Excommunication is a method of ostracizing or banishing a person or persons. It is a form of social non-cooperation and is often exercised by church officials. The term excommunication literally translates to being “out of communion”. It is usually a form of punishment in religious organizations. This act will exclude someone from the congregation but it also means much more. It calls for social banishment, not allowing the offender to be involved with any social activities related to the church. This includes burials, weddings, communion or any other social event. It does not allow for any membership of the religious community.
In Christianity, excommunication is heavily used in the Bible. Persons who fail to make amends with the church were eventually treated as “tax collectors”, someone who is not socially involved in community events. The Amish, a religious sect stemming from founder Jakob Ammann’s beliefs, regularly excommunicate or shun members. This can occur if any religious rules are broken and include having any social or religious ties related to their previous church community.
Excommunication can also be related to a whole society and not just ostracizing from a church group. This occurs often in Hindu communities of South Asia. This political and religious system, called the caste system, divides all citizens into groups or castes. The castes range from high-ranking members of society, the Brahmans, to the worker class, the Shudras. Doing things outside of your caste can lead to ultimate ostracization, the removal of a person from their caste. A person excommunicated from their caste can lead to them being thrown into the untouchables, the lowest group in society that is so ostracized that they cannot even be touched by others.
Politicians can also be excommunicated from their religious family because of their political beliefs. If they do not adhere to the spiritual beliefs, their church can excommunicate them. This happens often over topics such as abortion in Catholicism. Other religious groups can come under fire just as easily for their beliefs such as a Mormon web editor recently being excommunicated after questioning Mormon history and traditions publicly.
Excommunication is a form of non-violent protest. If a group or organization has a member who is not true and steadfast to their cause, they may be excommunicated. This is a way of cutting someone out of the group without physical harm or with violent intentions.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.