Pablo Rodriguez

Pablo Rodriguez: Mandated Shunning Hurts People


My story starts in Mexico City, where I grew up in extreme poverty.  At age 18, I emigrated to the USA in hope of a better life, but that is not exactly how it worked out. After a few weeks in this new country, I was without a job, no money, hungry, and I didn’t speak the language. Worst of all, I was lonely without my family and very depressed.

During that time, several kind true-believing members of a high-control faith-based community found me and promised me God would take care of me and my family if I joined their group. Part of the attraction, the hook, was that they convinced me they were the one true and only religion chosen by God. Thinking back, it was pretty gullible on my part, but I was very vulnerable.

I quickly and completely immersed myself in church activities and became very active in propagating the ideology I had just accepted. Eventually, I found a full-time job, but the majority of my time outside of work was spent in church activities. I had been by now thoroughly indoctrinated and believed that church activities—pleasing God—were the only thing that really mattered in life. Everything else was secondary.

Within a year, I had influenced five members of my family to join the church, my mother, and four younger siblings. Unfortunately, after several years, two of my siblings were expelled. Official policy—mandated shunning— was very clear to me by now, so I knew what I was required to do. I must completely cut off and shun my siblings and treat them as if they were dead. I was told, and truly believed, this was the only way to get them to return to the religion and to be saved.

Since I fully believed what the church leadership taught me about the imminent destruction of all non believers, I was desperate to get my siblings to return. Also, I wanted a relationship with them, and I knew I could only have that if they became approved Jehovah’s Witnesses again. Several times while visiting my mother in Mexico, I saw that my mother was not strict about shunning my siblings. She did limit her association, but she would make excuses and exceptions to speak to her excommunicated children. Several times I scolded her, using reasoning from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s publications and the scriptures they interpret as justification for mandated shunning. I also went to the extreme of threatening my mother that I would have to shun her if she did not comply with what the church required.

Today, I deeply regret my actions, and just writing about them is very painful for me. My mother died in 2018, unfortunately in a conflicted state of mind. She still deeply loved children she believed they needed to be shunned, due to a church mandate. She would limit her association with her marked children when reminded to do so by the church, by me, or by other Jehovah’s Witnesses in her congregation, but then she’d “relapse” and have some contact with them again. She’d try to hide this from me and others in her congregation because she feared being negatively judged and counselled.

When my mom became very ill, I started to realize how hypocritical it had been of me to try to keep my siblings away from my mother when she was healthy, particularly now that we needed their help to care for her when she was ill. That’s when I started to question the religion’s rules and decided to re-establish normal communication with my disfellowshipped brother and sister. In 2019, when I spoke about my doubts with my two sisters who are still active Jehovah’s Witnesses, they shunned me for over a year. At that time, I also lost every friendship I worked hard to develop for over twenty years.

I am currently trying to reestablish a relationship with my two JW sisters, but it’s difficult. I have to worry about everything I say. I know that they may cut me off again at any moment. Mandated shunning harms people. It is a severe form of social bullying and it must be stopped! I also hope you will read my wife’s story about mandated shunning. Her story about this social death sentence takes it up another notch.

Mandated shunning must be stopped!