Coping with Shunning

by Barbara Anderson

When my husband and I left the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), we, like countless others, lost family members and friends because of the Witnesses shunning doctrine. Each of us has a story to tell as to why we left. Some stories are similar; others far different. Some are shunned because they were disfellowshipped; others because they no longer participated in JWs religious activities or are said to have “rejected the faith.”

We were disfellowshipped and shunned, not for what was considered a “sin” (or wrongdoing) which we were unrepentant for, but for “causing divisions” by publicly denouncing one of Watchtower’s policies that protected criminal actions committed by JWs.

Those who shun as described above, do so because of instructions such as found in the September 15, 1981 Watchtower, p. 23:

“Persons who make themselves ‘not of our sort’ by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshipped for wrongdoing.”

Did our son love us?

Our son, Lance, loved us before we were disfellowshipped in 2002 and, if asked, probably would say he still does. We know we still love him.

Proof of his love can be found in a letter to us he wrote after his marriage. That was when the three of us were still living in Bethel, the world headquarters of JWs. The letter was published in the August 8, 1993 Awake! on page 31 as follows:

Lance's Letter to Parents

Lance’s Letter to Parents


Appreciating Godly Parents

Parents who work hard to raise their children to be responsible and God-fearing adults are gratified when their efforts are successful. They are also very pleased when their children express appreciation for that good upbringing. Following is a letter sent by a son and his wife, after their wedding, to his parents:

Dear Dad and Mom:

Oh, where do we begin? Let’s start by saying how much we appreciated your love, support, and generosity on our wedding day. It truly was a special day, and your presence was invaluable. Additionally, as if that weren’t enough, you assisted us in making our honeymoon so enjoyable. [Our gift to them was a honeymoon trip to California.] All the above is further evidence of what outstanding, loving, reasonable, and fun-loving parents you are and have always been!

Have you ever wondered why I have been able to stay on the straight and narrow? Because, besides my love for Jehovah God, I have always had great respect for you both. This respect has been so strong that coupled with your discipline, it has caused me always to think twice when doing things and making decisions. The success of my life in doing God’s will is indeed due in large part to your consistent love and discipline of me and your undying devotion to Jehovah and his organization.

If I were to take all the memories of my childhood about the two of you and were to combine them, they would say that although I may not remember everything you said, I do remember your outstanding conduct, especially your love for others and for Jehovah.

We love you very, very much. Your son and daughter-in-law, L. and W.


Note in the letter that our son used the word, “discipline” twice to describe what we did to keep him “on the straight and narrow.” His expressions of love, although sincere, reflect JW’s viewpoint on child raising, which we followed.

By JW’s standards, we were successful parents. And as a husband and father, our son tries to be a good parent and provider for his two children by following JW instructions. However, he’s probably stifling his kids as we did him because of following JW’s organizational instructions that were a fit for a society 2,000 years ago but not for today in the 21st century.

Interestingly, when I was part of the Witnesses’ headquarters staff working in their Writing Department, I learned that articles in Witness literature about raising kids were usually written by people who didn’t have children. That was true in the case of one senior writer who was not even married, yet penned articles explaining what was required to have a happy marriage and to be a successful parent.

Back in 2001, because I had left the religion four years previously, our son told my mother that he would rather I die before the world ended so I would come back in the resurrection. (At that time, his father was still an elder.) In his grief over my exiting the JW organization, he expressed his hope to see me again after Armageddon just like he was taught would happen to unbelievers if they died before God brought his destructive fury to the earth. In this way, he expressed his love for me. That was fifteen years ago. (I wonder if he still expects Armageddon to come soon.)

Although our son still shuns us, we know from a note he sent us after our disfellowshipping in 2002 that he shuns us out of love, hoping that if we loved him and Jehovah enough, we’d return to the organization.  And we thought at one time that if he loved and respected us enough, he would listen to reason and leave the organization. So it comes down to this – we’re in a stalemate.

Once again, let me say that it’s not that he doesn’t love us. He is doing what he was taught since infancy – to put God’s requirements first. And, when “God’s organization” instructs members to shun disfellowshipped parents because it is one of God’s requirements, he obeyed.

