“They Are No Part of the World”
MODERN-DAY religion is, for the most part, very much a part of the world, so it shares in the world’s celebrations and reflects its nationalistic spirit. Its clergy often acknowledge that fact, and many of them like it that way. In sharp contrast, Jesus said of his true followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
What does the record show as to Jehovah’s Witnesses in this regard? Have they given convincing evidence that they are no part of the world?
Attitude Toward Their Fellowmen
The early Bible Students were well aware that true Christians would be no part of the world. The Watch Tower explained that because Christ’s anointed followers were sanctified and begotten by holy spirit so that they might share in the heavenly Kingdom, they were by this act of God set apart from the world. Additionally, it pointed out that they were under obligation to shun the spirit of the world—its aims, ambitions, and hopes, as well as its selfish ways.—1 John 2:15-17.
Did this affect the attitude of the Bible Students toward people who did not share their beliefs? It certainly did not make them recluses. But those who truly applied what they were learning from the Scriptures did not seek the fellowship of worldly people in such a way as to share their manner of life. The Watch Tower pointed God’s servants to the Bible counsel to “work what is good toward all.” It also counseled that when persecuted they should endeavor to avoid vengeful feelings and, instead, as Jesus had said, should ‘love their enemies.’ (Gal. 6:10; Matt. 5:44-48) Especially did it urge them to seek to share with others the precious truth regarding God’s provision for salvation.
Understandably, their doing these things would cause them to be viewed by the world as different. But being no part of the world involves more—much more.
Separate and Distinct From Babylon the Great
To be no part of the world, they had to be no part of religious systems that were deeply involved in the affairs of the world and that had absorbed doctrines and customs from ancient Babylon, the longtime enemy of true worship. (Jer. 50:29) When the first world war erupted, the Bible Students had for decades been exposing the pagan roots of such doctrines of Christendom as the Trinity, immortality of the human soul, and hellfire. They had also laid bare the churches’ record of trying to manipulate governments for their own selfish ends. Because of Christendom’s doctrines and practices, the Bible Students had identified it with “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 18:2) They pointed out that it mixed truth with error, lukewarm Christianity with outright worldliness, and that the Biblical designation “Babylon” (meaning, “Confusion”) well described that condition. They urged lovers of God to get out of “Babylon.” (Rev. 18:4) To that end, late in December 1917 and early in 1918, they distributed 10,000,000 copies of the issue of The Bible Students Monthly that featured the subject “The Fall of Babylon,” which was a hard-hitting exposé of Christendom. This, in turn, resulted in bitter animosity from the clergy, who exploited wartime hysteria in an endeavor to crush the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Of necessity, getting out of Babylon the Great involved withdrawing from membership in organizations that advocated her false doctrines. The Bible Students did that, although for many years they viewed as Christian brothers those individuals in the churches who professed full consecration and faith in the ransom. Nevertheless, not only did the Bible Students write letters of withdrawal from Christendom’s churches but, when possible, some would read theirs aloud at church meetings where it was in order for members to speak up. If this was not possible, they might send a copy of their letter of withdrawal—a kindly one containing an appropriate witness—to every member of the congregation.
Were they also making sure that they did not take along with them any of the ungodly customs and practices of those organizations? What was the situation in the period leading up to World War I?
Should Religion Mix in Politics?
In the political arena, rulers of many of the leading nations, because of their connections with a Catholic or a Protestant church, had long claimed to rule ‘by divine right,’ as representatives of the Kingdom of God and by God’s special favor. The church gave its blessing to the government; in turn, the government gave its support to the church. Did the Bible Students also indulge in this?
Instead of imitating the churches of Christendom, they sought to learn from the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and his apostles. What did their study of the Bible show them? Early Watch Tower publications reveal that they were aware that when Jesus was questioned by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, he stated: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” In response to a question as to Jesus’ role, he told the governor: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:36, 37) The Bible Students knew that Jesus stuck unwaveringly to that assignment. When the Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, he refused. When the people wanted to make him king, he withdrew. (Matt. 4:8-10; John 6:15) The Bible Students did not sidestep the fact that Jesus referred to the Devil as “the ruler of the world” and said that the Devil ‘had no hold on him.’ (John 14:30) They could see that Jesus did not seek involvement for himself or his followers in Rome’s political system but that he was fully occupied with declaring “the good news of the kingdom of God.”—Luke 4:43.
