Jehovah’s Witness Shunning Video Depicts Torture as Acceptable
Many who have heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses may be aware that they practice shunning. However, these same people may be unaware of the severity to which this practice is enforced. If you are a Witness, I invite you to continue reading for a discussion of why this practice is actually not scriptural, as well as a historical discussion of what the first century Christians actually did.
To begin, please watch this video which shows a sermon being given to Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world at their three-day convention this summer.
The Many Things Wrong
Cut Off from Among Your People
In the starting minutes of the video the speaker makes reference to this phrase from the Old Testament. The speaker states that this phrase meant one was to be executed. Why make this reference at all? I ask you plainly, would you under any circumstances, at the direction of any individual, kill your own son, mother, father, or any other relative. Please think very critically about this, because it is what Watchtower expects you to do.
This is the reason they make this point, because they expect that you would be willing to kill your own loved ones. This is the point of bringing up the subject to begin with, it’s to ask, “would you have enough faith to do this.” But why is it that they are spreading such divisiveness and breaking up families in this way? When you consider the New Testament lessons of Jesus such as, “treat others as you would like to be treated” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself” it doesn’t seem very sensible that you could also conclude from all of this, “Shun and expel your own loved ones if they don’t believe the way you do.” In fact, this idea is so perverse to the general lessons of the New Testament that even Watchtower said it was anti-scriptural at one time.
If you are one of the 138,000,000 people in the world that were born and raised as “Protestants”, then you are already excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. This means that you are looked upon with the blackest contempt by the Vatican, being cursed and damned with the Devil and his angels.
-Awake! January, 1947; Page 27
Does this not sound exactly like the practice of ‘disfellowshipping?’ Now, notice what the same publication says on exactly the same page.
This is “canon law” which the Roman Catholic Hierarchy seeks to enforce on the pretext that it is God’s law. The authority for excommunication, they claim, is based on the teachings of Christ and the apostles, as found in the following scriptures: Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 16:22; Galations 1:8, 9; 1 Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10. But the Hierarchy’s excommunication, as a punishment and “medicinal” remedy (Catholic Encyclopedia), finds no support in these scriptures. In fact, it is altogether foreign to Bible teachings.—Hebrews 10:26-31
Isn’t it interesting that the same organization who here wrote that excommunication is, “altogether foreign” to bible teachings now is seeking to ensure its strict enforcement? Note that they even use the bible to demonstrate it’s not scriptural by citing Hebrews, which says,
For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgement and a burning indignation that is going to consume those in opposition. Anyone who has disregarded the Law of Moses dies without compassion on the testimony of two or three. How much greater the punishment do you think a person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God and who has regarded as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of underserved kindness with contempt? For we know the One who said: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again: “Jehovah will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Indeed, they’ve done a fine job of showing that shunning is against bible teachings. As this verse says, is it not to God that vengeance belongs? Paul writes a lot in Hebrews about the Mosaic Law in comparison to New Testament law because he’s illustrating how the old law doesn’t apply. Here he says essentially, “While it used to be at the mouth of two or three that a person died, now it is in God’s hands and he will take care of it.” Why would this view ever change? If the bible so clearly says that it is in God’s hands to take action and not man’s, what justifies such a complete reversal of policy?
1 Corinthians 5:11-13
But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do you not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? Remove the wicked person from among yourselves.
Now the speaker cites these verses, putting emphasis on the phrase, “not even eating with such a man” as though he has any idea what this verse is talking about. To begin let’s make a point: they’ve completely disregarded the verses just before this which, starting at verse 9, say,
In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping in company with sexually immoral people, not meaning entirely with the sexually immoral people of this world or the greedy people or extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world.
Why leave this bit out? Because it doesn’t support the message they are trying to convey. If Paul added the caveat that his meaning wasn’t that they should abstain from associating with the world completely, can we not conclude that, all the more so, he had no intention for you to abstain from associating with your family?
If you’ve been a Witness for a long time, you may have noticed that any time this passage is considered emphasis is put on, “not even eating with such a man.” Let’s say it bluntly: this verse does not at all support shunning in the way Watchtower is proscribing. It has nothing to say on shunning friends and family, it is only specifying individuals, in the capacity of Christian not as mother, father, son, etc., who profess to follow Christ with out subscribing to behavioral changes.
Participation in their fellowship meals was an important means by which early Christians indicated acceptance of one another as members of the redeemed. We shall get nowhere in understanding a number of New Testament texts unless we recognize the enormous significance that first-century Christians attributed to their fellowship meals. If a group of Christians wished to signal their strongest disapproval of an erring believer, they could exclude the person from sharing in their meal fellowship. For example, Paul ordered the Corinthian Christians to expel the Christian man who was having a sexual relationship with “his father’s wife,” and refuse to admit him to their fellowship meals (1 Cor. 5:9-13).
-Lord Jesus Christ | Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, by Larry W. Hurtado; Page 162
As you can see, this passage does not at all indicate shunning as Watchtower would like you to believe. Paul was addressing something very specific and applying such specificity as broadly as Watchtower does is absurd. What it actually meant was exclusion from fellowship meals, which was considered a severe punishment.
