I wonder how this gentleman is doing now? Can anybody help?
(Bold is mine)
Herman Zweigart is alone. His wife is dead. His house is up for sale. His is the predicament of many senior citizens, except for this: most of his lifelong friends shun him since he was disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Less than a mile from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Daytona Fla., a for sale sign stands in Zweigart’s tidy front yard. Black-and-white-striped awnings shade his double-wide mobile home from the bright sun. Indoors, half-packed cardboard boxes await sealing tape while the 89-year-old sorts through artifacts of his life. It’s a task he does alone, preparing to move to California and live with his sister. Zweigart thought he’d live his golden years with his wife, Margaret and enjoy together their circle of friends.
The Zweigarts joined the religion in the 1930’s. From then on, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the center of their lives. In 1991, everything changed.
One December evening after dinner, an elder from the local Kingdom hall picked Zweigart up and took him to a judicial committee meeting.
"A brother came to the house after supper and picked me, and took me to another house where there was a group of brothers, and they just proceeded to disfellowship me," Zweigart said. This was a big shock to me because I didn’t know where we were going when I was picked up!"
"They didn’t give me any reason for it or anything. When I came home and told my wife, it was such a blow to her." Zweigart awoke in the night to find Margaret missing. He called the police and was informed she was in the hospital, having been pulled from the community swimming pool in an apparent suicide attempt.
"She lost her mind and had to be placed in a nursing home," Zweigart said. He kept repeating this again and again, as if he could hardly still believe it even now. She died in the nursing home after only several weeks. "She lost her mind…" Zweigart said. "She lost her mind and had to be placed in a nursing home!"
The Zweigarts were loyal Jehovah’s Witnesses since the late 1930’s. Recalling a long history in the organization and his youth, Zweigart said. "I was rather young, in my twenties, and I thought it was the right religion. It had God’s name Jehovah on it, Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I believed in the things they believed in, like not going to war and things like that. And being good to your fellow man. And going house to house witnessing to people. Making God’s name known is the most important thing in the world I think." Zweigart now makes God’s name known on his own, yet his former congregation is unlikely to ever invite him back to share in their witnessing.
After decades of nearly complete shunning of all the disfellowshipped, the Watchtower relaxed the rules slightly in 1991 and enacted a policy which instructed the elders to call on the disfellowshipped once a year. This is with the exception of those deemed as committing apostasy against the Society. They are never to be called on. (w91 4/15 22) Zweigart said he has never been contacted by the elders. He lives so close to the Kingdom Hall it is unimaginable that the elders could have forgotten about calling on him; thus, Zwiegart must be classified as an apostate. He insists that he is not one. Even the label of "Watchtower apostate" does not seem to fit, especially when he says, "I believe in Jehovah, Jesus, and the organization."
It is not easy to find out why a person is disfellowshipped because the overseers are instructed to never put the charges in writing for the accused to see. Zweigart resorted to writing the Watchtower Society, asking why he was put out. Although it’s possible he became confused during the pressure of a judicial hearing and missed or even forgot what the verbal charges were. Zwiegart insists, "not one brother ever came to me and told me I was doing something wrong."
A relative of Zweigart, who wishes to remain anonymous, remembers more of the story than the aged Zwiegart does. He said that Zweigart kept talking about his ideas and would not stop when asked to do so. What could these views be?
Zweigart’s view of the name Jehovah is certainly in line with the Witness’ theology. "At least they make God’s name known. That is the most important thing. Most Churches dwell on Jesus. Whereas JWs dwell on the heavenly father," he said. "I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses go along with the Bible pretty well. In most things they do." However, agreeing with most things is no longer enough to remain in good standing.
The control of beliefs that the Watchtower Society now attempts to place upon those who associate with the organization is far beyond the tenets of many Christian denominations. The Society emphatically states that "a basis for approved fellowship with Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot rest merely on a belief in God, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, and so forth." This policy means that a true believer must except the "entire range" of "unique" teachings. (w86 4/1 31)
In disagreement with Watchtower teachings, Zweigart believes the present earth is going to be completely destroyed and a new earth will replace it. He also apparently believes that no one has gone to heaven but Jesus Christ. "These ministers and such that say people are going to heaven, that is a bunch of baloney," he insisted. Zweigart rejects the doctrines of the Trinity and eternal punishment, but he clearly believes that we are living in the last days.
Rather than being expelled for his beliefs, Zweigart suspects that someone in the organization targeted him because they had no use for him. He doesn’t know why. He only knows he is alone, and that his friends cannot socialize with him, or sympathize with him, or help him pack to move away.