Did their believing these things recorded in God’s Word encourage disrespect for government authority? Not at all. Instead, it helped them to understand why the problems facing rulers are so overwhelming, why there is so much lawlessness, and why government programs to improve the lot of the people are often frustrated. Their belief caused them to be patient in the face of hardship, because they had confidence that God would in his due time bring lasting relief by means of his Kingdom. At that time they understood that “the higher powers,” referred to at Romans 13:1-7 (KJ), were the secular rulers. In accord with that, they urged respect for government officials. In discussing Romans 13:7, C. T. Russell, in the book The New Creation (published in 1904), stated that true Christians “would naturally be the most sincere in their recognition of the great of this world, and most obedient to the laws and the requirements of law, except where these would be found in conflict with the heavenly demands and commands. Few if any earthly rulers in our day will find fault with the recognition of a supreme Creator and a supreme allegiance to his commands. Hence, [true Christians] should be found amongst the most law-abiding of the present time—not agitators, not quarrelsome, not fault-finders.”
As Christians, the Bible Students knew that the work to which they should be devoting themselves was the preaching of the Kingdom of God. And, as stated in the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures, “if this is faithfully done, there will be no time nor disposition to dabble in the politics of present governments.”
In this respect they were, to a considerable extent, like those early Christians described by Augustus Neander in the book The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries: “The Christians stood aloof and distinct from the state, . . . and Christianity seemed able to influence civil life only in that manner which, it must be confessed, is the purest, by practically endeavouring to instil more and more of holy feeling into the citizens of the state.”
When the World Went to War
Around the globe the events of World War I severely tested the claims of those who professed to be Christians. It was the most ghastly war fought down to that time; nearly the entire world population was involved in one way or another.
Pope Benedict XV, in spite of Vatican sympathies for the Central Powers, endeavored to maintain an appearance of neutrality. However, within each nation the clergy, Catholic and Protestant, maintained no such neutral stance. Regarding the situation in the United States, Dr. Ray Abrams, in his book Preachers Present Arms, wrote: “The churches assumed a unity of purpose hitherto unknown in religious annals. . . . The leaders lost no time in getting thoroughly organized on a war-time basis. Within twenty-four hours after the declaration of war, the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America laid plans for the fullest cooperation. . . . The Roman Catholic Church, organized for similar service under the National Catholic War Council, directed by fourteen archbishops and with Cardinal Gibbons as president, demonstrated an equal devotion to the cause. . . . Many of the churches went much further than they were asked. They became recruiting stations for the enlistment of troops.” What did the Bible Students do?
Although they endeavored to do what they felt was pleasing to God, their position was not always one of strict neutrality. What they did was influenced by the belief, shared in common with other professed Christians, that “the higher powers” were “ordained of God,” according to the wording of the King James Version. (Rom. 13:1) Thus, in accord with a proclamation of the president of the United States, The Watch Tower urged the Bible Students to join in observing May 30, 1918, as a day of prayer and supplication in connection with the outcome of the world war.*
During the war years, the circumstances into which individual Bible Students were thrust varied. The way they dealt with these situations also varied. Feeling obligated to obey “the powers that be,” as they referred to the secular rulers, some went into the trenches at the front with guns and bayonets. But having in mind the scripture, “Thou shalt not kill,” they would fire their weapons into the air or try simply to knock the weapon from the hands of an opponent. (Ex. 20:13, KJ) A few, such as Remigio Cuminetti, in Italy, refused to put on a military uniform. The Italian government at that time made no allowance for anyone who for reasons of conscience would not take up arms. He stood trial five times and was confined in prisons and a mental institution, but his faith and determination remained unshaken. In England some who applied for exemption were assigned to work of national importance or to a noncombatant corps. Others, such as Pryce Hughes, adopted a position of strict neutrality, regardless of the consequences to them personally.
At least at that point, the overall record of the Bible Students was not quite like that of the early Christians described in The Rise of Christianity, by E. W. Barnes, who reported: “A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”
But then, at the end of World War I, another situation arose that called on religious groups to show where their loyalties were.
A Political Expression of God’s Kingdom?
A peace treaty, including the Covenant of the League of Nations, was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. Even before that peace treaty was signed, the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America went on record as proclaiming that the League would be “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” And the U.S. Senate received an avalanche of mail from religious groups urging it to ratify the Covenant of the League of Nations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses did not jump on the bandwagon. Even before the peace treaty was confirmed (in October), J. F. Rutherford gave a discourse at Cedar Point, Ohio, on September 7, 1919, in which he showed that not the League of Nations but the Kingdom set up by God himself is the only hope for distressed humanity. While acknowledging that a human alliance to improve conditions could accomplish much good, those Bible Students were not turning their backs on God’s own Kingdom in exchange for a political expedient set up by politicians and blessed by the clergy. Instead, they undertook the work of giving a global witness concerning the Kingdom that God had placed in the hands of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 11:15; 12:10) In The Watch Tower of July 1, 1920, it was explained that this was the work that Jesus had foretold at Matthew 24:14.
