The Jehovah's Witness denomination has been preached in more than 300 different languages, apparently using the English text as the base instead of directly from the original biblical languages. Surely, there must be some East Asian believers.

The reason why I raise this concern is that "filial piety" is the dominant cultural value of East Asia and overseas East Asians. In regards to Christianity, there was the Chinese Rites Controversy, which was resolved by Pope Pius XII, in which he declared that traditional Chinese Confucian practices were tolerated, as they did not conflict with Catholicism, and these practices were embedded within the culture. Among South Korean Catholics, they practice jesa, but the Roman Catholic Church has no problem with it either, seeing it as a part of the culture that does not conflict with (Catholic) Christianity.

Also, I searched "filial piety" on the Watchtower Online Library, and only two articles discussed it, and the two articles seemed to use filial piety only when it served the interest of the church.

Cultivating Faith in the Creator

As an old Chinese saying puts it, Among a hundred virtues, filial piety is the foremost. Surely it is proper that children know their father and honor their parents. (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20)

Can the Dead influence the Living?

CAN THE DEAD INFLUENCE THE LIVING? MANY people have a morbid fear of the dead. Some believe that spirits of the dead can either protect them as their guardians or harm them as vengeful ghosts. Many Chinese worship their ancestors as a way of showing filial piety (devotion to parents) and of ensuring blessings for future generations. Though such beliefs are common, the Bible clearly shows that the dead cannot in any way influence the living.

Source: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/s/r1/lp-e?q=filial+piety&p=par

The author(s) of the two articles fail(s) to recognize that filial piety can actually manifest itself in both, which may hint that the denomination merely uses it to serve its own interests. In addition, as a sub-question, how does the Jehovah's Witness denomination deal with the filial piety among its East Asian believers (and those in the diaspora) in cases of disfellowship and shunning? Given that the JW denomination has a hierarchical church polity, has there been an official church pronouncement about this cultural value that may or may not conflict with this church denomination? So, does the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower have anything to say about the likely conflict between its own tradition and traditional Chinese beliefs and practices?

  • 1
    I didn't understand what you were asking at all until I read this summary you gave in chat: "Although shunning is considered controversial by non-East Asians, it may be [considered] outright immoral among East Asians due to filial piety." Jan 28, 2015 at 17:11
  • @Mr.Bultitude If you consider that shunning in the denomination involves deliberate ignoring the disfellowshipped member, and that member happens to be your mother or father, then that may cause a direct conflict with filial piety. Shunning one's own family members may suggest that the child is not being a filial child. Ancestral veneration may also cause conflict.
    – Double U
    Jan 28, 2015 at 17:51
  • 1
    This is a wordy and somewhat complex question. If you simplify it you might get some JW answers. Also in regard to Chinese, JWs have to operate against Chinese law to practice in China, if that tells you anything.
    – user9485
    Jan 30, 2015 at 1:26
  • @1Up Hence, I also mentioned Chinese in the diaspora, especially living in Western countries (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark).
    – Double U
    Jan 30, 2015 at 1:35
  • You could try asking them directly. Contact the watchtower society. jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/contact/united-states
    – Bubbles
    Feb 3, 2015 at 1:11

1 Answer 1


Jehovah’s Witness policy is generally followed in a consistent manner regardless of the land in which a worshiper lives. Especially when it comes to the application of foundational precepts such as disfellowshipping there would be no cultural allowance granted to set aside the consequences of that ruling. From the perspective of Jehovah’s Witnesses, God’s law generally trumps national borders as well as traditional and cultural norms.

Having said that, let’s get to the overall question of what is the JW policy for association with disfellowshipped family members and then focus on the specifics of how that relates to parents. The most recent information regarding family member and disfellowshipping can be found in the August 2002 issue of the Kingdom Ministry, a monthly newsletter originating from the world headquarters in Brooklyn and used extensively in our weekly meetings for worship.

This issue, quoting from articles in previously published Watchtower magazines, makes several clear statements on the matter. First related to an individual living within the home: “The Watchtower of April 15, 1991, in the footnote on page 22, states: “If in a Christian’s household there is a disfellowshipped relative, that one would still be part of the normal, day-to-day household dealings and activities.” Thus, it would be left up to members of the family to decide on the extent to which the disfellowshipped family member would be included when eating or engaging in other household activities.”

In a situation like the one above the only area where association would be limited is in matters involving family worship. Whereas usually JW families are encouraged to worship together, a disfellowshipped individual could attend but would not be invited to lead those discussions or bring in information contrary to what is being discussed.

In the case of a relative outside the household the article says this: “The situation is different if the disfellowshipped or disassociated one is a relative living outside the immediate family circle and home,” states The Watchtower of April 15, 1988, page 28. “It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum,” in harmony with the divine injunction to “quit mixing in company with anyone” who is guilty of sinning unrepentantly. Loyal Christians should strive to avoid needless association with such a relative, even keeping business dealings to an absolute minimum.”

So to the original question related to treatment of parents, in the case of healthy, independent parents, except where non-religious family matters are involved, there would be minimal contact. An exception though is made in the event of ailing parents or those facing other major difficulties. This exception is based on 1 Timothy 5:8: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”

That same article goes on to say: “For example, a disfellowshiped parent may be sick or no longer able to care for himself financially or physically. The Christian children have a Scriptural and moral obligation to assist. (1 Tim. 5:8) . . . What is done may depend on factors such as the parent’s true needs, his attitude and the regard the head of the household has for the spiritual welfare of the household.”—The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, pages 28-9.


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