Fædrelandsvennen – 14th June 2018
- Unyansert om ekskludering – please note that the original is behind a paywall
Fædrelandsvennen, Thursday, June 14, 2018 – page 23
A reader’s letter in Fædrelandsvennen, “Jehovah’s Witnesses – What is the actual charge”, is questioning the newspaper’s report on internal justice in Jehovah’s Witnesses. I think claims about exclusion in the reader’s letter must be explained further:
The community’s practice of exclusion is justified in the post by referring to established practices in Norwegian society. But there is an important difference which must be pointed out: Being excluded from a political party is not the same as being excluded from one’s family and social network. Being excluded from a political party rarely happens with teens and young adults in a vulnerable phase of their lives.
Exclusion is one of a number of consequences for breaking rules, but also the most inhuman of all consequences. A study on exclusion from 2011 at the University of Purdue concluded that exclusion can cause injuries that are often deeper and last longer than physical damage: “Being excluded is painful because it threatens basic human needs, such as belonging and self-esteem.”
Why do many return to the faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses after being excluded? In the community itself, it is a collective attitude that most people do not find themselves in the secular society, they miss the “Truth,” and to live in an environment of morality and proximity to God.
Hjelpekilden Norway provides assistance and support for people in problematic religious violations. We have worked with Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years, and through this work, have a more nuanced picture of why many people go in and out of the environment before making a final decision.
First and foremost, it is missing the contact with the family that is the driving force to return. Especially for young people and young adults, having a mom and dad in life is important, a need not least when these young ones become parents. “I wanted my daughter to have contact with her grandmother,” said one.
“Experiencing exclusion can cause long-term emotional injuries”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of several religious communities that proclaim a judgment day in the near future. On Judgment Day, God will intervene and kill anyone who is not on His side before he creates a paradise. For those who have gained this faith since birth, fear of dying may be an important driving force for many to return.
Growing up in a religious community that has always warned of associating friendships in the “world” often creates a challenging situation for those who are excluded. They now stand alone in a society they have always been warned against, they do not know anyone here, they do not know the social codes, and often still have a fear of the “worldly” people. Loneliness and anxiety are therefore often the reason many return. “The people of the world are ruled by Satan, so I could not get to know them,” one said.
On our website there are many user stories, where those that have left tell about their way out of the religious community. “May” wrote strikingly about her way in and out of the congregation: “The loneliness and emptiness I felt in the outside world at the time was extreme and intense. The best way to illustrate this is the feeling of a little animal, locked in a cage most of his life and then suddenly left free to rule as it wanted in the jungle.” Out in the world, after cutting all ties, she felt lost and alone. Returning to the community would cause her to be a part of something, her argument was.
We should not underestimate people’s need for belonging and self-esteem. Experiencing exclusion can cause long-term emotional injuries. Problems with relationships and trust are one of them. Solitude and depression is unfortunately also a natural consequence when losing contact with all your loved ones. Then it may not be that we’re going back, no matter how cramped the environment was.
Hilde Langvann, Hjelpekilden Norway
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