Below is a letter I sent to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, which is the largest newspaper in Rochester, Minnesota. That's the city where the Witnesses' Convention will be held this year. I don't know if my letter will be published (it's a little long for their liking), but I'm attaching it here in case anyone wants to copy it and send it to their nearest convention city. Just be sure to alter location (I specifically mention the city and convention center a couple of times) and the dates (e.g., July or August or both?).
Also, I know some of you already have this, but here's a link to one of the new brochures: CLICK THIS LINK (hope it works).
It's that time of year again. Jehovah's Witnesses will descend upon the city of Rochester for four consecutive weekends this July, as they’ve done for the past 21 years. They certainly help the local economy – especially the restaurants and the hotels, and they seem harmless enough: this year, their conventions (held at the Mayo Civic Center) will include the release of a video detailing their early history, an explanation of their revised definition of the word “generation,” and two brochures designed to prove the creationism over evolution.
But beneath this economy-boosting and literature-distributing comes a seedy underside: every single loyal member of the Witness religion practices full shunning of former members. Far from being relegated to a by-gone era, shunning will be vibrant and thriving in downtown Rochester this July.
My wife and I have the pleasure of being shunned by dozens of friends and relatives. We left the religion with no grudges, and without having committed any of their “sins” (these include the usual, such as extra-marital relations and interfaith activities, but also mundane activities such as voting and smoking). Still, Witnesses are trained to believe that any dissent is worthy of complete shunning.
Thankfully, this is a watered down interpretation of the stance the religion’s members wish they could take. Witnesses, in particular, have a palpable nostalgia for the days when conscientious objectors, instead of being shunned, were simply killed: “We are not living today among theocratic nations where such members of our fleshly family relationship could be exterminated for apostasy … Being limited by the laws of the worldly nations in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God’s law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates.” (The Watchtower, 15 Nov 1952)
This relational aggression is immediate and total. Once a member states they no longer believe, they are shunned by all. Friendship and relationship doesn’t matter; my wife is shunned by her own sister, and many of my relatives no longer talk to me. They’ll all be in Rochester this summer, though, so if you come across a clean-shaven, smiling face walking to and from the Civic Center, ask them whom they are shunning: their childhood friend? Their mom? Their grandson? Then ask them if they believe theirs is a religion of love. Then ask them to reconcile this dichotomy. They may squirm, they may run. Either way, they’ll think. It’s never too late to start.