On their official website, the Watchtower explains their shunning policy as follows:
Those who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer preach to others, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned. In fact, we reach out to them and try to rekindle their spiritual interest.
We do not automatically disfellowship someone who commits a serious sin. If, however, a baptized Witness makes a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code and does not repent, he or she will be shunned or disfellowshipped. The Bible clearly states: “”Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.””
— Do You Shun Former Members of Your Religion? (FAQ on jw.org)
Okay, we’ve fairly let them have their say and make their claim. They just claimed that they don’t shun someone unless they make a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code and are thus “wicked.” Now let’s see if they have told the truth or have just lied through their false teeth.
Well, the reason for disfellowshipping is that some persons get into this congregation of God that do not love Christ… Such an individual has no place in the clean organization or congregation of God. He should go back to the wicked group that he once came from and die with that wicked group with Satan’s organization.
— Watchtower 1952 Mar 1 pp. 131, 134
Who would determine whether someone sufficiently “loved Christ”? How would they determine this? And how does this possibly qualify as “making a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code”?
Nevertheless, if future cases of gross unnatural conduct, such as the practice of oral or anal copulation, are brought to their attention, the elders should act to try to correct the situation before further harm results, as they would do with any other serious wrong. Their concern is, of course, to try to help those who go astray and are ‘caught in the snare of the Devil.’ (2 Tim. 2:26) But if persons willfully show disrespect for Jehovah God’s marital arrangements, then it becomes necessary to remove them from the congregation as dangerous “leaven” that could contaminate others.
— Watchtower 12/1/1972 p.735
So, we find out that certain sexual practices done in private between a husband and wife are “the snare of the devil” and justify shunning of the “wicked” couple. I imagine the only way that others in the congregation would know about a couple’s foray into oral sex would be by the large smiles on the couple’s faces (the dangerous “leaven” that would soon have every couple wanting to try it!)
Funny how “the Bible’s moral code” never once condemns (or even mentions) such practices — as the Watchtower has admitted in print:
It must be acknowledged that the Bible does not give any specific rules or limitations as regards the manner in which husband and wife engage in sexual relations.
— Watchtower 2/15/1978 p.30
Oh? So, can we stop shunning such couples now? NO; though they weren’t guilty of breaking the Bible’s moral code, they were guilty of something just as bad: breaking the Watchtower’s own made-up commandment (which, of course, was “truth for its time.”) [Did I hear someone shout out “Pharisees!”?]
What if I’m a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, whose daughter and son-in-law have been disfellowshipped for having engaged in oral sex? Do I have to continue to shun my own daughter, even though she has broken no biblical moral code, and loves Christ?
If after sufficient warning the publisher persists in associating with the disfellowshipped person instead of aligning himself with Jehovah’s organization he also should be disfellowshipped.
— Watchtower 1955 Oct 1 p.607
There you have it: associating with someone who has been disfellowshipped can get you disfellowshipped as well, though it’s hardly what a rational person would call “breaking the Bible’s moral code.” In my Bible it says that Jesus associated with the “sinners” because he felt they needed him (also, they tend to be a lot more fun to hang with.)
Let’s look at the well-known circumstances of one very public disfellowshipping. Ray Franz was a member of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He lived a moral life, and studied the Bible daily. He never broke “the Bible’s moral code.” No one in their right mind would have considered him “wicked.” When he learned that some of the teachings he had been promulgating as a member of the Governing Body were untrue, he had a “crisis of conscience” which led him to resign his position. At one point he shared a meal with someone who had been disfellowshipped. For this Ray himself was disfellowshipped, and consequently shunned by all Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Was Ray “making a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code?” Was he a “wicked man”? Answer that question honestly and you’ll see that the official site of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently has a big fat stinking lie smelling up the place.
Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are disfellowshipped (i.e. shunned) for thinking or forming their own opinions or living their lives at variance with the “current understanding” of the Watchtower. Sometimes Witnesses “get ahead” of the “light” — rejecting a current teaching for one that the Governing Body later adopts. They are disfellowshipped for this, and that sentence is not commuted even after it turns out that they were right!