Once again, following World War II, Christians were faced with a similar issue. This time, it involved the United Nations, successor to the League. While World War II was still under way, in 1942, Jehovah’s Witnesses had already discerned from the Bible, at Revelation 17:8, that the world peace organization would rise again, also that it would fail to bring lasting peace. This was explained by N. H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, in the convention discourse “Peace—Can It Last?” Boldly Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaimed that view of the developing world situation. On the other hand, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders actually shared in the deliberations in San Francisco in 1945 during which the UN Charter was drafted. To observers of these developments, it was plain who wanted to be “a friend of the world” and who was endeavoring to be “no part of the world,” as Jesus had said would be true of his disciples.—Jas. 4:4; John 17:14.
A Record of Christian Neutrality
Though Jehovah’s Witnesses quickly discerned some issues that involve a Christian’s relationship to the world, other matters required more time. However, as World War II gathered momentum in Europe, a significant article in The Watchtower of November 1, 1939, helped them to appreciate the meaning of Christian neutrality. Followers of Jesus Christ, the article stated, are obligated before God to be wholly devoted to him and his Kingdom, the Theocracy. Their prayers should be for God’s Kingdom, not for the world. (Matt. 6:10, 33) In the light of what Jesus Christ disclosed as to the identity of the invisible ruler of the world (John 12:31; 14:30), the article reasoned, how could a person who is devoted to God’s Kingdom favor one side or the other in a conflict between factions of the world? Had not Jesus said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world”? (John 17:16) This position of Christian neutrality was not one that the world in general would understand. But would Jehovah’s Witnesses really live up to it?
Their neutrality was put to a grueling test during World War II, outstandingly in Germany. Historian Brian Dunn stated: ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses were incompatible with Nazism. Most important of the Nazi objections to them was their political neutrality. This meant that no believer would bear arms, hold office, take part in public festivals, or make any sign of allegiance.’ (The Churches’ Response to the Holocaust, 1986) In A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson added: “Many were sentenced to death for refusing military service . . . or they ended in Dachau or lunatic asylums.” How many Witnesses in Germany were imprisoned? Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany later reported that 6,262 of them had been arrested and 2,074 of that number had been put into concentration camps. Secular writers usually opt for higher figures.
In Britain, where both men and women were regimented, the law provided for exemption; but this was refused to Jehovah’s Witnesses by many tribunals, and judges imposed on them prison-sentence time exceeding 600 years in total. In the United States, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christian ministers were exempted from military service. Over 4,000 others, denied the exemption provided by the Selective Service Act, were arrested and imprisoned for terms that ranged up to five years. In every country on earth, Jehovah’s Witnesses held to the same position of Christian neutrality.
However, the test of the genuineness of their neutrality did not cease with the end of the war. Although the crisis of 1939-45 was past, other conflicts came; and even during times of relative peace, many nations chose to maintain compulsory military service. Jehovah’s Witnesses, as Christian ministers, continued to face imprisonment where they were not granted exemption. In 1949, when John Tsukaris and George Orphanidis would not take up arms against their fellowmen, the Greek government ordered their execution. The treatment (of various kinds) meted out to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece was repeatedly so harsh that in time the Council of Europe (Human Rights Committee) endeavored to use its influence in their behalf, but as a result of pressure from the Greek Orthodox Church, down till 1992 their urgings had, with few exceptions, been circumvented. However, some governments found it distasteful to continue punishing Jehovah’s Witnesses for their conscientious religious beliefs. As of the 1990’s, in a few countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands, and Argentina, the government was not pressing active Witnesses to engage in military service or in alternative compulsory national service, though each case was carefully examined.
In one place after another, Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to face situations that challenged their Christian neutrality. Governments in power in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere have met with violent opposition from revolutionary forces. As a result, both the governments and opposition forces have pressured Jehovah’s Witnesses for active support. But Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained complete neutrality. Some have been cruelly beaten, even executed, because of the stand taken. Often, though, the genuine Christian neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses has won the respect of officers on both sides, and the Witnesses are permitted to proceed unmolested in their work of telling others the good news about Jehovah’s Kingdom.
