Shunned by family
My fiancé is an ex-jehovah’s witness. When he was 18 years old, his 17 year old brother was killed in an accident. His parents having previously lost an infant daughter were understandably distraught and were therefore highly susceptible to an organisation which seemed to be able to supply definitive answers where more mainstream religion seemed to fail them.
My fiancé (and his remaining sister), with some pressure from his parents went on also to study with the witnesses and to be baptised. As a very good looking, tall, athletic young man, he was a source of interest for many young women in the congregation and it was not long he married the daughter of an elder, a woman who had been born into a witness family. My fiancé believed himself to be happily married, doing all the right witness things. They had a child together and had been married for seven years when his wife suddenly left my fiancé for another (non-witness) man.
My fiancé now realises that this was the time he should have left the organisation, but feeling pressure from family and friends, having been the “good” wronged party and having won custody of his child, he set about looking for another suitable wife from the congregation. He therefore married his second wife, a woman who had converted at some point in her early adult life. Sadly for my fiancé, he really chose completely the wrong woman, but of course his choice at that time was limited only to witness women. She was never the loving, nurturing wife that he needed. She was a poor substitute mother for his child (the child’s real mother having completely exited from their lives of her own accord). She was selfish and dominating. Despite many adversities and setbacks my fiancé persisted with the marriage, and fathered another child with his second wife. A constant source of frustration for him was lack of intimacy of all kinds, especially sexual intimacy.
In 1995, when watchtower released its revised teaching on the generation, my fiancé decided that enough was enough and he faded away from the witnesses, having come the conclusion that they did not have the truth, otherwise they would not have had to revise this doctrine. His second wife agreed with him and faded too.
During this time, my fiancé built a successful business and he and his second wife enjoyed the fruits of this success. Later, the business was sold and a lot of money was subsequently lost in a less successful business venture. Despite wishing to remain married, the second wife did very little to support my fiancé through some very difficult times. The difficult times also sent her back to the witnesses. My fiancé moved into a separate bedroom and remained in the marital home only until his younger child was independent enough for him to move on.
Ten years later (or so) we met. My fiancé had been involved in a number of relationships in this time, but had always promised his (now ex) second wife that he would let her know when she was able to obtain a scriptural divorce. He always knew that coming clean risked his relationship with his now elderly parents, his sister and her family and his second child (who unfortunately is now a baptised witness). It was therefore not until we were certain of our future together that he told his parents and later his ex wife. He did think that he might have got away with it, as when our relationship was made known to his parents and his sister and her family, the circuit overseer told them that as it had been 20 years since my fiancé had been involved, their continued relationship with him was a matter for their own conscience and they decided that they could continue to have contact. I was fortunate to meet his mother, father, sister, brother-in-law and nephew. However, in another congregation, his ex-wife (probably vindictively) sought her scriptural divorce and the result is that recently my fiancé was disfellowshipped. This has now led to the catastrophic severing of relationship with his parents and sister.
I am so angry. His elderly parents, who initially sought comfort and answers for the loss of two children, who have faithfully (if in my opinion mis-guidedly) served this organisation for so many years are now prevented from having any contact with one of their two remaining children. His mother (who is a beautiful and completely selfless woman) only wanted the best for him, for him to find a woman who is kind and caring (which I certainly try to be), even though she knew that this might be the outcome. They think they are doing the right thing.
I was hoping that I might be able to be a liaison between my fiancé’s mother and my fiancé, but having spoken to his mother this morning, I am not sure how welcome that will be. She said that I might be able to call her every six months or so and that it is all scripturally based. I do think there’s a possibility of his mother becoming less strict after his father dies. In the meantime, it is so frustrating and I am seeking some assistance and suggestions with where I might be able to go from here, to try to keep some channels of communication open. What should we do?
Excellent synopsis of the situation, welcome to the board.
Unfortunately you are dealing with a full blown cult, as you probably realize. You have figured it out, you pretty much can be the go-between because you haven't dedicated yourself to the cult. Contact will always be limited and strained unless your fiance wants to play their silly game and get reinstated. Unfortunately it would probably take a few years of attending meetings and being shunned before he would be reinstated.
On the plus side, he could flip the middle finger to the whole organization if he never attended another meeting after reinstatement and his family then could talk to him.
This is a good link that may give you some ideas:
But beyond that, the whole concept of shunning as a way of bringing someone back to Jehovah is all kinds of illogical.
Consider this: if you really believe in God and Armageddon and believe the JWs have the only true religion, you will come back regardless of whether your family talks to you or not. Your family talking to you is irrelevant if returning is a faith based decision. Your family not talking to you is not going to somehow make you suddenly believe in God and the JWs. The whole concept is ludicrous.
The only reason that family shunning causes some people to come back is that they miss their family, not because they believe. It is due to the psychological torture and emotional abuse. Not due to faith.
