What is “shunning”?
shun – to keep away from; avoid scrupulously or consistently.
(Webster’s New World Dictionary)
– to keep clear of; avoid. (Funk and Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary)
Flora Jessop in CHURCH OF LIES (see previous post..) tells about her experience with “shunning”…
When she returned from running away with her friend, she expected to be shunned. (page 65) She defined shunning according to FLDS beliefs as “all love and affection is withheld”.. In her mind, she deserved it. But, her mother just put her arms around her and loved her. Her Dad on the other hand, reacted differently.
Later in the book, Flora describes being shunned for 2 years as she was confined to her room. She had no contact with her Mom or Dad. That was her reward for running away. She would work all day and then be confined to her room. On page 83, she describes the emotional toll the shunning was taking on her. Though my time of being shunned was not that severe, I could relate very much to the emotional toll that shunning and isolation had on her.
Why would Flora “expect” to be shunned? Could it be she had seen others be shunned and had actually shunned those “worthy” of being shunned? Yes, from personal experience, I would say that shunning was no secret to her. She had broken the rules of the sect. She knew how others had been treated when rules were broken.
My experience in a strong controlling group mirrors Flora’s in many respects. During my time at Word of Faith Fellowship; I had seen others shunned and even participated in shunning. Once a person is put on “church discipline” or “put out of the church”; you didn’t speak to them unless you had permission from authority. This was shunning. I have seen folks go for weeks without contact or conversation with family or friends. This was supposed to “help them repent” and come “back under authority”. One fellow was quarantined for months. He spoke only to one person. He read only his Bible. He had meals brought to him. At times, his friends would take food to him when leadership would forget to feed him. He stayed in a make shift bedroom at a large metal warehouse/office building. He was brought into the church and allowed to watch the services on a closed circuit television.
Starting in April until July of 2008, I was the subject of shunning. My family and other members of the household did not talk to me or eat with me. Hugs would become off limit and “no chatty conversation”. My wife would talk to me, but only to make her point that I needed to repent and “come back to God”. It was during this time, that I found out what lack of love and contact from those you loved could do to a person. What was even more stark and shocking was that the ones around me seemed to consider this behavior of shunning as normal and acceptable. Even if they had not believed it in their heart, they were pressured to go along with the shunning because that was the prescribed treatment for those like me. I was not following the admonitions of those in “leadership”. In order for them to keep in good standing, they had to shun me or risk being accused of “giving to the same devils” that were in me.
In July of 2008, I left the controlling group- Word of Faith Fellowship. My family stayed. On June 6, 2008, I had been “put out of the church” and the shunning had gone to a new level. Since that time, contact with my family has been limited. In many regards, I am still being shunned.
As Flora Jessop recounts in her book (pg 271), that she tried to contact her family once she had left the group. One account tells of a sister refusing to speak civil to her in a parking lot of a grocery store. Flora encouraged her to “..go back and read her books. I guarantee you, God doesn’t say, “Throw your family away like trash.”. (because they believe differently..) The conversation was all to familiar. The practice of shunning is a common trait of many cult groups.