This mindset of believers should never be taken personally by those who are shunned. Religious belief and emotion are tightly connected. We, the shunned, have to accept the reality of the hold that belief has on an individual and learn to live with it as best we can. All we can do is hope that the coercion tactics that often times influences someone’s religious convictions will be exposed in such a way that a normal relationship can be achieved.

We wished back when we followed the doctrines of the Witness religion that we had read the April 1, 1920 Watch Tower, p. 100 and learned that at one time our religion was not vindictive towards those who had left or those who asked for change to harmful policies:

“We would have no quarrel with anyone who wants to seek truth through other channels. We would not refuse to treat one as a brother because he did not believe the Society is the Lord’s channel.”

It’s too bad that this tenet is no longer acceptable in the JW religion.

Our son, Lance, is no different than thousands of other JWs who have never taken the time or shown the interest to really dig into the teachings and history of JWs. They are ignorant by choice – but a choice forced on them by the very group that is dividing their family.

After we learned about JWs cover-up of child sexual abuse, we decided to spread the truth to try to prevent continuing child abuse and other criminal behavior within the membership. We never tried to argue doctrine but only the disreputable actions by the leadership, and, we, like Ray Franz and his wife, paid a heavy price. Ray and his wife never had children – because they put the organization first until they realized their error – and then it was too late for them. We followed the same path – except we did have a son and grandchildren whom we lost because of our stand.

Perhaps hundreds of thousands of JWs would leave the JW religion tomorrow and act on their conscience if they could bear to give up their familial relationships. An aunt, an uncle, even a grandparent would be tough – but a child and grandchildren? Despicable and unbearable.

Until enough JWs stand up to their leaders and act on their conscience to force change by not shunning for whatever reason, we the shunned are coping with our loss by moving ahead building relationships with people who are moral, ethical and have unconditional love.

 


Comments

Coping with Shunning — 18 Comments

  1. “Interestingly, when I was part of the Witnesses’ headquarters staff working in their Writing Department, I learned that articles in Witness literature about raising kids were usually written by people who didn’t have children. That was true in the case of one senior writer who was not even married, yet penned articles explaining what was required to have a happy marriage and to be a successful parent.”

    Maybe they firmly believe in the saying, “The onlookers see more of the game than the players do” (tee hee!).

  2. Thank you writing about the Watchtower’s practice of shunning.family members which I do not believe it is God’s will to shun family or others. Watchtower has flip flopped on this practice for years (Please do the research all the way back to the 1940’s Watchtower articles.). It is another God dishonoring doctrine of theirs. Our hearts go out to all who are undergoing this and we wish peace from God.

  3. Barbara

    I hope that I can express my deep respect and christian love to you and your husband with a big hug in the new world.
    The worst things you wrote about abuse reminded me of my youth.
    As young children, we were abused by young growing up and adult family members and beaten on a daily basis by our parents.
    For that reason, we wear long clothes that covered our whole body even during summer because we were wounded and had scarves all over our little bodies.
    Damaged for live God gave me the strongest and most lovely and caring wife to slowly heal all wounds and inner pain.
    But you can imagine that during our wedding night other frightening memories came to my mind instead of the greatest gift of love that Jehovah has meant that night to be.

    And then I read your articles…… I still cry when I remember them.
    I left the organization where as my wife could not leave because of her true love for Jehovah and the many good brothers and sisters that Jehovah has gathered.

    Each year I visited the evening meal during Pesach. And I give a lot of proof of my belief by doing good to all kind of people.

    We all know that Jehovah will shift the good and the bad. I am looking forward to his judgment and reward to dry all tears.

    I thank Jehovah for all the meaningful insight you gave in the things that are most hidden and repressed.

    I feel deeply respect and love for you and you family and I hope you will be reunited in the new world.

    If I did not express myself in proper English feel free to correct it for the better understanding for all people that must live with this kind of everlasting pain.

    Ben Nail (Spijker in Dutch)

    [Minor spelling and word edits performed at Mr. Nail’s request – Editor]

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. This stalemate caused by cult thinking is sad. In all of your heart of hearts true love exists for each. it is only when we realize that we aren’t being true to ourselves that we have an opportunity to choose to leave. Until then the false self created by the religion keeps the true self imprisoned. Sad stuff.

