Assistant Editor’s Introduction – There are times when I am reminded why we do what we do. It’s stories like this.
This heart-wrenching story below, by former Jehovah’s Witness Rick Gonzales, describes a family torn apart by an organization claiming religious exemption;, to “please God,” a man is forbidden to break bread with – or even speak to – his own son.
This is why. We’re here to shed light, to give hope, to show the stories of undue influence in action – and to highlight the brave people who speak out, giving courage to us all.
This is a picture of my dad eating a meal. He had just made lunch for me, but couldn’t eat it with me. I had to eat it at another table with my then four-year-old son while he sat there looking away from me.
Why? Because that’s what the Watchtower Society tells him to do.
I posted this picture October 26, 2013 on a Facebook forum.
The first response was, “Don’t know what to say. This boggles the mind; mind-control religion at its very worst!”
Minutes later a flood of comments and “Likes” followed, reminding me that a good picture can easily replace a thousand words.
For those of you who are curious, I must explain that my extended family began shunning me in 2012, after I questioned the authority of Watchtower’s Governing Body. My family’s unanimous well-meaning response to my doubts was by telling me “I must be an apostate and shunning would surely bring me to my senses.”
After my mother died, my dad, being all alone, went to the elders in his congregation to see if he would be allowed to visit with me. They said that since I was his son, he could visit with me at his house. But, he could not discuss religion – nor could he share a meal with me at the same table.
Two weeks later, I called my dad and asked if his grandson and I could visit him. He said “yes” and even offered to make lunch. But shortly before serving the meal, he said that he wasn’t going to sit at the same table with us. When I asked why, he replied, “The organization says so.”
That confession allowed me to vent my feelings for maybe thirty minutes, describing to him about the harm caused by shunning and other Watchtower policies. He listened politely. But I could see that he was in cognitive dissonance mode – so nothing I said registered with him. In fact, my comments in that environment probably made him even more resolute in his beliefs. But I did not know that at the time.
After I spoke my piece, my dad served a nice meal for me and my son. Then he chose to sit alone in a small area of the kitchen with his back turned to us while eating his lunch. I sat there speechless, trying to figure out what was going on in his mind. That’s when it occurred to me that I had to capture this moment on my camera phone.
While eating my lunch, a feeling of pure sadness engulfed me. But as bad as I felt, I had this gut-wrenching feeling for Dad. This had to be much harder for him. Here’s an 80-year-old man thinking that he is doing this for God. He feels he has to suffer through this intuitively wrong act to be loyal to what he thinks is “God’s organization.”
However, the story does not end here. My son is growing up watching this silliness. Can Watchtower be blind to the damage caused by this harmful shunning policy, not just for us adults, but for innocent kids who have “no dog in the fight”?
Tears were running down my face as I drove away from my father’s home. But not just for me. I am not alone in this situation. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of us who no longer believe Watchtower’s lies we used to feed on. We now know the truth about harmful Watchtower policies that violate the basic human rights of current and former members.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to the suffering and cries of others due to the Watchtower’s policy of shunning. I know that I can’t!
Extreme shunning is inhumane! It is a cruel and unjust punishment – a despicable act of a coercive high-control pseudo-religious group that is afraid of losing its members and financial contributors.
My goal today is to shine a bright light on Watchtower’s policy of extreme shunning – a policy that Watchtower publicly denies to the media and public officials.
The original blog may be found here, with links to translations in French, Spanish, and Dutch.
Other shunning experiences may be found here.
What do you think about this article? Do you have a story about shunning that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!
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