In the 1960’s and the 1970’s, the Witnesses’ neutrality underwent brutal tests in connection with the demand that all citizens of Malawi buy a card signifying membership in the ruling political party. Jehovah’s Witnesses saw it as contrary to their Christian beliefs to share in this. As a result, they were subjected to persecution that was unprecedented in its sadistic cruelty. Tens of thousands were forced to flee the country, and many were in time forcibly repatriated to face further brutality.
Although violently persecuted, Jehovah’s Witnesses have not reacted in a spirit of rebellion. Their beliefs do not endanger any government under which they live. In contrast, the World Council of Churches has helped to finance revolutions, and Catholic priests have backed guerrilla forces. But if one of Jehovah’s Witnesses were to engage in subversive activity, it would amount to renouncing his faith.
It is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all human governments will be removed by God’s Kingdom. This is what the Bible states at Daniel 2:44. But, as the Witnesses point out, instead of saying that humans would set up that Kingdom, the scripture declares that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom.” Likewise, they explain, the scripture does not say that humans are authorized by God to clear the way for that Kingdom by removing human rulerships. Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that the work of true Christians is to preach and to teach. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) In harmony with their respect for God’s Word, the record shows that none of them have ever attempted to overthrow a government of any kind anywhere in the world, nor have they ever plotted to harm a public official. The Italian newspaper La Stampa said regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses: “They are the most loyal citizens anyone could wish for: they do not dodge taxes or seek to evade inconvenient laws for their own profit.” Nevertheless, because of recognizing the seriousness of the matter in the eyes of God, each one of them is firmly determined to remain “no part of the world.”—John 15:19; Jas. 4:4.
When National Emblems Became Objects of Devotion
With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany, a wave of patriotic hysteria swept the world. In order to regiment the people, participation in patriotic ceremonies was made compulsory. In Germany everyone was required to give a prescribed salute and cry out, “Heil Hitler!” This was a lauding of Hitler as savior; it was meant to convey the idea that all the hopes of the people were centered on his leadership. But Jehovah’s Witnesses could not join in such sentiments. They knew that their worship must go only to Jehovah and that He had raised up Jesus Christ as mankind’s Savior.—Luke 4:8; 1 John 4:14.
Even before Hitler became dictator in Germany, Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World (published in 1931), reviewed the Scriptural example of the prophet Daniel’s three courageous Hebrew companions in Babylon. When ordered by the king to bow before an image at the playing of certain music, those faithful Hebrews had refused to compromise, and Jehovah had made plain his approval by delivering them. (Dan. 3:1-26) The booklet pointed out that patriotic ceremonies confronted Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times with a similar challenge to their faithfulness.
Gradually, agitation for compulsory patriotic ceremonies spread beyond Germany. On June 3, 1935, at a convention in Washington, D.C., when J. F. Rutherford was asked to comment on flag saluting in the schools, he emphasized the matter of faithfulness to God. A few months later, when eight-year-old Carleton B. Nichols, Jr., of Lynn, Massachusetts, declined to salute the American flag and join in singing a patriotic song, it was reported in newspapers across the country.
To explain the matter, Brother Rutherford gave a radio discourse on October 6 on the subject “Saluting a Flag,” in which he said: “To many persons the saluting of the flag is merely a formalism and has little or no significance. To those who sincerely consider it from the Scriptural standpoint, it means much.
“The flag representatively stands for the visible ruling powers. To attempt by law to compel a citizen or child of a citizen to salute any object or thing, or to sing so-called ‘patriotic songs’, is entirely unfair and wrong. Laws are made and enforced to prevent the commission of overt acts that result in injury to another, and are not made for the purpose of compelling a person to violate his conscience, and particularly when that conscience is directed in harmony with Jehovah God’s Word.
“The refusal to salute the flag, and to stand mute, as this boy did, could injure no one. If one sincerely believes that God’s commandment is against the saluting of flags, then to compel that person to salute a flag contrary to the Word of God, and contrary to his conscience, works a great injury to that person. The State has no right by law or otherwise to work injury to the people.”
