Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Practice Shunning?

Sure, bad association does spoil useful habits, and the bible does say that we should limit our association with people who blatantly and continuingly practice sin. But some organizations use this principle as a weapon, and this severe form of shunning can be extremely dangerous to a person’s mental health. Many who have been shunned by Jehovah’s Witnesses have resorted to suicide to end their emotional suffering [1]. With that in mind, do Jehovah’s Witnesses practice this kind of extreme shunning?

Jehovahs Witnesses practice one of the most extreme forms of shunning. Members can be disfellowshipped and shunned for many reasons, some of which are not in the Bible. Members including family, are required to shun the individual regardless of whether they agree with the decision to shun or not.

Once a Judicial Decision has been made to disfellowship someone, or if a member leaves the Jehovah’s Witnesses, then every Jehovah’s Witness in the entire world is required to shun that individual.

Most don’t even know what the individual is being shunned for, and the few who do might not agree with the elders’ decision to disfellowship the person. Regardless, they are still expected to start shunning the individual the very second his disfellowshipping is announced at the meeting in front of the whole congregation.

Because most people don’t know what the reason for the disfellowshipping is, naturally, there be a lot of speculation about what the person possibly did. A lot of the time, the absolute worst is assumed.

What Happens When You Leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

On their official website, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that anybody is free to resign [2]. They go on to say that the person will not be coerced or pressured into remaining as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Conveniently, their response neglects to explain what happens when a person formally leaves the organization.

If a person informs the elders that they would like to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an announcement will be made in front of the entire congregation that the person is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they will be shunned the same as if they have been disfellowshipped for serious sin.

The announcement goes something like “John Doe is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”. This means that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to associate with that person anymore. The congregation will not know if he has been disfellowshipped for serious sin, or if he has merely chosen to leave the organization.

It really is humiliating and cruel.

There actually is no way to officially leave the organization without being shunned in one way or another.

The congregation will naturally assume that the person was disfellowshipped for wrongdoing when in reality the person may just want to stop attending Jehovah’s Witness meetings for their own personal reasons.

In fact, many victims of child sex abuse are being shunned today because they have chosen to retire as Jehovah’s Witnesses following their traumatic encounters. And because they will never return, they will probably never have their families back.

There’s another way to leave, but it’s not easier, just different

To avoid this shunning, many Jehovah’s Witnesses decide to “fade”. When someone fades, they gradually start missing meetings, field service, and avoiding other Jehovah’s Witnesses socially. This absence will not go unnoticed by the elders. And if they do, it won’t be long before fellow Witnesses notice and report to the elders of his continued absence. You will be dubbed as spiritually weak, and they will come knocking thinking they can “encourage” you to return.

“Encouraging” here is used loosely, perhaps the better term would be “pressured”.

It won’t be long until the elders will call the fading member in an attempt to arrange a shepherding call. Most faders will avoid these meetings at all costs in the hopes that the elders will eventually give up and leave them alone. It is not unheard of that elders show up at members’ homes unannounced (after all, that’s what they’re good at), and so many faders make the decision to move to another area and “attend” a different congregation in order to escape and fade successfully.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are incredibly involved in each other’s lives, making fading very difficult. A lot of the time the “fader” is employed by a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, and some are still minors living in their parents’ homes. Leaving the organization has very serious consequences for them. They could end up homeless, and unemployed.

Furthermore, even though the member might not be officially disfellowshipped, they will be still “soft shunned” and considered bad association. Skipping meetings will create an extraordinary amount of tension with family members.

So you can understand why some decide that a clean break by disassociating is better than a long and tedious process of fading. It’s somewhat similar to ripping off a band-aid versus slowly peeling it off.

What happens if a Jehovah’s Witness associates with a disfellowshipped person?

It is certainly not impossible that a person might get unfairly disfellowshipped, and a loved one might decide to associate with the person and ignore the elders’ instructions to shun him, but this action will not go without consequence.

If a member is known to have undue and persistent spiritual association with a disfellowshipped person or even a person that has disassociated himself, they will be subject to a judicial hearing themselves where they could be disfellowshipped.

A member can also be disfellowshipped by openly criticizing or disagreeing with the elders’ decision to disfellowship someone.

Read item 6 on page 116 in the book Sheperding the Flock of God [3].

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses Practice Extreme Disfellowshipping and Shunning?

The Organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses insists that the practice of shunning is a loving one. But is it really? Members are taught that by shunning the individual, you may “bring him to his senses” and he will “return to Jehovah” But as Christians, we know that there are more loving ways to bring a sinner to his senses and help them to return to God [Read Matt.18], so why does the Organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses REALLY practice such extreme shunning even after the individual has repented?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses practice shunning as a form of control. Members are terribly afraid of getting disfellowshipped because they will instantly lose their family and then be killed at Armageddon, which is always taught to be within only a few years.

