In this series, I have already pointed out some flawed interpretation that leads to some of the core beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. I have also discussed how the quality of translation of the “Scriptures” used also gives reason to doubt the fundamental doctrines of this belief system. This time I’d like to take another look at some flawed interpretation, but this time it will focus on some of the practices as opposed to the core beliefs.
The practice that I would like to look at is that of how the Jehovah’s Witness faith relates to the government. Jehovah’s Witness consider themselves as politically neutral. Because they view the Kingdom of God as the ultimate authority in their lives, and a legitmate form of government, they consider any allegieance to another earthly governement wrong. In fact saluting a flag, or singing the national anthem would be considered idolitry, an act that is forbidden by the law of the scripture. While they are expected to obey the laws of the land (including the payment of taxes), they refuse military service, and will not run for or hold any elected public office. This political neutrality also means that memebers do not even vote in public elections!
While refusing to involve themselves in the affairs of the government, serving in it in any way, and refusing to recognize it’s authority, the Jehovah’s Witness organization continues to use the system of government to establish and help enforce their rights. Much of this work is done through the court system. The Jehovah’s Witness organization has fought numerous Supreme Court cases in order to secure their rights. Jehovah’s Witness seem to demand the freedoms and benefits that government provides, while refusing to put in the effort that is required to maintain the governmental system that provides these things in the first place.
My first response to this is in regards to the apparent hypocrisy that this displays. And aside from my beliefs on government, I believe that this type of hypocrisy is anti-scriptural. A word study on the word hypocrite shows exactly how Jesus felt about this type of behavior. Jesus is also clear on His message about service as well. He modeled leadership by washing the feet of His disciples, making himself a servant. Jesus also taught that you reap what you sow. Or in other words, if you don’t put anything into it, then don’t expect anything out of it. So, I believe that one cannot pick-and-choose which parts of government they want, and reject the rest.
Beyond the hypocrisy issue, I believe that there are some fundamental interpretation flaws that also need to be addressed. One of the greatest New Testament references to government happens in Romans 13:1-4. In this writing, Paul urges the Romans to submit themselves to the governing authorities. He continues to point out that resiting the governement is equal to resiting God, because God is the one who has given them authority. On the surface, one could say that the Jehovah’s Witness is in compliance with this because they do obey the laws of the land. However, at a slightly deeper level, this passage indicates that even the earthly governement is an extension of God’s authority. Therefore the idea that the Jehovah’s Witness submit themselves to the rule of God’s government, and not the earthly government is flawed.
But then a good Jehovah’s Witness might even argue that everything has changed since the Kingdom of God was established here on earth back in 1914. In order to understand this, we need to look a little more at some of the historical context of Paul’s message to the Romans. First of all, Jesus declared that the Kingdom of God was at hand. When Jesus spoke of this, he referred to the reign of the Messiah over heaven and earth. So without getting deep into eschatology, the Kingdom of God has already been established, and was established even during the time that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. This means that Christians at the time of this writing were under the rule of Christ, but were still being urged to submit to the authority that is passed down to earthly governments.
Another aspect of this submission to governement is that it was not a conditional command. The Christians in Rome at the time of Paul’s writing faced great persecution under the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero. Nero was the first to start state-organized persecution of the Christians, and often burned (set on fire) them at parties as entertainment. Even in the face of such horrible persecution, Paul still urged them to submit to this authority because it is only given by God. My point here is simply that there is NO condition given in scripture that it is okay to not recognize the rule (or authority) of even the worst secular government over us, as it is still an extension of God’s rule no matter how much one may disagree with it.
Furthermore, the interpretation of John 18:36 is really misused as a command to not participate with the military. The first problem in this interpretation is that it is based on a narrative of a conversation that Jesus had. Jesus was not literally teaching in this passage that people should not serve in the military, but He was declaring where His authority and power comes from. It was more of a statement about His spiritual nature, and not the statement of a doctrine to help guide us. This is a gross misinterpretation of this passage, and is a good example of the type of interpretation that leads to this and other flawed beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness.
Regardless of what you believe a person’s role (especially a Christian’s) should be in government, it is clear that this core belief an practice of the Jehovah’s Witness organization is incorrect. Personally, as a Marine Corps veteran, and a Christian, I am proud to have served the country that gives me my rights. I further believe that there are few things that one can do to honor God more than taking an active role in the systems and structures that HE established, and commands us to submit ourselves to. One cannot pick and choose which parts of government that they like, just as one cannot pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to believe in…
Stay tuned for more in this series…
Other posts in this series:
- Part 1 :: The Translation Problem (New World Translation)
- Part 2 :: Interpretation Flaws, Core Beliefs
- Part 3 :: Interpretation Flaws, Religious Practices
- Part 4 :: Interpretation Flaws, Diety of Jesus
- Part 5 :: Role of Christians with “Them”