War Games

(This originally appeared in the March/April 1998 edition of the MCOI Journal)

JW Wargames graphic 1The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society1 (WTBTS) has set itself up as the “Grand Inquisitor” of the Christian churches which it lumps all together and calls “Christendom.” The Christian who meets with a Jehovah’s Witness (JW) for a Bible discussion will most often find himself under attack about issues that are not spelled out in the Bible — issues such as holiday celebration, the display of the cross, political neutrality, and especially that old standby, WAR. There really is no need to be defensive about these issues, because the JW has no real ammunition. He is just firing blanks: playing the WAR GAMES he has been taught at his Kingdom Hall. However, since the JW and most Christians he meets at the door have no knowledge of the true history of the Watchtower Society, these War Games can be fairly effective in putting the Christian on the defensive and keeping him there. A little history lesson, therefore, can be most beneficial along with some understanding of the way the WTBTS misuses Scripture and logic to arrive at its erroneous conclusions.

The Society teaches that true Christians are forbidden to fight any wars at any time based on its interpretation of John 18:36 where Jesus told Pilate that His disciples would not take up arms to establish His kingdom. Of course, we needn’t fight to establish Christ’s kingdom, anymore than we need endlessly to announce it. God will set up His kingdom in His own time and by His own power.

The Society further claims that, since Jesus said His followers are “no part of this world” (John 17:16, NWT), Christians today cannot vote or hold any government position. Jesus, indeed, did teach that His followers were no part of this world, but that does not mean that God’s people were forbidden to take part in the political process or join the military. God’s people always have been “no part of this world,” but they have participated in governance and warfare.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells about such heroes of the faith as Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and many others. Hebrews 11:16 says that these men and women were strangers and aliens on this earth, and they longed for a better country — the country of their real citizenship — heaven. Yet these strangers and aliens, who were no part of the world they lived in, were very much involved in that world. Verses 33 and 34 tell us that they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, were powerful in battle, and routed foreign enemies. Daniel, of course, was included in this tribute as one who shut the mouths of lions; nonetheless, he was a highly placed government official in the Babylonian empire. He used that God-given position very wisely to effect good in his time and his place. So should we today. Our citizenship is in heaven, but even as strangers and aliens, we are to use the gifts God gives us for the good we can accomplish here.

In all fairness, since the Watchtower Society judges the actions of others based upon its biased interpretation of what it means to be “no part of this world,” we have a legitimate right to question whether its members comply with their own rule. Robert Bowman makes the excellent point that, judged by the Society’s own standard, Jehovah’s Witnesses are just as much a part of this world as anyone else. “Satan’s world” (according to the Watchtower Society) is a three-legged stool comprised of false religion, political governments, and “the greedy oppressive commercial system.” 2 For that reason, JWs are forbidden to go to a church, join the military, or be involved in any way with the evil government — except to take any food stamps or welfare for which they may qualify.3

But what about the third leg of that wicked stool? The Society says, “Satan’s commercial system, along with false religion and political governments, promotes selfishness, crime, and terrible wars.”4 To be consistent, then, in order to honestly assert that JWs alone are “no part of this world,” they must avoid Satan’s “greedy, oppressive commercial system” just as scrupulously as they avoid Satan’s false religious system or Satan’s political system. But they do not, and that leaves them open to the Society’s own charge of promoting “selfishness, crime, and terrible wars!” They compromise their stand for the sake of filthy lucre. To say that JWs need to participate in this part of Satan’s world in order to get by is a weak excuse, indeed.

Even so, the Watchtower Society, while sitting in self-righteous judgment of “Christendom,” lamely instructs its membership to go ahead and take part in Satan’s “greedy, oppressive commercial system,” merely admonishing them to avoid the dishonest practices associated with it. By that same logic, wouldn’t it be okay to be involved in the political process (if you avoided dishonest practices) just as Daniel was in Babylon? The Society’s stand is arbitrary and hypocritical.

The next item on the WTBTS agenda is to roll out its version of the early church writers to find justification for its view. The Society claims that none of the early Christians participated in the army or other government offices. However, prior to 170 A.D., nothing is said for or against military service. Additionally, the Christians who later spoke against it had reasons that do not apply to us today — such as the persecutions Christians were suffering at the hands of the Roman military and the idolatrous nature of Imperial Roman military service.