Further explanation of the reasons for the position taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses was provided in the booklet Loyalty, published also in 1935. Attention was directed to such scriptures as the following: Exodus 20:3-7, which commanded that worship go only to Jehovah and that God’s servants were not to make or bow before any image or likeness of anything in heaven or on earth; Luke 20:25, where Jesus Christ directed that not only should Caesar’s things be paid back to Caesar but what belongs to God must be rendered to Him; and Acts 5:29, where the apostles firmly stated, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”
In the United States, the propriety of compelling anyone to salute a flag was submitted to the courts. On June 14, 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its own former decision and, in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, ruled that compulsory flag saluting was inconsistent with the guarantee of freedom set out in the nation’s own constitution.*
The issue involving nationalistic ceremonies has by no means been limited to Germany and the United States. In North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been cruelly persecuted because of their nonparticipation, even though they stand respectfully during flag-salute or similar ceremonies. Children have been beaten; many have been expelled from school. Numerous court cases have been fought.
Observers have felt impelled to acknowledge, however, that in this, as in other matters, Jehovah’s Witnesses have proved to be like the early Christians. Yet, as stated in the book The American Character: “To the overwhelming majority . . . the objections of the Witnesses were as unintelligible as the objections of the Christians [in the Roman Empire] to making a formal sacrifice to the Divine Emperor were to Trajan and Pliny.” This was to be expected, since Jehovah’s Witnesses, like the early Christians, viewed matters not as the world does but according to Bible principles.
Their Position Clearly Stated
After Jehovah’s Witnesses had endured grueling tests of their Christian neutrality for many years, The Watchtower of November 1, 1979, reaffirmed their position. It also explained what accounted for the action taken by individual Witnesses when it said: “As a result of diligent study of God’s Word, these young Christians were able to make a decision. No one else made this decision for them. They were able to make it individually, on the basis of each one’s Bible-trained conscience. Their decision was to refrain from acts of hatred and violence against their fellowmen of other nations. Yes, they believed in, and wanted to share in, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s well-known prophecy: ‘They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.’ (Isa. 2:4) These young men of all nations did just that.”
During the years that their adherence to Christian neutrality was being put to the test, reexamination of what the Bible says, at Romans 13:1-7, about “the superior authorities” led to a clearer statement of the Witnesses’ relationship to secular governments. This was published in the Watchtower issues of November 1, November 15, and December 1, 1962, and was reaffirmed in the issue of November 1, 1990. Those articles emphasized the position of Jehovah God as “the Supreme One,” while also pointing out that secular rulers are “superior authorities” only in relation to other humans and in the sphere of activity in which God permits them to function in the present system of things. The articles showed the need for true Christians conscientiously to honor such secular rulers and to render obedience to them in all matters that do not conflict with God’s law and their Bible-trained conscience.—Dan. 7:18; Matt. 22:21; Acts 5:29; Rom. 13:5.
Firm adherence to these Bible standards by Jehovah’s Witnesses has earned them a reputation for separateness from the world that reminds people of the early Christians.
When the World Had Its Holidays
When Jehovah’s Witnesses cast aside religious teachings that had pagan roots, they also quit sharing in many customs that were similarly tainted. But for a time, certain holidays were not given the careful scrutiny that they needed. One of these was Christmas.
This holiday was celebrated yearly even by members of the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters staff at the Bethel Home in Brooklyn, New York. For many years they had been aware that December 25 was not the correct date, but they reasoned that the date had long been popularly associated with the birth of the Savior and that doing good for others was proper on any day. However, after further investigation of the subject, the members of the Society’s headquarters staff, as well as the staffs at the Society’s branch offices in England and in Switzerland, decided to stop sharing in Christmas festivities, so no Christmas celebration was held there after 1926.
R. H. Barber, a member of the headquarters staff who made a thorough investigation of the origin of Christmas customs and the fruitage that these were yielding, presented the results in a radio broadcast. That information was also published in The Golden Age of December 12, 1928. It was a thorough exposé of the God-dishonoring roots of Christmas. Since then, the pagan roots of Christmas customs have become general public knowledge, but few people make changes in their way of life as a result. On the other hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses were willing to make needed changes in order to be more acceptable as servants of Jehovah.
When shown that celebrating the birth of Jesus had actually become of greater interest to people than the ransom provided by his death; that the revelry of the holiday and the spirit in which many gifts were given did not honor God; that the magi whose gift-giving was being imitated were actually demon-inspired astrologers; that parents set an example for their children in lying by what they told them about Santa Claus; that “St. Nicholas” (Santa Claus) was admittedly another name for the Devil himself; and that such festivals were, as acknowledged by Cardinal Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, “the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship” the church had adopted—when made aware of these things, Jehovah’s Witnesses promptly and permanently stopped having any part in Christmas celebrations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have good times with their families and friends. But they do not participate in holidays and celebrations that are linked with pagan gods (as is true of such holidays as Easter, New Year’s Day, May Day, and Mother’s Day). (2 Cor. 6:14-17) Like the early Christians,* they do not even celebrate birthdays. They also respectfully refrain from sharing in national holidays that memorialize political or military events and refrain from giving worshipful honor to national heroes. Why? Because Jehovah’s Witnesses are no part of the world.
