Watchtower representative Veikko Leinonen recently made an appearance on Finnish television in which he essentially denied that Jehovah’s Witness parents shun children who leave.
Asked whether a young Jehovah’s Witness can leave freely and start his own life, Leinonen replied “Absolutely, absolutely freely and we hope they will return freely and there will be no obstacles.”
Further pressed by the journalist to clarify whether such a person would be shunned, Leinonen emphatically replied “no” several times – perhaps wary that Jehovah’s Witnesses have recently been under fire in Finland for their judicial policies.
In dismissing the issue of shunning, Leinonen followed in the footsteps of other Watchtower representatives from various countries who have similarly found it necessary to misrepresent Witness beliefs to the media.
Regardless of his motives, those who are familiar with Watchtower doctrine will recognize Leinonen’s denial as a total contradiction of the way Witnesses are instructed. The July 15, 2011 Watchtower (to cite just one example) went so far as to liken disfellowshipped teenagers to Nadab and Abihu, the errant priests who were struck down by God for offering illegitimate fire.
“Today, Jehovah does not immediately execute those who violate his laws,” the article observed. “He lovingly gives them an opportunity to repent from their unrighteous works. How would Jehovah feel, though, if the parents of an unrepentant wrongdoer kept putting Him to the test by having unnecessary association with their disfellowshipped son or daughter?” (see w11 7/15 p.32)
It is this and other coercion from Watchtower that has a tangible impact on countless families, which are needlessly ripped apart whenever a family member decides to no longer subject himself or herself to the Governing Body’s self-proclaimed authority.
But Witnesses would do well to consider why it should be necessary for their representatives to employ evasion and deception when confronted on this issue. After all, is not the disfellowshipping arrangement supposedly a commandment from Jehovah? Should it not, on that basis, be something Watchtower representatives should be eager to explain fully and transparently, regardless of the PR ramifications?
Consider the following passage from a 2008 Watchtower…
“For more than 40 years, Jeremiah contended with apathy, rejection, ridicule, and even physical violence. (Jer. 20:1, 2) At times, he felt like giving up. Yet, he persevered in declaring an unpopular message to a largely unreceptive people. In God’s strength, Jeremiah accomplished what he could never have done on his own.—Read Jeremiah 20:7-9.” – w08 7/15 p.7
If Jeremiah supposedly persevered with an “unpopular message” under threat of physical violence, should this not serve as an example to Watchtower and its PR personnel? If a Jehovah’s Witness fails to expound on a commandment of Jehovah when directly questioned on the subject simply because this command is “unpopular,” is he not yielding to fear of man and revealing a shame of God himself?
There can be no doubt that Watchtower’s policy of shunning family members is “unpopular” with the public, and with good reason. It is a sadistic means of utilizing a person’s family as a weapon of punishment for leaving his or her religion, and as such represents a breach of basic human rights.
But rather than face the music and extoll the perceived virtues of their cruel practice whatever the backlash, Watchtower buckles under the slightest media scrutiny. Its devious denials and attempts at evasion are both cowardly and vulgar.
Though their crude tactics may throw the occasional journalist off the scent in the short term, there are some of us who are taking careful note and will continue to hold this organization to account.