Let me start by saying I am not a fan of reality television.
Even when the format was relatively fresh and new back in the nineties I found it extremely grating to see people’s lives being gratuitously spilled out on television, with even the most tedious details made the subject of exaggeration and melodrama.
That said, Australians have just been treated to a snippet of reality TV that everybody must watch, because it provides the rarest of glimpses into something that, by its very nature, is very hard to catch on camera: shunning.
In a series titled Bride and Prejudice on Channel 7, a gay couple are followed as they make preparations for their wedding in California. Chris, an Australian who proposed to his American partner of three years, Grant, is seen approaching his JW mother, Yvonne, to ask if she will be attending. The answer is predictable, but the spectacle is nonetheless shocking and heart-wrenching.
Yvonne confirms that, not only will she snub the invitation, she will also not be speaking to her son’s soon-to-be-husband Grant… ever.
“Well, Chris, um… you know I’ve got very strong beliefs on that situation. So, um, for us, that’s not an option,” Yvonne says.
Clearly shaken but controlling his feelings with remarkable dignity, Chris asks his non-JW father, Geoff, whether he will similarly be snubbing both the event and his life partner. Geoff, a traditionalist who is seen sniggering when his son first announces the wedding, confirms that he too will be snubbing his son but for “different reasons.”
As difficult as it is to behold the spectacle of a family literally disintegrating on television over a difference of religious beliefs, it is extremely important that as many people as possible are exposed to this footage. Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to enjoy a false reputation as a mainstream, family-oriented group – a reputation that is completely at odds with reality.
The wider public needs to understand that the beliefs that Witnesses have pummelled into them from childhood very often lead to otherwise decent, compassionate, intelligent people doing deeply inhumane things, such as ejecting a child they once cradled as a baby – a child they claim to “love” – over a mere difference of opinion.
In this instance the shunning is due, at least in part, to one couple’s homophobia. It is notable that the aversion to gay people who refuse to suppress their sexuality is shared even by a man thus far not indoctrinated by Watchtower.
It can certainly be said that Watchtower does not hold the monopoly when it comes to endorsing the Old Testament command that gay people are worthy of execution. (Leviticus 20:13) There are any number of Christian fundamentalist denominations who eagerly join Jehovah’s Witnesses in suggesting you deserve death if you are in a loving relationship with someone of the same gender.
But the truth is, the pain and heartache so clearly evident on Chris’ face is shared by countless individuals who find themselves at odds with their Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. You do not need to be gay or lesbian in order to experience the crippling devastation of having your mother or father turn their back on you, as I can personally attest.
All you need to do is stop being a Jehovah’s Witness.
I, for one, am extremely proud of Chris for allowing this extremely emotional exchange to be captured on camera and I applaud the bravery and dignity with which he handled the hammer-blow.
Let us hope that the pain and hurt he experienced will serve as a loud warning to anyone who had been previously duped into believing that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “pro-family.” Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are capable of tremendous love, but it is a love that must come with strings attached. Loyalty to a group of men in New York will always trump all other considerations.
- Australian Reality Show Features Jehovah’s Witness Mother Choosing Faith Over Her Gay Son
- Reality stars put their hearts on the line
- Bride and Prejudice TV show: ‘I’m not going to lie, it hurt’
- Bride and Prejudice: A mother completely rejects her son
- The death of a parent-son relationship played out on Bride & Prejudice
- Bride & Prejudice: A mother completely rejects her son
- JWsurvey articles on shunning
- JWsurvey articles on homophobia