For instance, oral and anal sex between married couples was later declared not to be against the Bible’s moral code, and hence no longer a disfellowshipping offense:
In the past some comments have appeared in this magazine in connection with certain unusual sex practices, such as oral sex, within marriage and these were equated with gross sexual immorality. On this basis the conclusion was reached that those engaging in such sex practices were subject to disfellowshiping if unrepentant. The view was taken that it was within the authority of congregational elders to investigate and act in a judicial capacity regarding such practices in the conjugal relationship.
A careful further weighing of this matter, however, convinces us that, in view of the absence of clear Scriptural instruction, these are matters for which the married couple themselves must bear the responsibility before God and that these marital intimacies do not come within the province of the congregational elders to attempt to control nor to take disfellowshiping action with such matters as the sole basis.
Watchtower, 2/15/1978 p. 30-31
Any Witness who was disfellowshipped for this was not automatically reinstated when the Governing Body realized that the individual was not breaking God’s law. No; the individual had to come crawling back on their knees begging to be reinstated. But why would anyone do that? Wouldn’t it have become painfully obvious, as a result of that experience, that the Governing Body does not know what God’s laws are?
This example makes it clear that Witnesses are in reality shunned, not for breaking their god’s law, but for breaking the Watchtower’s rules.
Witnesses are not to speak or write to a disfellowshipped Witness. If the disfellowshipped one is an “apostate” (holding views at variance with the Governing Body, as was the case with Ray Franz) then not only are they to never acknowledge that person’s existence, they are ordered to “hate, loathe and despise” the individual!
The obligation to hate lawlessness also applies to all activity by apostates. Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: ‘Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies.’
-– The Watchtower, July 15, 1992, pages 12, 13
We must hate in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme and active aversion, to consider as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest.”
-– Watchtower, October 1, 1952, p. 599
This is especially ironic since the Watchtower claims that the basis of disfellowshipping is love! (Watchtower 1952 Mar 1 p. 131) It’s even more ironic when a son or daughter is involved in “apostasy” (i.e. thinking for themselves); parents who’ve been instructed to give “unconditional love” must now “hate, loathe, and detest” them!
If a son or daughter is disfellowshipped, then the parents must limit their association with their children to just what is absolutely necessary. Recent articles have warned Witnesses against trying to stretch the definition of “necessary contact.” You can find hundreds of stories on the Internet of people whose lives have been ruined due to this heartless policy of the Watchtower’s.
This is in spite of the fact that the secret handbook that only elders are allowed to see, Shepherding the Flock of God, now states that a Witness who has “undue association” with a disfellowshipped relative should be “counseled” and “lose privileges” but should not be hauled before a judicial committee to be disfellowshipped [as long as it’s not a “spritual” association and the disfellowshipping decision isn’t criticized.]
But most Witnesses are unaware of what’s in that secret book. All they hear at the conventions is: “Show love to your disfellowshipped family members by cutting off all contact with them!”
Shunning between family members is one of the most glaringly apparent signs of a cult. What else but a mind-controlling cult could ever come between the sacred bond between parents and their children?
When you are in a cult that explicitly separates you from associating with outsiders, suicide in a not uncommon response to being shunned by the cult. This probably accounts for a large part of the high suicide rate among Jehovah’s Witnesses and former members.
The Watchtower claims that if a Witness acts up, it would “bring reproach on Jehovah’s name” if they didn’t disfellowship that person. (What they’re really worried about is what the neighbors will say about them.) But that argument just insults our intelligence. I’ve known Catholics who get drunk, and Methodists who cheat on their taxes. But I’m smart enough not to take the actions of these individuals and hold them against the Catholic or Methodist church. You’re always going to have a few bad apples, but it would be a stupid farmer who would condemn the tree because of it.
Shame on the Governing Body and its Watchtower for its shunning policy. Shame on the parents who meekly go along with the command to shun their own children. It’s time to Awake! and smell the sh*t the Watchtower is shoveling.
Then go hug your kids.
P.S. Shunning also extends to written communication. If you’re a Witness you are now in big trouble for even having read this article written by an apostate. But, your secret is safe with me; the elders will never know. Just don’t even think of leaving a comment; the Watchtower has specifically commanded that you shall not leave comments on apostate sites (as that would be communicating with an apostate.) But go ahead: give it a shot! Live a little. We won’t tell.