Insider Voices: Why pick on one religion?

Mike Shemwell broadcasts “Shunned,” a podcast that allows people leaving cults to tell their stories. | Courtesy of Mike Shemwell

That you published Kevin Gibson’s articles on the shunning by Jehovah Witness concerned me on so many levels for so many reasons. I will try to point out a few of them here.

Debasing anyone’s religion goes against any journalistic values I know of. It smacks of the kind of stereotyping that is a catalyst to discrimination and persecution.

What faith is next? Amish? Judaism? Catholic? Scientology? Islam?

Part of the title is misleading “…quest to help others” or at least not emphasized. As is the use of the word “cult,” which by definition does not apply to long-standing organized religions.

Shunning, like bullying, is itself a topic to be explored, but not at the expense of one faith. Shunning by a religious organization with its rules known to all the members is not the same as societal — or even familial — shunning. Your stories were biased in that it was one person’s experience presented as a generality about that faith. It begs hearing from the other side.

I have family members who are Witnesses and do not know of another group so dedicated, full of life, friendly and certainly trustworthy. Maybe that’s why I found it so offensive.

At their conventions, no one has to be alert to the theft of belongings left in their seats. They have a community that I imagine most of us seek.

My brother’s preparation for death from cancer was an unanticipated experience. He believed eventually he was going to join all his friends in a perfect world. Why would fearing death with anxiety and depression be a better way to go out?

In a previous life, I was raised in the Catholic religion. That form of shunning was called excommunication — often at the whim of a parish priest. If you would have substituted ”Catholic” as a cult, would there be an uproar? I urge you to focus more on projects like your “Amplify,” topics that unite us rather than succumbing to sensational stimulants to the rampant divisiveness we already experience. Janice Weber