But this is what I find most incomprehensible about this line of reasoning: Why would the WTBTS attempt to buttress its position by bringing up the beliefs and practices of these men? After all, the Society teaches that the early Christian writers were the very ones who brought about the “great apostasy” — corrupting the faith by infusing pagan Greek philosophy into it. Why does the Society demand that we pay no attention to what apostates of today have to say, while it continually (albeit selectively) quotes the apostates of yesteryear? The Society cannot have it both ways. Either these early writers were true Christians, or they were apostates. They cannot be “Christian apostates,” whose theology we must reject, but whose stand on the military we must emulate.

While I do not agree with the Society that the early church writers were apostates, their uninspired writings are not the final word on matters of faith and practice. The Bible is our authority. And the Bible mentions that one of the early Christians, a man named Erasmus, was a city treasurer (Romans 16:23). Also, military men, when they came to faith, were not told that they must find a new career or else (see Matthew 8:13 and Acts 10). And, of course, NO ONE was instructed to “come to Jehovah’s organization for salvation” as JWs are instructed today. 5 But I digress …

What is God’s view of war? As much as we may detest the thought of killing and bloodshed, it is obvious from the Old Testament record that GOD is not against it when the cause is a righteous one. I’m not going to try to defend Him, except to say that He is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The JW may attempt to counter that obvious truth by saying that the Israelites were forbidden by God to war against each other, citing 1 Kings 12:24 to “prove” their assertion. Funny thing though … if you look at that verse in context, you will notice that the nation, “God’s organization,” already was divided into TWO separate nations with separate governments and kings. YHWH was specifically commanding King Rehoboam of “God’s organization Judah” at that precise moment in time to refrain from going to war against King Jeroboam of “God’s organization Israel.” This was hardly a law set in stone for all time. The Bible records that, some years later, “God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands” (2 Chronicles. 13: 15-16, NIV).

The wars between Judah and Israel continued for years; nevertheless, God sent His prophets to both of them and considered both nations His people. Not only were God’s people divided in two, but He took sides in their conflicts as He saw fit.

The idea of it being “unloving” and, therefore, wrong for a Christian today to fight a “brother” has some holes in it as well. It may seem, at first glance, that to use violence of any kind against a Christian brother would be wrong. In fact, the case might be made that it is “unchristian” to strike anyone — brother or not. Still, of course, there are exceptions that most fair-minded individuals would allow. Even the Watchtower Society allows for the use of violent force “to protect himself or others.”6 If I see a bully beating up on a weaker person or a group of young persons mugging an elderly person, I don’t think I would take the time to ascertain the religious beliefs of either the perpetrator(s) or the victim. I would consider it right to intervene — by whatever force necessary.

JW Wargames graphic 2During one meeting with a JW elder and his mother some years ago, I asked him if he would allow me to beat up his mother or if he would stop me. He actually said he would not stop me! Shame on him, in my view, that he would let his allegiance to this false prophet organization keep him from properly defending his own mother.

Now for the history lesson: The Watchtower Society often brags about its supposed integrity in Nazi Germany during WW II. The August 22, 1995 edition of AWAKE! gives a highly propagandized version of the events surrounding the persecution of JWs in Nazi Germany during the early thirties. It relates how the Nazis seized the Society’s branch office in Magdeburg and launched a persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in June of 1933. President Rutherford bravely (from a safe distance and from a free land) stood up to Hitler, issued him an ultimatum, and threatened to expose Nazi persecution to the world if the persecution of JWs did not cease by March 24, 1934. Would the WTBTS have exposed the Nazi’s cruel persecutions of other groups if the JWs had been exempted?

I guess we’ll never know that for sure, but we do know that Rutherford was no friend of the Jewish people. You see, what the AWAKE! article leaves out of this narrative is far more telling than what it includes. The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, can be found in the Society’s 1934 Yearbook.

Page 130 of that book reads:

In June [of 1933] the president of the Society visited Germany to take some action to get the Society’s property restored to our possession and to carry on the work further.

