Emily Dietle has a guest post on her blog from Steph Le Gardener about being disowned by her Jehovah’s Witness family. I know many such stories, some of which are being written up in a book by Bridget Gaudette. Steph’s story is quite heartbreaking:
Twenty-two years ago a registered letter changed the course of my life. The letter stated that I had been judged guilty of “conduct unbecoming a Christian” and had been disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What did that mean? What it meant was that unless I repented of my perceived sins in an acceptable way before a tribunal of church elders, I would forevermore be subjected to a life of shunning and ostracism by all of my church friends and four generations of family…
The last, very brief, conversation I had with my father (who’s now in his 70’s) went something like this, “Dad, I’m flying back for my class reunion, and I’d really like to stop in for a couple of days and check on you and make sure you’re o.k.” He replied, “Well, are you coming back to ‘The Truth?’” “No, Dad, you know I’m not,” I sighed. “Well, then we have nothing left to discuss.” Click. That was two years ago. It had been several years before that, when last we’d spoken–not for lack of trying.
I find this almost inconceivable and unimaginable. My stepmother is Pentecostal and I’m an atheist activist, but the idea that she would ever disown me is completely unthinkable. She loves me and is even proud of what I’ve accomplished, even if she disagrees with me. I can’t imagine anything I could do short of being a serial killer that would make my parents and family be anything but supportive and caring. Which is why I’m so saddened when I see this happen to other people. I wish they had that kind of support. And it’s made all the worse because it happens so often to really good people that their families should be proud of.