  5. The MANY non scriptural ideas will never leave the organisation. The GB are a spiritual Harlot…and will NOT change policy that keeps their position secure. But Jah does have plans for these UNfaithful Anointed. They WILL be removed from their position of “governance”. The organisation is UNreformable. It was started by a spiritual Anointed Harlot,Russell,who accepts lies from satan so he could have his position with the Bible students:1914 and the great “false signs” Christ predicted.Matt 24;24.The LIES that are the foundation of JWs are slowly being exposed. Jah will act to clear His Name of the abominations done in His Name!

    • Sorry… Please read “Jehovah will shift” instead of shit… It’s I think a google translation fault.

      Because I use Gmail in the dutch language.

      Jehovah is my saviour because he gave us his only begotten son.

      Praise Jehovah!! and receive his blessing!!!!

      Greatings Ben

  6. Thank you for this article. My whole World was wrapped up in growing up in this religion and my Parents were zealously devout to the organization. They sold their Home believing the end was coming in 1975….and moved to the WT headquarters and my Father did much of the Masonry Stonework around there while my Mother helped in various areas. My Dad was an overseer and after my brother graduated from high school he went to Bethel but left early to get Married. My parents took it badly. Later that same brother became an Elder and eventually a Congregation Servant. He started questioning things he’d seeing and heard in Bethel and disagreed with the way the organization dictated how it’s true believers should live. I had questions as well…. as to why the Governing Body could claim divine inspiration and understanding one year and be so wrong the next. But I was too fearful to question unlike my brother who was eventually disfellowshipped. I knew Jehovah KNEW I didn’t agree with a lot of the Organizations teachings and so I asked to quit my membership. I was told I had to do something immoral or wrong to be able to do that. SO I DID. I was Mad and Angry that for over 25 years I was misled….but my family totally rejected me. That was over 35 years ago. Every member of my family of 7 has passed away except a sister who still mocks me and is rude to me any time she gets a chance. But How I came to terms with all of their rejection came when after I Met Jesus and Gave my Life totally to Him and accepted His free gift of Everlasting Life. I was reminded of what He said on account of ”HIS NAME” that we would be dejected and Families would be tore apart. Terrible terrible things happened to and with our family one by one….and I am totally giving it up to My Heavenly Father as to what will happen to them. They were sincere and deceived and were too frightened to disagree. But I could no longer pretend and live my Parents Religion when I knew Jehovah knew my Heart and my disagreement with their teachings. It was 1 john 2:26,27 that was pointed out to me by a Lady whose door I came to with the WT and Awake, and she told me She didn’t need the literature…. she had Gods Word the Bible as she held it up in her hand. She told me I should read it… and this time she would pray for me. Well I did when I got home and I never went to another meeting or went door to door again for them. Praise His Name!!!…He is faithful and He cannot Lie!!! ”You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

  7. Thanks, Jessica. Although I am 67 years of age I’m still feeling depressed.

    Although I reached the top of a business carrëer in many professions and with the highest educated university scholars as employees the truth improved my capabilities.

    Even professors from university admitted that my insight was a deeper understanding as theirs.

    I founded one of the best accountancy offices in Holland and had the top 5 greatest businesses of The Netherlands without any education than the truth.
    One of my employees was the best students of university ever. But his professors agreed in cases of judgment that my knowledge was better than theirs.
    I only can bless Jehovah for giving me true knowledge in a world of lies.

    Thank you for your compassion. Thank’s to Jehovah my Savior!!

    Also, thank for your compassion.

    Ben

  8. Been there and experienced all of that. 5 sons, 10 grandchildren [I think] I too don’t know there names, never met two daughters in laws. Since 2004 the only thing the church left me with was the alimony [ approx 1/2 million dollars]. I too have wondered what type of relationship will exist when the church looses it creditability as whether the chasm can be bridged between parent and sons.
    About a month ago the local paper ran a article about President Obama stating “that the ‘blasphemy’ and ‘apostasy’ laws of the Muslim religion as practiced in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were violations of the Universal Code of Basic Human Rights”. Same argument used in Finland against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Same argument I used in a letter to a Superior Court Judge [ which I might have some trouble with in future, even though I know the judge on a personal level] that letter was written three weeks prior to the Obama newspaper article. So I wrote my first letter to the POTUS included the letter to the judge plus a whistle blower tip that should be irresistible for a politician not to respond to. What if anything will happen remains to be seen.
    As parents I know of no way to spare our children of the heart ache they will under go once the WTBS looses its creditability before its own people. As to whether that is just wishful thinking would depend on the success of my letter, as said “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
    By the way I am the guy the WTBS refereed to in the 2013 summer convention talk about “Human Apostates” who was using a new tactic of writing letters to the residences of the flock. Works good when targeting the internal church ‘grapevine’ as to being able to penetrate the shunning policies with information the church does not want its people to know. So I write a lot of letters, somehow it seems I was able to have the reputation in Bethel of being able to write the most obscene and irreverent letters of anyone in the USA. I got disfellowshipped under the charge of being a “reviler”, imagine that.

