Over the last few weeks volunteers of the newly formed AAWA (recently renamed as Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses) have been combining their efforts with one common goal – to draw attention to the archaic shunning of family members, which continues to be encouraged by the Watch Tower Society despite their repeated denials to the media.
“Operation: e-Shunning” – due for launch on May 1st – aims to highlight the January 15 2013 Watchtower – specifically the parts where the magazine discusses the shunning of relatives. Many Witnesses who have read the study article entitled “Let Nothing Distance You From Jehovah” (which was considered back in March) will have perhaps breezed past certain instructions related to how disfellowshipped family members should be treated by those who are loyal to the organization.
However, just because most of us Witnesses have gradually become desensitized to some of the more damaging rhetoric in Watchtower literature, does not mean it is any less worthy of serious scrutiny – particularly if it can lead to families being torn apart.
The Society’s latest instructions warn Witnesses to not even email family members who are no longer in the faith, as you can see for yourself in the following quote…
“Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.” (Jan 15 2013 Watchtower, page 16)
As has been repeatedly stressed on this website, the shunning of family members has no basis in scripture. The instructions given by Paul in 1 Cor 5:11,12 call for the shunning of “anyone called a brother” who is remorselessly engaged in wrongdoing. The context clearly shows this to be a measure intended to keep the congregation clean by ensuring that willful sinners do not intermingle freely with worshippers at Christian gatherings.
By counselling that Christians should “not even [be] eating with such a man,” the inference is given that association with wrongdoers even outside of Christian gatherings is to be avoided. There is no reason why this should also be applied to relatives. On close consideration, family members (who would eat together frequently) are clearly not the focus of these instructions.
When further reflecting on Christ’s parable of the prodigal son, who was embraced by his father despite returning home purely because he ran out of food and money, we soon begin to see the principle of shunning in its proper context. It was never intended as a tool to break families apart. Rather, the Bible encourages those in positions of oversight to exercise mercy in the way judicial matters are handled, and underlines the importance of maintaining the family bond. (Matthew 9:13; 1 Tim 5:8)
With so many families affected by the Society’s harsh interpretation of scripture, it would be unsurprising if at least a few Witnesses were hanging on to some shred of contact with their relatives through email. However, even this meagre lifeline has now been snatched away from any Witnesses who feel compelled to prove their obedience to the organization. AAWA’s latest video demonstrates the true impact that such a cruel and heartless approach has on ordinary people…
An Ambitious Movement
AAWA is still wet behind the ears having been launched to the public only less than a month ago. However, it is heartwarming to see the number of people who are selflessly volunteering to further AAWA’s cause. So far, 198 people have volunteered to help out in AAWA’s 11 teams, each of which handle various aspects of AAWA’s work.
It remains to be seen what will become of Operation: e-Shunning. It was initially intended as something of a test run – a warning shot across the bows to see what we could achieve together. Could it become something more? Might it grab the attention of the mainstream media? Only time will tell. Even if the world fails to take notice, e-Shunning will surely succeed in highlighting to at least some individuals how unmerciful Watchtower’s shunning policies are, and why they are in desperate need of overhaul.