Maybe if his parents understood what they were actually doing, that they are actually being brainwashed into participating in group psychological torture of their own child, not doing anything godly or loving, not helping their child spiritually, maybe that would help. Maybe if they understood the many scriptures that show how unbiblical and un-Christian the JW shunning policies actually are.
Jwfacts.com has a good break down of the scriptural issues. I plan to eventually write up my treatise of the Biblical issues with shunning that is a little more concise and digestible.
Good luck and let us know if you make any headway.
Also, see John Cedars videos on shunning on YouTube.
In the video below, taken during the Australian Royal Commission Hearings investigating the policies of the Watchtower as they relate to child abuse, Governing Body member Geoffery Jackson is questioned about the Congregations authority over those who have left the organization of their own free will.
In the video, just after the 7:00 mark, Jackson indicates that the congregation has no authority over such ones and there is no judicial rulings made against them unless they are trying to return to the congregation.
If this is the case then your fiance', since he wasn't trying to get back into the Congregation, should not have been disfellowshipped and therefore his family should still be able to speak to him just as they have been doing these many years. Perhaps if his family hears this video they will realize there has been a mistake made and disregard his disfellowshippment or perhaps your fiance' can appeal for it be revoked based on the fact that he has been out of the organization for 20+ years and isn't trying to come back and therefore not under the congregations authority. There have been experiences reported on this site of individuals who have had success in having their disfellowshimpmets rescinded.
Your fiance' would have to present this video to his family in just the right manner so that they wouldn't dig their heels in out of pride or to save face. But it may be quite eye opening for them to see how unclear one of their leaders (who is supposedly guided by Jehovah's Holy Spirit) is about his own policies and the life altering effects they can and do have on individuals and entire families such as your husbands as well as most of us who participate in this forum.
Thank you for your responses LostGeneration and Sevan.
No, LostGeneration my fiancé has absolutely no intention of returning to the witnesses under any pretext. In fact, that is pretty much the only deal breaker with me. He is now a confirmed atheist, which is a pity as I am a Christian, but atheism is better than jw cult in my view. Yes, I completely agree, it is a cult. In any case, as he continues to be with me (we are getting married early next year), I think he would be continuing to commit adultery and would probably not be "worthy" of reinstatement, even if he wanted it. So yes, I understand that contact will be limited. I suppose I was just hoping to keep those channels of communication open, but I am afraid to push it too much as it could be counter-productive. I am just wanting to leave the door open for his mother's maternal instinct to ultimately triumph over the false teaching she is subject to now. As I said, I do think there is a possibility of this.
Thanks for the link Sevan, I have had a look and will certainly do some more reading. The stories are so heart-breaking. What an evil organisation it is.
I completely agree with you that shunning is completely illogical, if the intended outcome is to bring people back to the jws.
I do not think that it is really the intended purpose though, whatever (biblically based rhetoric is used to brainwash jws). The real purpose is an attempt at controlling those who at one time believed in what the jws preach and who have now changed their minds (perhaps realised that the truth is not synonomous with watchtower) and wish to leave, but hesitate to do so because of the horrendous personal consequences. I am sure it has some efficacy in this respect.
What an interesting video. I have only watched the first 20 minutes or so. I will get to the rest later. I agree with you that jws are only likely to take notice of words from their own on this subject, so in that respect it is quite powerful.
I am concerned on a couple of fronts however:
Should my fiancé have attempted to disassociate himself from the jws prior to being disfellowshipped? Now that he is df, is it too late? When he got the call from the elders from the congregation from which he was disfellowshipped, I am not sure that it was made clear that was the intended outcome of the jc. I think it's possible that he thought that the call related more to his wife's scriptural divorce. He was invited to attend, but it would have meant a long interstate journey and as he said to the elder who called, he no longer has anything to do with them, so it was really of not much concern to him. I don't think that he thought through all potential consequences (in relation to his family) at that point. The call came whilst we were doing our shopping in the supermarket.
Even if he was successful in disassociating, from what Geoffrey Jackson said, it seems that his family could still not have anything to do with him. Is that right?
How on earth does one go about disassociating anyway. It seems that there isn't really a process for that, or is there?
I am not sure that the video alone would be strong enough to sway his parents by itself (even if we can get it to them, which is problematic). Maybe in conjunction with the circuit overseer who initially advised them it was a matter for their conscience?
The annoying thing is that nothing has changed. My fiancé was living (very happily) in sin with me and his parents were allowed to associate with him (they knew although of course they had never been explicitly told). He was then disfellowshipped for the same reason and now they're not allowed to associate with him.
It is so hard to understand how they are persuaded that anything has changed.
Have you considered playing dumb with the? Feigning interest in the religion, and understanding it, in order to point out the illogical unloving nature of shunning?
Just a thought.