For baptized members who leave there is only one way to remove their sentence of isolation. That is for them to petitioning their church to take them back and forgive their crime, deciding to leave.
Several religions I know of practice extreme shunning of ex-members: Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the United Nation of Islam. I’ve included some writings and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this article.
Witnesses pride themselves in their belief that only their denomination represents true Christianity. One reason they believe that is because their leaders do change teachings once coming to believe they were wrong on certain matters. Witnesses claim other denominations do not adjust wrong teachings, at least not very often. And Watchtower teaches all other denominations misinterpret scripture, with errors in their beliefs.
We can attribute virtue to a group that admits when it believes it’s wrong, and changes what it believes are wrong teachings. But is it virtuous to force all members to accept its wrong teachings while those are taught? And Watchtower tells all members to shun any member who has figured out errors in its teachings before their leadership does, and does not accept its leadership’s mistakes? Watchtower teaches just believing a contrary belief is grounds for shunning. A member does not need to be spreading a dissenting belief.
Controlling Congregations through Circuit Overseers
Watchtower appoints circuit overseers to oversee congregations around the world. These men can be described as the elders’, elder. A circuit overseer oversees about 20 congregations, visiting each one twice a year. He reports what he finds in each congregation back to Watchtower’s regional headquarters. He also gives talks to the whole congregation, works with them proselytizing, and delivers information from Watchtower headquarters to the local elders in each congregation he visits. He also appoints new elders and ministerial servants, deacons, in those congregations. He can remove them also, whenever he sees fit to do so.
In 1980 Watchtower’s worldwide headquarters delivered a letter to circuit overseers, giving them the assignment to distribute its information to each group of congregational elders. This letter, as well as similar communications distributed to elders, was held a secret from all congregants who were not elders. The 1980 letter stated that if any baptized member does not believe part of Watchtower’s teaching, then attempts by elders should be made to persuade them to do so. But if the member refuses to be persuaded “appropriate judicial action” should be taken. “Appropriate judicial action” means they should be disfellowshipped for apostasy. That is kicked out of the church. The letter stressed the idea that the conflicted member did not need to be spreading his ideas to be disfellowshipped. Just believing that a biblical doctrine contradicts Watchtower’s teaching is sufficient grounds for disfellowshipping a Jehovah’s Witness.
What Is a Repercussion for Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses
Once a Jehovah’s Witness is disfellowshipped, or even if they officially leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their own choice, for any reason, Watchtower orders all its members to never talk to them again. The only exceptions are if the isolated member has some necessary business contact with another member, or if they are a member of the household, living under the same roof. Unless there is some necessary family business that must be temporarily addressed Witnesses are ordered to have no contact with their family of ex-members who are outside of the home they live in. If you surf the web among Jehovah’s Witness commenters you’ll find the acronym PIMO. It stands for Physically In Mentally Out. These are active Jehovah’s Witnesses who no longer have faith in that religion; but they still participate in it, because they fear the hardship shunning from friends and family will bring.
Below are quotes from Watchtower. These will help you understand its position towards disfellowshipped members:
“Haters of God and his people are to be hated…We must hate in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme and active aversion, to consider as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest…Jehovah’s enemies are recognized by their intense dislike for his people and the work these are doing,” Watchtower Oct 1, 1952, Page 599 par 11-13
“Hate what is bad. When a person persists in a way of badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of his makeup, then in order to hate what is bad a Christian must hate the person with whom the badness is inseparably linked. Jesus did not mean for us to love the hardened enemies of Jehovah.” Watchtower July 15, 1961, page 420
“Persons who make themselves ‘not of our sort’ by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshipped for wrongdoing.” Watchtower, September 15, 1981, p 23, par 14-16
Any member that continues to have contact with a disfellowshipped or disassociated Jehovah’s Witness will themselves be disfellowshipped, for failing to follow Watchtower’s command. Of course Watchtower teaches the removal of these disobedient to Watchtower’s command is also necessary to follow a scriptural principle. Even though their only sin is association.
So Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Shun People?
The primary scriptures Watchtower reasoned on to reach its conclusions about disfellowshipping and hating cast out members are in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, contained in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian congregation.
9 “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.” 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13
Note in his second letter to the Corinthian congregation Paul didn’t say that every member had followed his instructions about association. Not all members of the congregation in Corinth disassociated with the man he previously told them to remove from their midst. Instead Paul said only the majority did:
“The punishment imposed on him by the majority is sufficient for him. So instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” 2 Corinthians 2:6-8
And yet in his second letter to the Corinthian congregation Paul did not say to cast out those members that kept up associations with that man he warned about. Christians are to follow the example of Christ.
Did Christ Talk to People Who Denied Him?
Contrast those teachings of Watchtower with Christ’s words at Luke 6:35-37, and Matthew 5:44:
35“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” Luke 6:35-37
Who was it Christ would not speak to if they didn’t follow his beliefs? No one. He even spoke to those he labeled sons of Satan.
“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to accept My message. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me!” John 8: 43-45
Christ knew that those men he labeled sons of the devil not only failed to accept what he taught, but Christ also knew they were seeking to kill him-“you are trying to kill Me because My word has no place within you,” John 8:37. And he knew they would eventually have their way with him. And yet he spoke to them.