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Why do Jehovah's Witnesses shun disfellowshipped family members?

I stayed in the religion so as not to lose my beloved family.

Throughout my life, I felt forced to lead a double life.  A secret life of my own, and one where my family thought I was practicing being a Jehovah's Witness.  The deceit consumed me with fear and guilt.  As a Jehovah's Witness I was taught that disfellowshipped members were to be shunned - even if it was immediate family.

According to different teachings in various Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publications, the consequences of disfellowshipping and reproach are as follows: 

The Watchtower Magazine Oct. 1, 1952, p599 ©1952 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, "We must hate [the disfellowshipped person] in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme active aversion, to consider [them] as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest."

The Watchtower Magazine, July 15, 1961, p420 ©1961 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, "In order to hate what is bad, a Christian must hate the person."

The Watchtower Magazine, July 15, 1963, p443 ©1963 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, "A disfellowshipped relative who does not live in the same home, contact with him is also kept to what is absolutely necessary . . . even curtailed completely if at all possible."

I could not bear losing my family, but I did not believe in the rigid requirements of participation (works) that many cannot do and the judgments given for not doing these requirements.  Nor did I believe that members of ony one religion would gain salvation.  The controlling nature of the religion did not feel right either.  My relationship with God should not be through a man-made organization, but rather it should be between me and the Lord.

In my younger adult years, all I had was my family and Jehovah's Witness friends.  The thought of ever doing something against the rules of the religion and getting disfellowshipped, kept me hanging in there - doing just the bear minimum, which put me in a situation where judgments were placed on me for not doing the "average" amount of works.  Growing up and even in my young adult years, having "worldly" or non-believer (not Jehovah's Witnesses) friends, was highly frowned upon, so you did not make friends outside the religion.  I always wondered why they were so strict about this.  I remember being told that these worldly acquaintances were bad association and had 1 Cor. 15:33 memorized. 

"Do not be misled.  Bad associations spoil useful habits."

Being taught to think that everyone outside of your religion is "bad association" is, in my opinion, extremely judgmental and unloving.  We are to love our brothers, so how is this showing love to fellow brothers in Christ?  It is not.

So, the next logical question is why do Jehovah's Witnesses take this stance?  Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only religious group to take this stance.  Consider the quote below from another former member of a religious group and ask yourself, does this not sound exactly like what I have depicted above?

"When our own thoughts are forbidden, when our questions are not allowed and our doubts are punished, when contacts and friendships outside the organization are censored, we are being abused for an end that never justifies its means. When our heart aches knowing we have made friendships and secret attachments that will be forever forbidden if we leave, we are in danger. When we consider staying in a group because we cannot bear the loss, disappointment, and sorrow our leaving will cause for ourselves and those we have come to love, we are in a cult."

Deborah Layton - Former Jim Jones disciple

The only logical explanation I can discern for telling us who we can and cannot associate with, is fear and mind control.

To this day, I still have not been disfellowshipped and although I have told my family I do not believe what they believe, I still keep secrets from them.  My sercets are now minor ones - mainly how I celebrate the holidays and regularly attend a non-denominational bible church.  I keep these secrets from them, so as not to rub salt into a wound, or agitate them, afterall I love them.  The fact that they have not turned me in to the local congregation for "apostasy" means they don't totally believe everything either and there is still hope that I can reach them, so they can enjoy the spiritual freedom I have found.

Why are people disfellowshipped?

According to Insight on the Scriptures, p787, ©1988 Watchtower Bible and Tract Society it says that Expelling is "The judicial excommunication, or disfellowshipping, of delinquents from membership and association in a community or organization . . . In the congregation of God it is exercised to maintain the purity of the organization doctrinally and morally."

So keeping the congregation and organization pure is more important than actually trying to help someone. 

Note the definition of "Purity" from the Merriam-Webser Dictionary:

Definition of PURITY

1: the quality or state of being pure

"Pure" is a very close word to perfect.  Some synonyms of "Pure" are:

impeccable, pure, sinless, white

Realted words: spotless, unblemished, blameless, guiltless

No religion, church or members of such can be perfect.

I remember a friend in my congregation when I was about 20.  He had lost his mother to cancer and was really struggling with a drinking problem.  He was going to be disfellowshipped and he called all his close friends to tell them why.  It was for his drinking problem.  Well, alcoholism is a disease that to conquer requires professional help in many cases.  But, getting psychiatric help is discouraged.

I remember feeling sick that I was expected to shun this friend.  To this day, I don't know what happened to him.  I pray he has found his way to happiness and spiritual freedom.

Do you think Jesus' love was conditional?

Obviously not.  But as a Jehovah's Witness you feel that your family's love is very conditional - the condition of their love being, you stay in the organization as a practicing member.  It is sad that the religion takes this stance with disfellowshipping.  It is almost as though you are taught to fear the disfellowshipped person, sinner or bad associates.  Jehovah's Witnesses claim that one of their identifying qualities is love. How can you love your family and hate them at the same time?

The Opposite of Love is Fear

Having been raised in a fear-based culture, I now know that being coerced to practice a religion out of fear, is not loving.  1 John 4:18 (NWT), "There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint.  Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love."