Psychologist Raphael Aron, author of the book “Cults: Too Good To Be True,” has joined Australian senator Nick Xenophon in placing religious organizations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology firmly under the spotlight. For his part, Xenophon wants to see a national cult-busting agency set up to police such organizations.
Aron, who has lambasted the Watchtower’s practice of shunning as “draconian, cruel and callous” has expressed his dismay at its psychological effects on young ones. He gave the Australian newspaper The Age one such example, saying, “I am still waiting for a justification for someone to be able to rip away a five or six year old child from their extended family because Mum or Dad have decided to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Watchtower is already facing almost relentless legal pressure in Australia on account of its poor track record in complying with working with children regulations. Indeed, only a few weeks ago a Witness man appeared in a Victoria court after admitting to child molestation on facebook. Only after being charged in the wake of his surprise confession to his now-adult victim did he stand down as an elder. A wide-ranging Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has also been set up to investigate various organizations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding their child protection policies.
It’s difficult to say what the end result of this intense political and judicial pressure will be. Senator Xenophon has already acknowledged that “at the moment groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology are subsidised by the taxpayer.” It could conceivably be that the Watchtower in Australia ends up losing its charitable status entirely if things don’t go their way, which would be a serious financial blow for the organization. Certainly Watchtower’s case cannot be helped by more details of their cult-like practices and policies, such as shunning, coming under the glare of the media and political spotlight.
A policy of denial
One of the more shocking aspects of Watchtower’s approach to shunning is that, when faced with media questioning on the subject, Society representatives will routinely deny that there is any such practice. According to this latest article in The Age, the Sydney lawyer Vincent Toole (who represents the Watchtower) has dismissed the idea of shunning among Witnesses as a “myth.”
This follows the media storm in 2011 when, in the wake of the publication of shocking “mentally diseased” comments in a Watchtower study article, Society representative Rick Fenton responded to questions from Independent reporter Jerome Taylor by declaring shunning to be “a personal matter for each individual to decide for himself.” (a downloadable copy of the newspaper article is available on this link)
All of this is a world away from what is stated in the April 15th 2012 Watchtower where, after relating an experience (reproduced below) of a man who is shunned returning to the organization, the paragraph concludes: “Think of that if you are ever tempted to violate God’s command not to associate with your disfellowshipped relatives.” (underlining mine)
And so, what is clearly expressed as a command in the publications is shrugged off as being a “personal matter” by a Watchtower spokesman at London Bethel, and even as a “myth” by a lawyer representing the organization in Australia. It seems that, when trying to evade the media and political spotlight, lying and deception is an excusable strategy of theocratic warfare that Watchtower feels entitled to utilize – even though “a false tongue” is listed as one of the seven things Jehovah hates. – Proverbs 6:16-19
Repetition for emphasis
The truth is that shunning is not just conveyed as “Jehovah’s decree” and “God’s command” for Witnesses – it is repeatedly rammed home in the Society’s literature as a test of loyalty to the organization. This is remarkably evident in the latest June 15th Watchtower article, which has recycled the exact same shunning experience it used only 14 months earlier to drive its damaging message home.
It is remarkable to think that Watchtower’s writing department is so desperate to reinforce the organization’s cruel shunning policy that it must resort to re-using material already printed just over a year ago. This takes the principle of “Jehovah’s reminders” (Psalm 119:119), so often used to excuse the repetitive nature of Watchtower literature, to a whole new level!
The experience itself, whether true or not, merely confirms that the predominant motivation for a disfellowshipped one to return to the organization is the renewal of family contact rather than repentance. Such emotional blackmail hardly befits an organization that claims to be identified by the love that is shown between its followers. (John 13:35)
However distressing the Society’s propaganda warfare may be, it is at least comforting to note that Watchtower’s cult credentials are increasingly coming to the attention of outsiders, including the media. This latest article in The Age proves that, even though the Society may brazenly deny its shunning policy when pushed on the subject, politicians and journalists will not be fooled. The more the Society ramps up its hateful shunning rhetoric, the more it shows its true colors.