This verse would not apply to meals in general even, such as forcing a family member in the house to eat in their room. It only applies to congregational meals, participation at which symbolized you being one of the redeemed. You can freely eat a meal with your disfellowshipped loved ones and friends without violating this admonition from Paul in Hebrews.
The portrayal of the coming of age young woman in the video the speaker introduces is horrific. Parents are held up as a good example for throwing their young adult out of the house. This is so terrible, I cannot express my feelings. This video is going to cause this to happen across the world. How many parents will be putting their child out of the home before they are ready and able to make it? Where will they go? It is only inviting bad things to happen to these young people.
On that note, it doesn’t even hold up to logical criticism. Her parents do not approve of her choices, they do not want her to be associating with the man she’s met, and their solution to this problem is to put her out of the house with nowhere to go except to that very person. How is this sensible? But it get’s even worse.
They cite the example of Aaron’s sons, who were allegedly killed directly by God. Aaron was directed not to mourn for his own murdered children. Parent’s are now expected to be like Aaron, for which these parents in the video are praised. While parent’s are being praised like this, the video is depicting life outside of the organization as something terrible. The young woman is depicted as depressed in dull and dreary colors. There is clear intent to instill fear of being in this persons situation, and an inevitability of it if you are disfellowshipped. She goes on to relate how much she missed her parents and how much they missed her. She tried to call them but they would not give in, she says that if they had talked to her, “even a little” it might have satisfied her enough to stop thinking about returning.
Think about this for just a moment. Let alone that we’ve already shown that this practice really isn’t supported by the scriptures, examine her reasons for returning. Is she saying she wants to go back because she was wrong? Because she loves God? No. The central point is that she wants her family back. What is supposed to be more important here, relationship with God or family? Personally, I’m getting a mixed message because it seems that the parents relationship with God is what’s most important; hence they shun the daughter. But the daughters relationship with her family is what’s most important; hence she considers going back. So which is supposed to be more important?
While Watchtower continues to enforce such a strict, inconsistent and unscriptural policy, the world around them is beginning to understand that this sort of behavior is actually torture.
[Torture is] the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more person acting alone or on the orders of any authority, to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, or for any other reason (World Medical Association, 1975).
-What is Psychological Torture, by Almerindo E. Ojeda
This Policy is enforced for only one reason, to coerce, manipulate, and bind a person to servitude. This is the reason it exists, it is not because the bible teaches it – even Watchtower once knew better than to make such a claim. No, the real reason is because people in control groups are,
…people who [have] been systematically lied to, physically abused, separated from their families and friends, and forced into servitude…
In these groups, basic respect for the individual is secondary to the leader’s whims and ideology. People are manipulated and coerced to think, feel, and behave in a single “right way.” Individuals become totally dependent on the group and lose the ability to act or think on their own. They are typically exploited for the sake of the group’s economic or political ends.
-Combating Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan; Page 39
This bit from Steven Hassan’s book is exactly applicable to Watchtower and their practice of shunning. This policy is a method of coercion, a means to control you through fear and keep you in servitude to them by donating your time going door-to-door and money via donations.
This is their sole interest. You have seen it yourself and it’s always been a red flag to you. The way they hold up pioneering as the pinnacle of your achievement in service, the way they have been soliciting for everyone, even children, to give them their spending money. You see this, and it doesn’t feel right to you. This is why, it’s because you have fallen victim to a control group who is manipulating you. This is their aim, to use you either as financing or as a recruiter – preferably both. If you step out of line, they will take away everyone you love and care about and throw you out of the house.
Leaving Watchtower – What it Doesn’t Mean…
So let’s say you disagree with everything I’ve written here. Maybe you stand by Watchtowers application of the verse from 1 Corinthians. That is just fine, because the verse still wouldn’t apply to a majority of people who are disfellowshipped. Just because a person leaves the Jehovah’s Witness organization doesn’t mean they are greedy, it doesn’t mean they are a reviler, extortioner, or a drunkard. I am none of these things. I practice none of the things which paul instructed you, as a witness, to stay away from me for practicing. So on what grounds could you avoid me?
It is a false perception for Watchtower to give that people who leave their organization are any of this and so you should shun them. It is not as black and white as all of that, you can leave their organization and still be a good person. It is truly possible. Since leaving it myself, I have met a great deal of wonderful people. Two of them are now writing articles for this website, one runs his own website. There are other people I’ve acquaintanced but never really “met” who I also can say are very good people. The organization has created a world that is very black and white, very, “If you’re not for me you’re against me” but that is absolutely not the reality of the world.
It is my most sincere hope that you will examine the evidence. I am an atheist, yet I encourage you to study the bible, believe in God if you wish, but do not do so blindly. Do not just accept what some other man or group of men says is truth. Look at the evidence for – but especially against – what claims are made to you. Be honest, do not only read material that supports your already established views but examine all points of view, and do so with a sincere goal to discover what is true and what is not.
I do not know where you will end up if you do this, I ended up not believing in God any longer. You may end up in a different place. I can promise you one place you will not be however – you will not be with Watchtower.