Zweigart can’t blame the Witnesses when they won’t speak to him now. He knows they would be subject to disfellowshipping if they did. The disfellowshipped are often left with zero contact with their entire former social system. And yet, some are like scattered sheep who still love the shepherd. Zweigart is one like this. When asked if he still considers himself a Jehovah’s Witness, Zweigart said, "Well in a sense yes. I still witness to Jehovah as far as that goes. I believe he is the only true God as listed in the Scriptures and this is one of the things it says. There are two greatest commandments. One is to worship Jehovah your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. I try to do that."
As if needing proof of his brotherly love, he keeps an impressive alphabetical notebook listing dozens of charitable organizations that he regularly contributes to.
He misses going to the Kingdom Hall, though. Zweigart said, "For awhile I attended even after I was disfellowshipped. I still went there. Of course, no one would sit near me. They all scattered and wouldn’t come near me. They wouldn’t sit near me or even talk to me. So, I sat there by myself." Many refused to even make eye contact with him.
As if this painful alienation inside the Kingdom Hall was not enough, Zweigart also endures public shunning: "I go to Burger King and there is this brother, who is one of the elders in the congregation, he goes there to eat sometimes too. I will say to him 'hello Bart,' and he won’t answer." Zweigart often tells those whom he meets to read the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew which discuses end-times prophesy. He passes out little photocopied lists of Bible scriptures. Zwiegart hopes that the end will come within the next three or four years. "Maybe sooner," he said.
Did being disfellowshipped force him to make friends elsewhere? Zweigart said, his neighbors never had much use for Jehovah’s Witnesses so they rarely talked to him before he was disfellowshipped. Even after his wife died, and he was put out of the organization, "none of them ever offered for me to even come over and have a cup of coffee," he said. A lifetime pattern of regarding everyone outside the Watchtower organization as part of Satan’s world, has caught Zweigart in a social limbo. "We lost all our friends. Because no one is allowed to talk to me anymore," Zweigart laments. He has gained a few new friends though.
Ginny Bellinato, of West Palm Beach Florida, is one concerned friend. Twenty-five years ago, Bellinato’s parents and the Zweigarts were close friends in the Smith Town congregation of Long Island, New York. Soon after Zweigart was disfellowshipped, Bellinato happened to be attending a support group for former Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Florida . She heard the tragic news about her old friends the Zwiegarts. Bellinato said, "this poor man has gone through hell. I have cried over this many times." She knows first hand because she is also disfellowshipped. Bellinato said, "I felt like a walking dead woman."
That’s exactly how they are supposed to feel. The Watchtower models modern disfellowshipping after the literal executions performed in the Old Testament. The "logic" goes like this - when people were executed, "even relatives, could no longer speak with the dead lawbreaker." (w88 4/15 27-8)
Bellinato has asked herself many times over: "Why does the Society want to cut people off from talking to those that are disfellowshipped? What are they trying to hide?" She told how she looked up all the scriptures on not talking to the disfellowshipped and she believes they apply to those that have left Christ. Regarding Zweigart she said, "I know that he has only left the organization not Christ." Bellinato has traveled from South Florida a number of times to reassure Zweigart of this.
Bellinato tells how she received help through a support group: "I feel closer to Christ than ever before in my life." At first she had some distrust. She just couldn’t understand why these people had formed a group. She kept asking herself, why are they doing this? What do they have to gain? "Finally, I realized that love was their motivation."
Zweigart walks visitors through his home and shows them his Watchtower library. Those who are still Jehovah’s Witnesses might be struck with an odd sensation that this man is no apostate, but is an old-time brother deserving honor. Thinking Christians would realize he is a brother deserving honor. By their own words the Watchtower organization advocates this: "Never forget that many of our elderly brothers and sisters have behind them a long record of faithful Christian activity. They certainly deserve our honor and consideration, our kind help and encouragement." (w93 9/1 22)
However, for those elderly ones like Zweigart, whose names are disgraced and humiliated, though lifelong Christians, there is no comfort or encouragement from the Watchtower Society. The disfellowshipping action is more akin to abuse. According to psychologist Dr. Gary Collins, abuse can include "verbal condemnation" and "ignoring the person’s needs for comfort and human contact." (Christian Counseling, 295) The Bible directly condemns this sort of treatment: "Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father." (1 Timothy 5:1, NWT)
This raises the question: How can a variety of opinions be accommodated in a congregation? Is there a scriptural basis for allowing "dissenters" such as Zweigart to remain?
The New Testament encourages a general agreement among Christians. (1 Corinthians 1:10) Yet, there are also numerous examples of diversity. (Romans 14:5) Both of these principles can be embraced when Christians act like a family. Early Christians regarded unrelated friends in Christ as fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. These are not merely titles that can be dictated by a central authority as when a person is deemed as an approved brother or sister in the Watchtower organization. Rather, this is a genuine relationship that springs from the heart. (Paul’s Idea of Community, Robert Banks, 56) In turn, it is an individual decision on how to treat those who err.
full text here: