time, their resources and their hard-earned money to what is referred to as “kingdom interests.” They also have children, and subject these to indoctrination, which increases the chances they will become life-long contributors.

Mandated shunning effectively protects the investment Watchtower makes in human beings. It protects their bottom line which, as with a business, is really the top priority. If people could just walk away without any serious repercussions, then they would – and they’d take their time and money with them.

Imagine if shunning was truly a personal decision for each individual member. Suppose it were not a mandated religious edict? Just imagine how much easier it would be for the Jehovah’s Witness faith to grow and prosper if it did not have such a toxic reputation as a “captive organization” weighing it down!

Sure, many would seize their chance and exit if shunning were abolished, but those who remained would be sincere followers, and would have a much easier time selling their beliefs to an increasingly skeptical internet-savvy world.

Despite what people like Geoffrey Jackson would have their members believe, shunning is ultimately detrimental to EVERYONE – the shunned, the shunners, and those who mandate the shunning. It’s an archaic practice better left in antiquity where it belongs. I wholeheartedly believe it has no place in our future, and I hope one day the leaders of Watchtower can see this too.

 

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109 Responses to The Friday Column: Shunning – a toxic practice in which EVERYONE ultimately loses

  1. Roberto67 says:

    23 years spent as an elder and my Biblicaly trained conscious never made peace with this practice, even at my most brainwashed it did not sit with Christ example.

    “Whomever is without sin cast the first stone” “Do not judge so that you are not judged”. “Quickly return the sinner to the congregation before the devil takes him”

    David was spared exile after both fornication and murder, Moses was chosen as leader of Israel after murdering an Egyptian tyrant and fleeing justice, Abraham lied about his wife, Jonah turned his back on his ministry so on and so forth. God never gave up on any of these sinners or require that they be cast out of his people or worse, seperated from their families.
    The Watchtower is the dream work of demons recruiting those seeking the Christ and then use the Christ to bash any trace of love for him out of them.

    Remember the Watchtower Bible and Tract society work directly out of the 67th book of the Bible, the book of Opinions and Ammendments.

  2. Ann Stevens says:

    John or anyone else.

    I have a brother who joined the WT a few years ago. He is the only in the family in the organization. The rest are Christians. I don’t see much posted about the impact of family members of those newly joined members. Most of the comments are related to those having been “in” most of their lives. I would like some advice on how to reach my brother. He has drifted from the family, barely attends family functions, and has arrogance towards other religious beliefs. Most notably, we cannot reach him. We would like to help him wake up.
    Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Help for my brother

    • Idontknowhatodo says:

      Be kind…be the best sister you can be…dont challenge his beliefs but in general conversation after doing your homework ask him pertinent questions about his beliefs…simple ones like…dont you find it hard that a god of love could brutally kill 8 billion men women and children…or more complex ones about 607bc and 1975 and how could an organization guided by god get it so wrong..keep checking on this site…its amazing…and
      the talk about something else…and if possible get him to watch the ARC investigation…it was the final nail in
      the coffin for me…embaressing to hear the lies…and the admission from GB member Geoffrey Jackson that they do not say they are gods only means of communication to mankind…I hope you can persuade your brother…it can be a long journey as my case attests to… but he is wasting his life…its so good you care enough to do this…all the best.

  3. Willows says:

    Christ made it clear to love your enemies. Christs instruction should stand and be followed.

    If the Watchtower claim to follow Christ they have an obligation to prove that claim.

    For example quoting Matthew chapter 5: verses 43 to 48. Christ instructed…
    ” You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’

    But now I tell you; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the sons of your Father in heaven…..

    For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil…..

    Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that!……..

    And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary?…………

    Even the pagans do that!……..

    You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect!

    If the Watchtower followed this instruction they could make matters better for themselves… and others.

  4. Average Joe says:

    Hi all,
    Today I am FUMING MAD! My friend from another cong just told me that he’s being disfellowshipped for apostasy even though:
    1) He hadn’t met with any elders before the JC.
    2) He was no longer attending the meetings at that congregation.
    3) He told them he wasn’t an apostate as he believes in the truth of the BIBLE and just has doubts about the WTS.
    4) He begged for forgiveness (although that was just to avoid shunning).

    The elders posted a “your presence is required for a Judicial Hearing” letter through his door; no contact with him before that even though WTS procedure is to meet with an individual before that stage to try and “help” them. He obviously appealed but it was rejected by those elders as well who at least admitted he seemed repentant (the first lot said they thought he wasn’t) but said “their hands were tied by WTS guidelines”.
    Their decision was made even before the JC. This makes me so mad because as elders we are supposed to be impartial and give the person the benefit of the doubt.

    I mentioned to him the suggestions I’ve read on here about threatening them with solicitors (lawyers) and defaming of character if they disfellowship him but he’s too distraught to go ahead with that.

    I at least have an advantage of being able to talk with him if we are spotted together (providing spiritual help to a “lost sheep”) but it should’t have to come to that. The only reason he was “found out” was because of the text messages he sent to a “friend” who then emailed all the conversations to an elder in his congregation. I thought that was illegal (to divulge contents of a private conversation without the person’s consent) but anyway it unfortunately goes to show who your real friends are (or aren’t in this case).
    Rant over. Sorry!

    • Tara says:

      I followed your link from the JWSurvey 2016 post AJ. This is disgusting. I wish your friend well and hope he can come to terms with it. I hope he doesn’t go to the JC meeting.

      I have noticed that late last month and just this week, two of the elders wives have tried to contact me via texts. Both have said how much they miss me at meetings. I politely told them I miss them too. Which is true from a human point of view but from a logical view on the matter, I believe they are being used by the elders to ‘contact me’ to see what is going on.

      Please can you let me know what is in these letters that ask you to go to a JC meeting. I have heard about them and I recal one elder gloating how he and another elder literally camped outside a witness house until he came home and then forced the letter into his hand telling him, he was going to be df’d. He told those in the car group about this with such pride it made me feel sick, even back then. I think I would be taking it to a lawyer if I was ever given/sent one.

      • Average Joe says:

        Hi Tara,
        As yet I’ve never been on a JC so I couldn’t tell you. I’ll ask around to see if there’s one I can have a look at to post on here (editing out personal details of course).
        I’m guessing there must be a template that’s used.
        I feel the same as you. I’d put it in the hands of a solicitor and then get them to mention in writing the names of those elders. They would soon back down with the threat of legal action, especially as the WTS doesn’t support the local bodies of elders if their money/reputation is in danger!

  5. Joe Rizoli says:

    Getting out of the JW’s is like getting out of a bad marriage. Its going to take sometime getting used to being out and making new friends and sharing during viewpoints. You may still agree with some viewpoints, you may learn other opinions. Remember, don’t take it too personal. The JW’s are part of a Christian religion, like the Mormons and other CORPORATE religions and cults that has taken God and Jesus Christ hostage putting themselves ABOVE the Father and the Son. This is IDOLATRY. Most JW’s ONLY perform perfunctory service to God because they are forced too. Its really not in their hearts to do it on their own, Want proof? See how many times a real JW spreads his or her beliefs on the social media, or the local newspaper columns? It is very rare because they are AFRAID to speak unless they have permission from the WT. If that is the case then you have witnessed a fulfillment of scripture about the false prophet and how to identify them, they produce FEAR among the followers instead of heartfelt true love. See Duet 18:22 “you need not be afraid of him” KJV

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