    Bill Covert

  9. I do feel your pain because i am in the same boat.Thank you for shearing your story. But you have to know,to the world you are heroes
    You and Raymond France you were the pioneers of the new movement of awakened from the watchtower cult.
    Thank you

  10. Thank you for standing up for myself and others against rape and pedophilia within the organization and their scuzzy cover up. I will adopt you as my parents any day.

  11. Raymond Franz could have sued for slander and libel and won in court. He had all the documentation. He had a pure heart and wanted nothing but the truth to be told.

  12. I would adopt these two as my parents because they are like Jesus that spoke out with righteous indignation against everything sick and wrong. Their son and daughter in law are dopes for not acknowledging that the brotherhood is hiding rapists and pedophiles secrets like Achan and his family hid what Jehovah told them not to. I believe that the elders hiding secrets will be the ones at Armageddon that will be destroyed along with our broken judicial systems/governments.

  13. More questions: Are you telling me “the unsuitable” are the “brothers” and alleged “friends” that do this to women and children? That is how I see it. Unlike you and most “brothers” who lied and said they would lay down their life for me, Jehovah finds them the “unsuitable” liars that are covering up crimes against humanity. You need to open your eyes and look at the full picture which I do not believe you are doing. You are only hearing from males that are empathetic to sex offenders possibly because they committed similar crimes against humanity themselves. If you have any children, you need to not let them go out in service with any males. I can promise you that you will be treated the same way all the victims here have. If anything happens to your children, you need to bring them to the hospital and get a rape exam/kit done on them and call the police. The elders will not tell you to do so. Then you need to get the district attorney involved and go after the pervert because he will find a new victim. Rapists do not stop at one.

  14. I am not saying all JW males are covering up crimes against humanity for freaks of nature that call themselves, “brothers.” I am urging you that when you see a woman or child that has been sexually assaulted treated like a criminal when they are obviously hurting, stick up for them and do not go along with the misogynistic cover up. That’s all. Very simple! Unless you are afraid they will turn on you too? I tried going to two other Kingdom Halls and what I found is that the elders from my orginal Kingdom Hall were calling the elders and telling them to treat me the same way. I was told by well meaning “friends” I was “being paranoid” until an elder from the 3rd Kingdom Hall had the nerve to tell me, “Brother Lloyd ______ (family friend of the serial pedophile rapist) called and told me about you. I am warning you, I am watching you.” There was no brotherly love. I found when I walked up to groups of “sisters” they walked away from me. At service meetings nobody wanted me in their groups. People I had never discussed my sadness to. I felt raped all over again. One Sunday, my 4 year-old son and I had really studied our Watchtowers and we kept raising our hands. They would call on everyone else but us. My son literally got up on his chair and was waving his arm for a couple of minutes and they were looking around the room right past him and waited until someone else raised their hand. When they called on another person my son whispered to me, “These people do not like us…let’s go home!” Out of the mouth of babes the truth bubbles forth. Tears in our eyes we left. I turned around as I was just about out the door and the elder who was friends with the pervert grimaced at me. It was pure EVIL.

    Franz who was an editor and among those high on the food chain at the Watchtower Society, a former elder I know who would not go along with a cover up of child sexual abuse, and the woman that started this website spoke out against stuff like this with righteous indignation. For that, they were exiled so that they can be silenced from letting the truth be known so that women and children are ignorant and in danger. You may call it “apostasy” others find it enlightening to learn that really bad things happened to many of us here, and NOT A SOUL stood up for us in our Kingdom Halls. What we all found is the elders and their* “friends” always take the side of the male predator…until the judge rules against them in court! Even when the DA will present DNA evidence or the FBI finding that they taped their sessions with children and were selling it on the internet! Elders are very prideful and NEVER apologize to the victims that they demonized, EVER! Most of the victims just want an apology from the creep that raped them, and/or the elders that played a HUGE part in them being marginalized at the Kingdom Hall. That is all. However, the police educate the victims that these creeps never stop at one victim and that they need to make a report in case of future attacks. This is what happens. Stop it in your Kingdom Hall and please do not demonize victims and say they are weeds or apostates if you ever honestly want to see their faces again.

