Like many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of my family will soon be attending the 2016 convention entitled “Remain Loyal to Jehovah.”
Dubbed #worstconventionever by many in the ex-JW community, this convention features a number of videos and talks that will serve to further indoctrinate Watchtower’s followers and cause family strife.
Starting today, July 1 2016, my parents will attend the convention in the American Midwest. This afternoon, they will see a video that portrays a fictional character name Sonja who is disfellowshipped after she starts a romantic relationship with a nonbeliever she meets at work. This video shows the parents forcing Sonja out her family home and cutting all ties with her (even ignoring her phone calls) for fifteen years until she decides to seek reinstatement in the organization and is part part of a talk entitled “Shun Unrepentant Wrongdoers.”
I personally have a lot in common with Sonja. As a born-in Witness who left the organization without remorse, I have felt the sting of total shunning. My parents and only sister refuse to be a part of my life and by extension that of my daughter. Like Sonja, I have had to make a life of my own. Due to the fact that I refuse to follow the edicts of the Governing Body, I have been made an outcast by those who should love me most in this world.
Over the past fourteen years (one less than Sonja) I have had to come to terms with the fact that my family members truly are the victims of undue influence and may never be free of Watchtower’s grasp. Through a great deal of reading on websites like JWSurvey and JWFacts, and in books like Combating Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan I have come to understand that Watchtower is a harmful controlling group that will stop at nothing to gain and keep its followers. It is clear to me that this year’s convention is one step further in their efforts to control the thoughts and behaviors of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Indeed, this talk also appears to tighten the rules on dealing with so-called faders, making it even harder to leave the Organisation with one’s family ties intact.
For many ex-JWs, the commands of this talk, both direct and implied, have caused great trauma. The fact that Sonja’s calls go unanswered seems to be in direct conflict with previous Watchtower guidelines. JW.org still has an article online that says:
“Although there might be a need for limited contact on some rare occasion to care for a necessary family matter, any such contact should be kept to a minimum.”
How do the parents in this video know that Sonja is not calling with an emergency? How can Watchtower possibly teach that ignoring phone calls is a loving provision?
Coping with shunning
Since the leak of this video and others being shown at the 2016 convention, my social media feeds have been peppered with posts by many in the ex-Witness community who are distraught over what this directive from Watchtower has done or will do to the already strained family relationships they may have managed to keep. I have seen children who are now being completely ignored by parents, parents who are being shut out of the lives of their children and grandchildren, and more. So many disfellowshipped and even inactive Witnesses are being harmed by this new brand of JW propaganda, even those who have gone to great lengths to come to agreements that keep at least some lines of communication open with those they love most.
To those of you just now facing the pain of total ostracism, I want you to know that you are not alone. There are many of us who are dealing with what you are now facing. Please don’t think that you have done anything wrong by leaving Watchtower and its harmful teachings. Wherever you are on your journey away from Watchtower, know that there are others like you who understand what you may be now experiencing. I encourage you to reach out on social media or to the people who truly do show you unconditional love for comfort.
In addition, there is a sort of peace that comes with understanding that your family is not hateful by nature, but that they have been unduly influenced by Watchtower to believe that they are doing the right thing by shunning you. Please take the time to research mind-control so you can understand what is really happening to your family. Just like you, there is always a chance that they may wake up, be free of influence and reunite with you.
Even if that doesn’t happen though, you can still find comfort in the fact that you have made the right choice and that you no longer support an organization that causes so much harm.
You are free.