Watchtower states only Jehovah’s Witnesses do not engage in war, apparent proof this is the true religion. Not only is this untrue, it is an unrealistic and unscriptural stance.
Watchtower claims Jehovah’s Witnesses alone refrain from war.
“Who are no part of the world and learn war no more? Again, the historical record of the 20th century testifies: only Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 1992 Apr 1 p.12
“In our century, which religion has obeyed this law of love? Surely not the religions of Christendom, for they have slaughtered one another by the tens of millions in two world wars and other conflicts. It is Jehovah’s Witnesses who have obeyed to law of love earth wide. … Jehovah’s servants are unique in obeying the rule spoken by Peter and other apostles to a high court: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”” Watchtower 1990 Feb 1 p.22
Followers of other religions are described as “children of the Devil slaughtering their spiritual brothers.” Awake! 1985 Dec 22 pp.10-11
This self-adulation is far from correct. Religions best known for their stance against war are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but rather the historic peace churches – Society of Friends, Mennonites and Brethren. Every major Christian denomination contains pacifist factions. These include:
- Brethren (Dunkards) groups, including
- Church of the Brethren
- Anabaptist groups, including
- Bruderhof Communities
- Society of Friends (Quakers)
- Doukhobors – 17th century breakaway from Russian Orthodox
- Molokans – 17th century breakaway from Russian Orthodox
- Some Pentecostal groups such as the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship
- Seven Day Adventists
- Community of Christ
- Worldwide Church of God
- Pax Christi – A Catholic peace movement
- Fellowship of Reconciliation – A group formed in 1914 to unite pacifists regardless of denomination. All major religious denominations have affiliated associations including
- Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
- Methodist Peace Fellowship
- Baptist Peace Fellowship
- Orthodox Peace Fellowship
- Lutheran Peace Fellowship
- Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Peace Churches have suffered greatly for their stance against war, experiencing persecution, imprisonment and death.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are “neutral” but not pacifists, as they may draw arms in self-defence.
“True Christians love peace. They stay completely neutral in the world’s military, political, and ethnic conflicts. But, strictly speaking, they are not pacifists. Why? Because they welcome God’s war that will finally enforce his will on earth-a war that will settle the great issue of universal sovereignty and rid the earth of all enemies of peace once and for all.” Awake! 1997 May 8 p.23
“Jehovah himself is no pacifist. Neither are his witnesses such, although they are conscientious objectors.” Watchtower 1951 Feb 1 p.70
Peace churches are pacificts as they strictly adhere to non-resistance even when confronted by violence. The best known Pacifist writing is the Quaker’s Friends Peace Testimony from 1651, leading to the refusal of some Friends to pay a portion of their income tax bill, the “War Tax” component in the United States. Quakers were instrumental in establishing the option to avoid conscription as conscientious objectors during the United States Civil war.
Opinions vary between neutral and pacifist groups regarding non-combatant military roles, such as holding medical positions and performing non-battlefield services that assist in war.
Pacifist churches such as Quakers are against the death penalty. Watchtower is not, noting that the Mosaic Law advocated the death penalty and recognizing “the right of governments to do as they wish” in regards to the death penalty. (Awake! 1996 Mar 8 p.23)
Watchtower followers originally participated in war, but refusing to kill.
“Notice that there is no command in the Scriptures against military service. … it would be quite right to shoot, not to kill. You forget, perhaps, our provisos, which were that we explain our conscientious scruples against war, and seek to be excused: if not excused, that we seek non-combatant positions, as nurses, etc.; but if compelled to go a mile or many miles as a soldier, we still need not kill anybody.” Zion’s Watch Tower 1898 Aug 1 p.231
Participation in war was not forbidden until World War One. (Watchtower 1917 Apr 15 p.124) Civilian duties or alternative service, such as medical roles that do not require harming others, were still acceptable. It was not until World War Two that alternative service was no longer allowed. (Crisis of Conscience, R Franz, 2004 4th edition, p.124)
Refusing civilian duty resulted in the jailing and death of many young Jehovah’s Witness males. (United in Worship of the Only True God p.167) Yet in 1996, Watchtower changed back its stance, once again allowing military service and civilian duty as a matter of conscience. (Watchtower 1996 May 1 pp.19-20) It is a tragedy Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted and imprisoned for a stand on civilian service that Watchtower has since changed.
The Bible and War
Jehovah prides himself as a God of war, and is referred to as “Jehovah of Armies” over 250 times in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 3:8 supports warfare, saying there is “a time for war and a time for peace.” In one night, Jehovah’s angel is said to have sided with the Israelite army and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.
Image attribution: My Book Of Bible Stories – Story 72
Under Jehovah’s instruction, Israelites committed genocide, executing entire nations. Horrifying by today’s standards, he directed his warriors to murder townships of innocent civilians, along with all animals, (Joshua 6:21) but preserve alive virgin girls for the pleasure of the soldiers.
Numbers 31:15-18 “And now kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has had intercourse with man by lying with a male. And preserve alive for yourselves all the little ones among the women who have not known the act of lying with a male.”
The New Testament never comments against Christian warfare, and several passages indicate acceptance. At Matthew 8:5-13 Jesus did not turn the soldier away when asking to heal his manservant, rather commending him saying “I have not found anyone In Israel with such great faith.” When military officers came to John for baptism, John did not direct them to leave the service. (Luke 3:14) Cornelius was not required to step down as commander of Roman soldiers before being baptised. (Acts 10) Paul says governments have a right to use the sword and we should be in subjection to what they demand of us.
Romans 13:1-4 “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities … But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.”
Watchtower uses Jesus statement to Peter – “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) – as a command against warfare. This is out of context, as the parallel account shows the comment was to stop Peter preventing Jesus arrest:
John 18:11 “Put the sword into [its] sheath. The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?”
The combined devastation of all the wars of history pale into insignificance when compared to the war Jehovah’s Witnesses lustfully await – Armageddon. Jehovah’s Witnesses have spent over a century preaching the “good news of the kingdom” which includes Jehovah’s army slaughtering “billions” (Watchtower 1993 Oct 1 p.19) of humans at Armageddon.
Image attribution: Learn From the Great Teacher ch.47
Is War Justifiable?
War is one of humanity’s greatest evils.
We can dream of a world without war, where all humans were pacifists. But let’s be real, not all humans are pacifists, making pacifism and neutrality untenable positions. We cannot overlook the constant rise of political despots such as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, flanked by their eager henchmen. If all religious people were pacifists, these thugs would be left unchecked to dominate our world, eradicating religious groups at will. If all Christians were pacifists, then they would have been exterminated during the spread of the Turkish and Mongolian Empires.
Pacifism and Neutrality work for smaller religions, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who only exist because of the protection afforded them by national armies, whom they so ungratefully condemn. There are always aggressors, and an organised means of defence is required to prevent aggressive leaders and cultures from dominating the more peaceful. The world is a more peaceful place because of people prepared to defend their human rights.
Some Jehovah’s Witness members have shown tremendous strength and suffered tragic consequences when displaying neutrality. Watchtower does them a disservice through an unscriptural stance that changes over time.
Watchtower claims to be the epitome of love and peace, whilst discussing the murder of billions at Armageddon. Falsely boasting Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only religion that does not go to war disrespects the suffering of conscientious objectors from all faiths. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I was proud we did not participate in war, unaware how simplistic the stance is.