  15. There are no dissolution of Kingdom Halls that I know of in my county. What I found out after volunteering at the courts is that names of Kingdom Halls a predator were simply changed. As it was when there was another brother/elder that was filming his rapes of children ages one and up! The FBI busted him and he served time and got paroled early on good behavior. His stepchildren tried to warn them when they were little and the hall turned on the kids and their mother. Then when he was finally caught they were mad at her for being such a complacent doormat that she was instructed to be. They chased her off too after her children developed personality disorders from being systematically sexually abused for YEARS. They could not handle her heavy burden and did not take responsibility for their inaction. Elders should apologize when they are wrong. That would be such a healing to those that have been what psychologists call “raped a second time” by clergy.

    Try being sexually assaulted and the whispers and the looks and the total lack of contact with you as if you were disfellowshipped but you have not been. Try having nobody wanting to go out in service with you! Believe me, I tried going to 3 other Kingdom Halls after the incident and they pulled the same funky business of trying to demonize me by telling people that I did not know personally and had not discussed my life with that I and four other victims were “mentally ill, having false memories, slanderous, didn’t have two to three preferably male witnesses and could be guilty of fornication or adultery” (even with a gun pointed at their heads…threatening to kill his victims, and tying them up, and stealing a piece of jewelry from his victims which turns him on). I am saddened that the elders had 5 victims before them within the same year and instead of helping the women and children, they sided with this male swine. They even escorted the psychopath out the emergency exit doors in the bathroom at the Hall one Sunday when the police came looking for him. I believe he is California’s Golden State Killer Rapist, picture to the far left on the FBI website.

    For me going to a Kingdom Hall is mental judo. If I run into people that knew me, they will not speak to me or the other victims. If I approach them polite and friendly I am met a prig who treats me as if I am a bug that they want to step on. It certainly has not been a safe haven from the storms of life where “brothers and sisters would lay down their lives for me.” That is one of the biggest lies. That is what blood relations-family does and real friends that are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. I found the witnesses just want to please the elders and pretend to have no opinion of people when they are people pleasers and highly judgmental. They are a part of the rape culture in the world that disgusts me. I found that they do not have the time or skills to be a friend that loves unconditionally and truly cares about the well being of women and children that have been the victim of a violent crime. It is a patriarchal religion and women truly have no platform to be heard as in most Protestant churches. I feel it is a men’s club and really I am just an unwanted guest there. Jehovah and Jesus know that I love them but I will not subject myself or my loved ones to be psychologically abused anymore by any under educated mean person ever again. The elders had five victims and would not consider any of us character witnesses to the rapist. So yes, I do blame them for not staying abreast of modern psychology, sociology, the law, and criminal justice and how to deal with sexual assault and lying to me about “keeping the congregation clean” and safe. Bottom line, as a result as to the way I and others were treated, I do not feel safe there, nor do I trust the elders with my life, and neither does my husband and we avoid places that promote the rape culture.

    By the way, the woman that started this webpage worked at the Watchtower Society and she tried over 25 times to suggest to the governing body that they needed to do something about sexual abuse scandals in the Kingdom Halls. Instead she was met with fierce opposition and slander just like the rape victims. Same with Brother Franz that wrote All Scripture is Inspired and others. When will multiple victims’ spiritual lives matter?

  16. [Please Note: Certain comments by “La Voce” and “Levi” have been removed from this comment thread at the Editor’s discretion. it is our policy to keep comments on topic, focused, and without personal disputes. In our opinion, those guidelines were exceeded. Neither of the individuals who, in our opinion, crossed certain editorial guidelines, have been banned or restricted from commenting in the future. We would ask that they, and all of you who wish to comment on any of our articles or editorials, please stay on topic and keep your comments short and impersonal.]

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