Helping Their Fellowman
Reverence toward the gods was at the heart of the social and cultural life of the Roman Empire. Since Christians abstained from sharing in anything tainted by the pagan gods, the people viewed Christianity as an affront to their way of life; and according to the historian Tacitus, Christians were said to be haters of mankind. Conveying a similar feeling, Minucius Felix, in his writings, quotes a Roman as saying to a Christian acquaintance: “You do not attend the shows; you take no part in the processions . . . abhor the sacred games.” The populace of the ancient Roman world little understood the Christians.
Similarly today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not understood by many in the world. People may admire the high moral standards of the Witnesses but feel that the Witnesses should share with the world around them in its activities and get involved in helping to make the world a better place. However, those who get to know Jehovah’s Witnesses firsthand learn that there is a Biblical reason for everything they do.
Far from shutting themselves off from the rest of mankind, Jehovah’s Witnesses devote their lives to helping their fellowmen in the way that Jesus Christ set the example. They assist people to learn how to cope successfully with the problems of life now by acquainting them with the Creator and the guidelines for life that are set out in his inspired Word. They freely share with their neighbors Bible truths that can transform a person’s entire outlook on life. At the core of their belief is the realization that “the world is passing away,” that soon God will intervene to bring the present wicked system to an end, and that a glorious future awaits those who remain no part of the world and put their full faith in the Kingdom of God.—1 John 2:17.
The Watch Tower, June 1, 1918, p. 174.
For further details, see Chapter 30, “Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News.”
The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries, by Augustus Neander, p. 190.
[Box on page 195]
No Threat to Any Government
◆ When writing about the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a Latin American land, an editorial in the Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A., “World-Herald” said: “It takes a bigoted and paranoid imagination to believe that the Jehovah’s Witnesses pose any kind of threat to any political regime; they are as non-subversive and peace-loving as a religious body can be, and ask only to be left alone to pursue their faith in their own way.”
◆ “Il Corriere di Trieste,” an Italian newspaper, stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses should be admired for their firmness and coherence. Contrary to other religions, their oneness as a people prevents them from praying to the same God, in the name of the same Christ, to bless two opposing sides of a conflict, or from mixing politics with religion to serve the interests of Heads of State or political parties. Last but not least, they are ready to face death rather than violate . . . the commandment THOU SHALT NOT KILL!”
◆ After Jehovah’s Witnesses had endured a 40-year ban in Czechoslovakia, the newspaper “Nová Svoboda” said, in 1990: “The faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibits the use of weapons against humans, and those who refused basic military service and didn’t get to work in the coal mines went to prison, even for four years. Just from this it is obvious that they have tremendous moral strength. We could use such unselfish people even in the highest political functions—but we are never going to get them there. . . . Of course, they recognize governmental authorities but believe that only God’s Kingdom is capable of solving all human problems. But watch it—they are not fanatics. They are people who are absorbed in humanity.”
[Box/Pictures on page 200, 201]
Practices That Have Been Abandoned
This Christmas celebration at Brooklyn Bethel in 1926 was their last. The Bible Students gradually came to appreciate that neither the origin of this holiday nor the practices associated with it honored God
For years, Bible Students wore a cross and crown as a badge of identification, and this symbol was on the front cover of the “Watch Tower” from 1891 to 1931. But in 1928 it was emphasized that not a decorative symbol but one’s activity as a witness showed he was a Christian. In 1936 it was pointed out that the evidence indicates that Christ died on a stake, not a two-beamed cross
In their “Daily Manna” book, Bible Students kept a list of birthdays. But after they quit celebrating Christmas and when they realized that birthday celebrations were giving undue honor to creatures (one reason that early Christians never celebrated birthdays), the Bible Students quit this practice too
For some 35 years, Pastor Russell thought that the Great Pyramid of Gizeh was God’s stone witness, corroborating Biblical time periods. (Isa. 19:19) But Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned the idea that an Egyptian pyramid has anything to do with true worship. (See “Watchtower” issues of November 15 and December 1, 1928)