Pages 131-138 inform us that a declaration of facts was prepared and unanimously adopted by the Witnesses at the Society’s 1933 Berlin Convention, and that the resolution was printed and distributed throughout Germany. This “declaration of facts” was Rutherford’s pusillanimous attempt to appease Hitler. In it he says:

It is falsely charged by our enemies that we have received financial support for our work from the Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. Up to this hour there never has been the slightest bit of money contributed to our work by Jews. We are the faithful followers of Christ Jesus and believe on him as the Savior of the world, whereas the Jews entirely reject Jesus Christ and emphatically deny that he is the Savior … The greatest and the most oppressive empire on earth is the Anglo-American empire … It has been the commercial Jews of the British-American empire that have built and carried on Big Business as a means of exploiting and oppressing the peoples of many nations.7 The present government of Germany has declared emphatically against Big Business oppressors and in opposition to the wrongful religious influence in the political affairs of the nation. Instead, therefore, of our literature and our work’s being a menace to the principles of the present government we are the strongest supporters of such high ideals.

Hitler was not impressed with Rutherford’s attempted “bedfellowship,” so the persecution of JWs continued. This enraged Rutherford, who then threatened to publish a worldwide exposé of the Nazi’s brutality if the persecution did not cease. Again, Hitler was unmoved, and that is why Rutherford began denouncing Hitler and Nazism, safely from his home in the evil, oppressive, Jewish owned (in his view), American empire. Rutherford agreed with Hitler’s “high ideals” so long as that “idealism” was directed at other groups.

The aforementioned AWAKE! article ironically states that in October of 1934, JWs from 49 countries sent a telegram to Hitler warning him that he must refrain from persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses or “God will destroy you and your national party.” God eventually did destroy Hitler and the Nazis. And how did He accomplish this destruction? With fire and brimstone from heaven? No, through the armies of the Allies — the most evil and oppressive empire on the face of the earth — according to Rutherford!

What about the 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses detained in Nazi concentration camps? Are they not to be considered martyrs? Perhaps. However, being a martyr does not make one a Christian. There have been countless Muslim martyrs throughout the centuries and continuing even today. But all of the Muslims who have died for Islam have died for a lie! And the same holds true for those JWs who were imprisoned or even lost their lives as victims of Hitler. They did not die so that righteousness could prevail, nor because they took a righteous stand to protect their defenseless neighbors; they were just following orders. Also what about all the young persons of “Christendom” who died in the struggle that freed the JWs in the camps? Any praise in the WATCHTOWER for these Christian martyrs? I haven’t seen any.

Next, we must consider the Society’s oft-repeated claim that one of the reasons Jesus chose the WTBTS over all the churches of “Christendom” back in 1919 was because “Christendom’s” clergy were praising (i.e., “paying homage” to) the proposed League of Nations and had high hopes for that organization. The Society goes so far as to say that those who promoted or even merely admired the League of Nations will “not have their names written upon ‘the scroll of life’…” 8 Yet, by this accusation, the Society condemns itself, for the WATCH TOWER of February 15, 1919, p.51 gave very high praise and admiration to the proposed League of Nations! To me, the issue is not that the Watchtower Society admired the League back then. The issue is that the Society covers it up now while, at the same time, hypocritically condemning others for doing what the Society, itself, did!

Of course, the vast majority of rank-and-file Witnesses are completely ignorant of this deception, taking into account that they have never seen that 1919 WATCH TOWER and are highly discouraged from reading “old light.” (No surprise there, once you learn what’s IN that “old light.”) Witnesses, likewise, generally are unaware that many Christians heartily dislike and distrust the United Nations (and its forerunner, the League of Nations), because the Watchtower Society implies that all of “Christendom”adores these organizations. That is nothing more than sheer propaganda. As for any members of the clergy who did have high hopes for the League of Nations at its inception — isn’t it at least possible that they liked it because they detested war and strongly desired peace? This condemning attitude seems incongruent coming from the likes of the pacifist Watchtower Society. “We are the good pacifists; those people are the evil pacifists.” Isn’t this just another example of Watchtower double-talk?

The Watchtower Society often castigates Augustine’s “just war theory” as being an example of “Christendom’s” role in the promotion of warfare in the world. Sanctimoniously it asserts, “Christendom’s leaders have always been ready to call a war ‘just’ if it was waged by the country they happen to live in …” 9 Now for a little history test: Which one of “Christendom’s” leaders said:

“We as Christians are opposed to war among truly Christian people; and yet we must acknowledge that some causes of war are more just than others, and of this more just class the wars of the United States seem to have been”?

