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Young persons – disfellowshipped

By 22. September 2020September 29th, 2020Writings, Personal, My Beloved Religion

Op-ed in the Norwegian newspaper Fædrelandsvennen 17 July 2020—translated from Norwegian.
A boy and a girl in their late teens are dating. On several occasions, they have been kissing each other passionately, but they have no had sex. A judicial committee of three elders is formed, and both are excommunicated from their congregation. This is a situation that many young Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced, and it illustrates how laws made by the Governing Body (GB) cause hardship and suffering for individual Witnesses and for their families. I will now analyze the situation.
One of the many reasons for excommunication that GB has made, but which is not based on the Bible, is gross uncleanness and uncleanness with greediness. These expressions are not found in the New Testament (NT), and there are several practical and ethical problems connected with cases that build on these expressions. The Watchtower of 15 July 2006, page 30, says:
Suppose an engaged couple indulged in passion-arousing heavy petting on numerous occasions. The elders might determine that even though these individuals did not manifest a brazen attitude characterizing loose conduct, there was a measure of greediness in their conduct. So the elders might take judicial action because gross uncleanness was involved. Gross uncleanness might also be appropriate grounds for handling a case involving a person who repeatedly makes sexually explicit telephone calls to another person, especially if he was previously counseled about the matter.
The first problem for the elders is to find out exactly what happened. James 5:14-16 says that if a Christian is spiritually sick and has committed sins, he must call for the elders of the congregation, and they will help him or her to become well. But there is no place in the NT giving the elders the right to ask a Christian questions about his life in order to find out whether he has sinned, and in this case, the focus would also be on intimate details.
In such cases, the elders are taught not to ask more questions than is absolutely necessary. But in this case, it is necessary to ask many questions in order to find the details of what happened, how it started, how it went wrong, as well as the feelings and emotions of the youngsters. The two will be interrogated separately. But will they remember exactly what happened? It is possible that they view what happened and how many times it happened somewhat differently. In that case, the elders could get the impression that one or both were hiding the truth, and that they, therefore, had a brazen attitude.
The second problem is to get the correct understanding of the situation, which is defined by rules that are vague and ambiguous, and which can be viewed in different ways. The instruction for the elders is that to disfellowship someone or not depends on how many times a sin has occurred. And then the question arises: How many times are represented by the expression “on numerous occasions”? About 30 years ago, there was a course for elders where the handling of judicial cases that could lead to disfellowshipping was discussed in detail. Since that time, the elders have had courses of approximately two days per year. In these courses, the handling of judicial cases has sporadically been mentioned. But there has not been any detailed discussion of the handling of such cases. This means that different judicial committees will view “on numerous occasions” differently. One committee will disfellowship a Witness while another committee will not disfellowship a Witness for exactly the same actions.
An important point that the committee must consider is whether the wrong actions are an expression of a measure of greediness. Again there is a concept that is fluid and ambiguous, and which may be viewed in different ways. For example, what is “a measure of” And what is the meaning of “greediness”? One definition is “an intense, excessive desire for something.” Men and women are naturally attracted to one another. When two persons that are dating are kissing each other, emotions are stimulated, and this is the first step on the road to sexual relations. How can the elders know whether this kissing is a natural expression of affection between the two or an expression of an intense, excessive desire for sexual relations? The future of the two is based on the subjective assessment of the elders, and different committees will make different assessments.
How shall we view the situation I have described from an ethical viewpoint? Ethics is a moral philosophy, but ethics in this situation cannot be viewed in the light of the different moral philosophies in the society at large. But it must be seen in the light of what JW claim to be, namely, a Christian society with doctrines solely based on the Bible.
At once, we see a clear violation, that the law on which the disfellowshipping builds is invented by the Governing Body and is not based on the Bible. Other ethical violations are seen by the fact that the law is vague and ambiguous, and that the Witness can be excluded, not only on the basis of his or her actions but also on the basis of the person’s emotions.
Christians are encouraged to have a good moral. This can be achieved by following the good examples and the exhortation based on love that is found in the New Testament, and not on the basis of laws that will force the Christian to live a moral life. Based on the ethics of the Bible, the two teenagers should not have been disfellowshipped. And the same is true with thousands of other youngsters, as well as and older Witnesses, whose lives are ruined because of all the laws and regulations that are invented by the Governing Body.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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