Why Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Respectfully Abstain From Participating in Nationalistic Ceremonies?
Jehovah’s Witnesses respect governments and their national symbols. We accept the fact that others may choose to say a pledge of allegiance, salute a flag, or sing a national anthem.
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses choose not to participate in such ceremonies because we believe that these conflict with Bible teachings. We appreciate receiving the same respect for our beliefs as we show to others who make a different choice.
In this article
What Bible teachings are involved?
The following two key Bible teachings affect our choice:
God alone deserves our worship. The Bible says: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:8) Pledges of allegiance and national anthems often contain wording that promises devotion to a country above all else. So Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot in good conscience participate in such ceremonies.
Jehovah’s Witnesses likewise feel that saluting the flag amounts to an act of worship, or idolatry, which the Bible prohibits. (1 Corinthians 10:14) Some secular sources acknowledge that national flags are, in effect, religious symbols. “Nationalism’s chief symbol of faith and central object of worship is the flag,” wrote historian Carlton J. H. Hayes.a Regarding early Christians, author Daniel P. Mannix observed: “Christians refused to . . . sacrifice to the [Roman] emperor’s genius—roughly equivalent today to refusing to salute the flag.”b
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses do not salute the flag, neither do we vandalize it, burn it, or otherwise show disrespect for it or any other national symbol.
All humans are equal before God. (Acts 10:34, 35) The Bible says that God “made out of one man every nation of men.” (Acts 17:26) For this reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it would be wrong to glorify any particular ethnic group or nationality above others. We honor all peoples, regardless of their place of origin or residence.—1 Peter 2:17.
What if participation is required by law?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not anti-government. We believe the governments are part of an “arrangement of God” that he allows to exist. (Romans 13:1-7) We also believe that Christians should obey secular authorities.—Luke 20:25.
What, though, if there is a conflict between secular laws and those of God? In some cases, it is possible to submit a legal request to the government for an adjustment in the laws.c When no change is possible, Jehovah’s Witnesses respectfully choose to “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to make a social or political statement?
No. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take sides in social and political issues. When we refrain from pledging allegiance, saluting the flag, or singing the national anthem, it is not because we are political activists. Rather, we are adhering to our Bible-based beliefs about those ceremonies.
a Essays on Nationalism, pages 107-108.
b The Way of the Gladiator, page 212.
c For example, see the article “A Stand of Courage and Conscience Established Supreme Court Precedent 75 Years Ago.”