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, eight men who live and work in the JW headquarters, make all the decisions and give “direction” that all members must follow without question. They want all Jehovah’s Witnesses to obey their instructions unconditionally, and they use fear to accomplish this.

…direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.

Watchtower 2013 – Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes—What They Mean for Us Today, Paragraph 17 [4]

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that if you are not in good standing with the organization, you will be killed at Armageddon within a few years, and there is no salvation for you. This is their source of control over their members, and this is why no one dares to question anything that the Governing Body Says.

and if one should remain in this disfellowshipped condition until he died, it would mean his everlasting destruction as a person who is rejected by God.

Watchtower 1965 Dec 15 “We Should Not Neglect the House of Our God”, Paragraph 15 [5]

In reality, a disfellowshipped person is not necessarily rejected by God, but merely by imperfect humans. Many disfellowshipped persons have already repented before they confessed, but the elders felt that the individual was not repentant and disfellowshipped him. The person will remain disfellowshipped until the elders decide that they are convinced that he is showing repentance.

In order to extend mercy, the (Judicial) committee must be convinced that the wrongdoer has a changed heart condition and that he has a zeal to right the wrong and is absolutely determined to avoid it in the future.

Sheperd the Flock of God, Chapter 7, Determining Genuine Repentance [3]

“In order to extend mercy, the committee must be convinced??” – According to this, mercy is conditional, but that’s not what the bible says! No, we should be “rich in mercy”. We must try to imitate God’s mercy because he had mercy on us even when we “were dead in trespasses”.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved

Ephesians 2:4-5

Inducing fear and a sense of urgency to capture and keep followers.

Every single generation since the beginning of the organization was taught that the Battle of Armageddon is imminent, always within a few years. When the predicted dates passed and nothing happened, the Governing Body (The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Leaders) will change their understanding of the Bible by claiming that they have found “New Light”, and push the date by a few years, but always within the current generations life span. This is what keeps the members on their toes and also scares new people into joining the organization.

This really is a fear based tactic.

The history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is littered with unfulfilled predictions. Read Wikipedia’s list of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ unfulfilled predictions [6].

So when a person is disfellowshipped, you can understand the level of anxiety he or she experiences. This is made much worse by the fact that they lose all contact with their loved ones until they get reinstated. IF they get reinstated.

Is Disfellowshipping a Loving Provision?

The Organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses claims that they only disfellowship people who are unrepentant and are continuing to live in sin and that the disfellowshipping is to bring them to their senses. This is simply not the case.

Many of Jehovah’s Witnesses get disfellowshipped for something that they did many years ago, even though they have repented and stopped. Failure to confess the sin is taken by the elders as a sign that they are not repentant, despite there being no scripture in the Bible requiring that person to confess to the elders.

Three elders will form a judicial committee of three elders to investigate and question the individual. If the elders decide that they are not convinced that the individual is repentant, then the person will be disfellowshipped regardless of whether or not they have stopped the wrongdoing.

That’s right, the elders decide whether or not the person is worthy of salvation.

This is not a loving provision at all. It is retribution and they are merely making an example of the individual, reminding others what happens if they dare to disobey.

You can read all about this Judicial Process yourself in a book that is issued only to the elders and is known as the “Elders Book” or “Sheperd the Flock of God”. Only the elders are allowed to see the book and if an elder gets removed or if he dies, the organization makes sure that the book gets returned safely.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Elder’s book is now publicly available after the organization was investigated by the Australian Royal Commission for Child Sex Abuse.

The book was submitted as evidence and is available here: Jehovah’s Witnesses Elders Book [3]

Why does the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses Need To Control Their Members?

One of the Governing Bodies “Directions” is that members are forbidden to do any research outside of their own literature. Anything written about the organization that does not paint it in a good light is considered to be apostate lies. Viewing, let alone spreading this information is considered one of the highest crimes possible within the organization.

The Governing Body knows that there is legitimate information out there that would expose the organization, and this is a direct threat to their authority. They demonize these sources of information and forbid anyone from reading it.

With that said, is it starting to make sense why the Governing Body uses this wicked tool to control their members? The very existence of their organization depends on it. And guess what, it works!

You can find endless experiences online about members reading outside information about the organization while still in, would suffer senseless guilt, which is induced by years, sometimes decades of indoctrination.

They would hide in public libraries when they accessed these websites and read these books. And heaven forbid they ever forget to clear their internet search history and a parent or spouse finds out. Make no mistake, they will report them to the elders almost instantly. Just as Jesus foretold.

12 But before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors for the sake of my name.

16 Moreover, you will be handed over even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death,

Luke 21:12 & 16

This scripture is often used by the organization describing how the world would persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses, but today, it is very much suited to members of the organization “waking up” rejecting the organization and following the Christ instead.

Sure, I agree that they won’t be put to death, but they are certainly “handed over to be disfellowshipped” and treated as if they were dead, and to most Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is as good as being dead…



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