As my wife & I were walking out of a store, I noticed a drama unfolding nearby. Two young children were throwing a hissy fit. Their father tried to kindly and patiently calm them, even stooping down to get to eye-level with them, but it was to no avail -- the young children wanted, demanded pizza, no negotiation, no compromise and the whole world is going to hear about it. As far as they were concerned, the whole world revolved around their whims. As I passed by, I smiled & said to the father, “Ah, the wonders of parenthood.” He laughed and replied, “Some days are better than others.” I reassured him it will get better and commended him for his patience.
As I research references for various articles, inevitably I will come across links that initially sound like they would help me make a point either for or against whatever idea I'm developing. Twice I have come across a YouTube site whose video title was craftily phrased to draw in Jehovah's Witnesses. But the real intent was to slander us. What irritated me the most was that the site is actually run by an apostate. Now, I'm not just talking about someone that left our ranks, I'm referring to a full blown hater. He has not only rejected our faith, he also rejects the Bible and God. So really, although he attacks us, his intent is to promote atheism. He isn’t content to live his life, but just like the children in the introduction, the whole world is going to know that he is throwing a tantrum.
One video I got suckered into watching was an interview with a witness who stood up for his belief regarding blood transfusions and survived without such. The only thing was, he was not still in our faith. After the event, the man changed his mind and left the faith, concluding that he actually risked his life for a belief. He is alive and well, but that is inconsequential to him. He then complained that his family & friends ostracized (shunned) him because he rejected the faith they hold dear. This is the topic I want to address here.
I've seen this more than once, people exercise their free will and reject the faith but then subsequently whine when the community exercise their own free will and chose not to deal with that person. It baffles me that such a person feels they can reject their faith, essentially declaring that anyone inside the faith is bad and self-deceived, yet then expect that there are no consequences for their decision. They expect everyone will still want to associate with them, want their company, want their friendship. Why do those rejecting our faith and condemning us for remaining in it have free will, but feel we shouldn't? It comes across as spoiled entitlement to me, a whiny little child that wants everything their way.
Then, the Internet rises up, pointing fingers at the ones that shun as if they (those on the internet) even vaguely understand all the details. The Internet seems full of clueless self-righteous trolls that make knee jerk decisions. The fact is, the one who rejected the faith did so knowing full well the consequences beforehand. The congregation would gladly accept that one back if they accept the faith, the Bible, and God.
But are we the only religion that has this practice? No, Catholics have excommunication. Here is a list of other religions that do the same thing. Furthermore, the practice is not limited to just religion. The field of various sciences has also used shunning to show extreme disapproval of an idea. Now, I cannot speak to the fairness of what other religions do, but I can speak first hand to the way Jehovah’s Witnesses use this practice. First, we make every attempt to kindly reason with a person. In fact, even though I am merely a “sheep” in the fold and not a “shepherd,” I was called by a friend about a year ago that decided he no longer believed in God. He said that his scientific background convinced him that God could not exist. I tried to plead with him but he would not listen to any reasoning with which I wanted to appeal to him. He informed me that he had already written an official letter and delivered it to the elders.
If, in the future, anyone who has rejected our faith, decides they have made a huge error, we gladly work with them to help them back. Once they are reinstated, scripture encourages us to assure such ones of our love.
So yes, shunning is a disciplinary action. For our faith, it is not cruelly “forever.” Nor it is it that anyone involved in the situation enjoys having to shun a loved one. It is very stressful and deeply saddening. We want all our “brothers and sisters” to be with us. But they need to make changes. It was their choice to leave. It must be their choice to change and come back.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ message is one of love, hope, and unity. On the other side of the spectrum are detractors. Their message is hate. Indeed, they have no positive message at all. Nothing encouraging, no direction of a better way. I have met those who have begun studying the Bible with us and who have viewed these videos and read the online posts. Even these newly interested ones have no problem seeing through the intent and realize the apostates are little more than childish malcontents.
In the same video, the interviewer, the brash apostate, felt JWs had twisted and misquoted supporting medical science materials. As expected, he conveniently and completely ignored the very plain Bible directive to abstain from blood. Although I'm pretty sure he'd find some way to weasel out of that too. Those that reject the faith need to grow up and just come to terms with their adult decisions. After a person is disfellowshipped, you don't find the brotherhood (either locally or nationally) defaming that person and making them out to be so completely evil that they are worthless. No, instead we are hopeful they will return. But in contrast, the disciplined ones seem to love to exaggerate, lie and defame those that cared for them.
In case you think I am some pompous person who has never received correction, you would be wrong. I learned four things through my experiences. First, we are not perfect as an organization, but we are the best. Second, it did no good to be angry and blame others for choices I made. Third, finding fault with others because I felt slighted or treated harshly accomplishes nothing but pouring salt on a wound. I needed to “get over myself.” Fourth, God’s sanctification and the purity of the congregation are much more important than little old me. After several stumbles and falls, I am very glad to be part of a real brotherhood worshipping in truth.