Go to the head of the class if you guessed that the speaker was Society President Joseph “Judge” Rutherford in the Golden Age (the Society’s magazine at that time) of February 18, 1920, p.334. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

What about the issue of neutrality? The WTBTS book, Reasoning from the Scriptures, p.269 states:

It is a fact of ancient and modern day history that in every nation and under all circumstances true Christians have endeavored to maintain complete neutrality as to conflicts between factions …

If that is true, then why does the WATCHTOWER, May 1, 1994, p.25 claim that:

“it was not until 1939 that the JWs saw clearly the issue of Christian neutrality” ???

Moreover, since the Society teaches that there were true Christians down through the centuries — but it has no idea of who they were — how could it possibly know that in every nation and under all circumstances, these (imaginary) Christians maintained complete neutrality?

The Society asserts that Satan “promotes nationalism and tribalism, the belief in the superiority of one nation, race or tribe over others” 10. In addition, on page 112 of the Society’s 1986 Yearbook, the story is told of a man named Andrilina who left his church in disgust and joined the Witnesses “when his minister, during Sunday services, prayed for the victory of the Allied Armies” in WW I. Oh forfend!! But, in its rush to judgment against “Christendom,” the Society, once again, neglected to mention that in 1918, the Society called upon the Bible Students (early JWs) to join with the country in praying for the victory of the Allied forces of WW I. I quote:

In accordance with the resolution of Congress of April 2nd, and with the proclamation of the President of the United States of May 11, it is suggested that the Lord’s people everywhere make May 30th a day of prayer and supplication. God was graciously pleased to cause this nation to be formed and to grow under the most favorable conditions in the world for the preservation of liberty, civil and religious … Here the love of truth has for three hundred years attracted from all quarters of the world people who love God, love the Bible and love religious liberty. Countless blessings have flowed to devout people through the wise provisions of the laws of the United States, blessings whose influences have been felt to the remotest corners of the earth, wherever even a spark of love for God-given freedom might be fanned into a glow … This class (the anointed Bible Students) love to ‘assemble themselves together’ … and they will be of all people the most ready to embrace an opportunity of gathering in an additional service of prayer and supplication” 11

The blessing of “liberty, civil and religious” that the WATCHTOWER extols here was bought with the blood of thousands who were willing to fight to secure and defend that “God-given freedom.” That sacrifice gave the Society the very liberty it today enjoys to defame those who paid a terrible price to obtain it.

Since Jesus could not really have chosen the WTBTS as His channel in 1919 on the basis of its staunch stand against the League of Nations nor its neutrality, why DID He choose it? Why on earth would He? At the very time of His alleged “return” and subsequent “appointment” of the Bible Students over all others, they not only were paying admiring “homage” to the League of Nations, but also were celebrating holidays, displaying the cross prominently, teaching that the pyramids in Egypt were “God’s Stone Witness” corroborating their (false) prophetic chronology 12, erecting a huge stone pyramid at Russell’s grave site, and teaching that Jesus had come “invisibly in 1874” 13, among other nefarious things.

The crux of the matter is this: A false history adds up to a false authority from Jesus. The WTBTS has never been appointed — either in 1919 (as it claims) nor at any other time. It is not God’s channel of communication. The Society is channeling lies from another source.

The Watchtower Society lays responsibility for all the wars in the Christian era upon the shoulders of the Christian clergy, because the Watchtower Society forbids its members to participate in war, while the clergy do not. It should be obvious that only an organization exerting UNGODLY control of its membership could keep their people in lockstep conformity to its extrabiblical directives. War is undeniably horrible, and Christians have the freedom to be pacifist if that is their conviction. On the other hand, they also have the freedom to consider another viewpoint — the viewpoint that some things (“God-given freedom”) may just be worth fighting for! This will be difficult for the JW to grasp, because he has been taught that there only can be one possible way to look at things, and that is whatever viewpoint the Society is advocating at that moment in time.

