1947The Jehovah's Witnesses do flip-flops on their theology. It is an "on-and-off" system of belief when it comes to the issue of disfellowshipping members they judge as "sinners." The best example I found is located in the January 8, 1947 issue of their Awake! magazine in the article called “Are You Also Excommunicated?” which says:
“This is "canon law" which the Roman Catholic Hierarchy seeks to enforce on the pretext that it is God's law. The authority for excommunication, they claim is based on the teachings of Christ and the apostles, as found in the following scriptures: Matthew 18: 15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 16:22; Galatians 1:8,9; 1Timothy 1:20; Titus 3:10. But the Hierarchy's excommunication, as a punishment and "medicinal" remedy (Catholic Encyclopedia), finds no support in these scriptures. In fact, it is altogether foreign to Bible teachings.~Hebrews 10: 26-31.
Where, then, did this practice originate? The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that papal excommunication is not without pagan influence, "and its variations cannot be adequately explained unless account be taken of several non-Christian analogues of excommunication." The superstitious Greeks believed that when an excommunicated person died the Devil entered the body, and therefore, "in order to prevent it, the relatives of the deceased cut his body in pieces and boiled them in wine." Even the Druids had a method of expelling those who lost faith in their religious superstitions. It was therefore after Catholicism adopted its pagan practices, A.D. 325, that this new chapter in religious excommunication was written.
Thereafter, as the pretensions of the Hierarchy increased, the weapon of excommunication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history.”
Jehovah's Witnesses openly condemned the practice of excommunication. They said it was altogether foreign to Bible teachings.
Let's take a quick look at those scriptures in the JWs Bible, They call it The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). Matthew seems to indicate that it is proper to speak to someone if you think they hurt you somehow. Good if they listen, but if they don't, treat them like anybody else. But, don't mistreat them because what you loose on the earth, you also loose in heaven.~Matthew 18: 15-19
Karma will get you?
To me, the scriptures at 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 16:22 seem to indicate that Jesus is the one who does the judging, and such a responsibility would not be left up to faulty human reasoning.
Galatians 1:8,9 warns that if some theology beyond what is written in the scriptures is promoted, the ones responsible would receive judgment.
Condemning another soul is equivalent to blaspheming. That's my take on 1 Timothy 1:20.
Hebrews 10: 30-31 sums it up nicely,
"For we know him that said, "Vengeance is mine; I will recompense" and again: "Jehovah will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of [the] living God."
What I find especially of interest is that excommunication was declared a pagan practice of ancient Greece and the Druids. Jehovah's Witnesses decided that the Catholics were remiss in adopting an ancient "pagan" practice. Jehovah's Witnesses affirmed they would never adopt any pagan practice of some superstitious Greeks or pagan Druid folk. I love the conclusion of that article which states unequivocally,
"as the pretensions of the Hierarchy increased, the weapon of excommunication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history.”
Hmmm..."the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny that finds no parallel in history." I find that statement by the Watchtower people to be of great interest. Why?
1952Five years passed and Jehovah's Witnesses changed their stance on excommunication. A pagan practice was suddenly a good thing if it meant they could blackmail people and hold their own members ransom. They began the shameful practice of disfellowshipping, as announced in their November 15, 1952 Watchtower pp.703-704 and discussed here.
So, since the laws of the land forbid murder, Jehovah's Witness members treat Apostates — ones who have left their religious organization — as dead. Yes, my children and several of my flesh-and-blood brothers treat me as dead because I no longer wish to be a member of the oppressive family religion. I lost an entire network of people I thought to be "friends" after one short announcement at the kingdom hall, announcing my disenfranchisement. How does one treat another as "dead"? By shunning — completely ignoring — such ones.
I speak from personal experience in saying it is embarrassing for the Jehovah's Witnesses to admit that they shun anyone. Indeed, I couldn't speak with anyone about my embarrassment. As a woman with young children, I was bullied into shunning my beloved mother because the elders judged her as wicked for leaving her abusive husband (my father). Then, years later, when I left the family religion, I was disfellowshipped and shunned. I recently found out I have two grand-children who I have never met.
Related Blog Posts
An extensive discussion of the subject of excommunication and disfellowshipping may be found here.
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