I use the phrase “at that moment in time” because WTBTS “truth” is not stable. The Society could decide tomorrow to send its people to war, and the Witnesses would obediently go. If it became expedient, the Watchtower would change its mind about war just as it has for so many cardinal “truths” of the past. JWs who, only a few years ago, confidently asserted that accepting alternate (non-combatant) service in the military was not a good thing and was contrary to God’s requirements, now confidently assert that alternate service can be viewed as a “good work {a JW} can perform in obedience to the authorities.” It is obviously not God’s requirements that have changed, but the requirements of a handful of men in Brooklyn, NY. 14

It is possible for anyone to make up some criteria for “true Christianity” and then stamp as “unchristian” anyone who does not meet it. The Watchtower Society is only one such group that does this. However, we must reject WTBTS criteria concerning what is true Christianity because it employs an invalid test. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NASB). He did not say, “Test yourself, to see if you have voted, examine yourself, to see if you agree with the Watchtower’s [current] stand on the military.” The Bible’s criteria for true Christianity is the indwelling Christ, but the necessity for that is denied by the chieftains in Brooklyn.

I am not primarily interested in defending the Christian church from unfair attacks. I happen to love the JWs who believe that we are the enemy. The JWs are a people at war — not with “Christendom” — but with God, Himself. Peace with God is obtained solely by faith in Christ, not by faith in Michael the archangel + association with God’s organization + political neutrality + preaching work + shunning apostates + any of the myriad other dictates of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Romans 5:1, Titus 3:5, Romans 11:6). Jehovah’s Witnesses have never accepted God’s terms for peace, having been tricked into accepting the bogus terms expounded in the WATCHTOWER. They are ignorant of the righteousness that is obtained by faith and are seeking to establish their own (Romans 10:2-4). Sadly, as much as He loves the Society’s members, God will not accept them on the Society’s terms. They need to lay down their arms, and flee to His. My heart’s desire is that many will do so.

Love to all,

Joy sig

  1. The “clergy” (or government) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  2. You Can Live Forever in Paradise Earth, 1982/89, pp.209-211
  3. Our Kingdom Ministry, February 1994, p.7:“A needy one may find it beneficial to speak with one of the elders. The elders may be aware of government programs that are set up to provide assistance and may be in a position to help complete the paperwork or understand the requirements for such programs.”
  4. ibid., p.210
  5. WATCHTOWER, November 15, 1981, p.21; WATCHTOWER and AWAKE! are the alternating bi-weekly magazines published by the WTBTS which its members must read in order to keep up with the Society’s ever-changing “truth.”
  6. AWAKE!, September 8, 1975, p.28: “The situation is such that the only thing a person can do is to use whatever is at hand to protect himself or others. As a result, the attacker may receive a fatal blow. From a scriptural standpoint, the one acting in self- defense would not thereby incur bloodguilt.”
  7. This issue has been widely discussed on the Internet, and the WTBTS is under tremendous pressure to respond to its critics. After this article had been sent to the editors, I received the July 8, 1998 issue of the AWAKE! which contained an admission (pp.13-14) that Rutherford had, indeed, written to Hitler, denied having Jewish financial support, and blamed the “commercial Jews” for the current oppression of the peoples of many nations. The AWAKE! article then offers the lame excuse that:

    “This statement clearly did not refer to the Jewish people in general, and it is regrettable if it has been misunderstood and has given cause for any offense.”

    I see. Rutherford was not lambasting the Jewish people in general; but only the oppressive, monied Jews who ran the world. I am not sure that Hitler would have seen the subtle distinction. No, Rutherford knew exactly what he was doing by agreeing with Hitler that the Jews were responsible for the world’s ills. I do not know which is more contemptible: Rutherford’s actions during the thirties or the Society’s present attempt to excuse the inexcusable. And, the fact that Rutherford’s condemnation DID refer to Jewish people in general clearly can be seen from Rutherford’s statement:

    “We are the faithful followers of Christ Jesus, and believe on him as the Savior ofthe world, whereas the Jews entirely reject Jesus Christ and emphatically deny that he is the Savior of the world sent of God for man’s good.”

    This statement, of course, is nowhere to be found in the July 8, 1998 AWAKE!.

  8. WATCHTOWER, October 1, 1983, p.16
  9. AWAKE!, March 22, 1984. p.6
  10. WATCHTOWER, April 15, 1997, p.10
  11. WATCH TOWER, June 1, 1918, pp.173-174
  12. Studies In The Scriptures, vol.3 Thy Kingdom Come, 1891, p.71
  13. Ibid., p.621
  14. Compare the WTBTS book United in Worship, 1983, p.167 with the WATCHTOWER, May 1, 1996, p.20

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