For someone who doesn’t vote, my Jehovah’s Witness friend sure is well informed about politics. We never cracked open the “Teach” book and had a lively conversation about politics and being “no part of this world.” My friend brought the other Jehovah’s Witness who has come before. The three of us had a very intense conversation.
The conversation got started because the restaurant TV was tuned to a news channel which was reporting on Ted Cruz’ filibuster concerning Obama-care. I was impressed that my friend was able to hold an informed discussion regarding socialism, politics, healthcare in our country as well as the policies of other countries. We spoke for nearly an hour before he finally opened his Bible. He brought up Psalm 146:3-6 to segue into why Jehovah’s Witnesses do not vote. Those verses read in the New World Translation; “Do not put YOUR trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. 4 His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish. 5 Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God, 6 The Maker of heaven and earth, Of the sea, and of all that is in them, The One keeping trueness to time indefinite.”
JW1: So you see, I did not vote for Obama because we don’t vote.
KW: You don’t vote?
KW: Why not?
JW1: Because we are not part of this world.
KW: (Laughing) Then you are part of the problem!
JW1: No, no, no. I already voted for Jesus Christ.
KW: I actually did that. The first time Obama was elected, I voted for Jesus Christ. I didn’t want Obama and I didn’t trust McCain so I voted in the local elections and then for Jesus Christ for President.
I actually did a “Quick Questions For Jehovah’s Witnesses” video on it right after I voted.
KW: Do you see this as a dichotomy?
JW1: What’s a dichotomy?
KW: Two opposing views like a contradiction. In other words, you either trust God or you trust man. Do you see this as an either/or situation?
KW: You don’t think it could be both?
KW: Okay, do you pray for things?
JW1: Of course I do.
KW: Do you still work hard to accomplish the things that you pray for?
JW1: Yes, I do.
KW: That is a contradiction, then. You are either trusting God or you are trusting yourself. Which one is it?
My friend didn’t like my reasoning so he attempted to sidestep the question by quoting a Bible verse. I knew I could get him back on track later so I let him continue his train of thought.
JW1: Jesus said we are to be no part of this world and not to be involved in the political affairs of this world, period. That includes voting.
KW: Where did He say this?
JW1: In John 17:14; “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”
KW: Where does it say I can’t vote?
JW1: It doesn’t, but the world is the political, economic and religious establishment and it is ruled by Satan the Devil. We stay out of it.
On a side note, why is it that Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot say “Satan” without also adding, “the devil?” In a context such as this, it seems a little redundant. I am not going to misunderstand who he is referring to if he just said, “Satan.” I have heard a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses do this and it always strikes me as humorous.
KW: You just mentioned economics so you are a part of this world.
JW1: Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world and in 1 John 2:15-17 it says, “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because everything in the world the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. 17 Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”
KW: Do you think verses like this can be misused?
JW1: Yes, but I don’t think we are misusing it.
KW: The Amish use verses like this to prove that you shouldn’t use electricity because that would make them part of the world or this system. They seek communities separate from everyone else. They don’t have electricity so they aren’t tied into the system. If we were to have a solar flare which blew out the electricity all over the world, they would not be affected. In their minds, they are not part of this world.
JW1: The Bible tells us to be reasonable.
KW: I agree. I think voting is reasonable.
My Witness friend brought up how the people wanted to make Jesus King. Since they were under the Romans, they thought Jesus would liberate them, but he withdrew and rejected being a King. He also brought up the Lord’s prayer where Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done. I explained that I wouldn’t use Jesus as an example because His purpose was to die and pay for our sins.
He then transitioned the conversation back to politics and said that since some politicians are involved in nefarious activities, those who vote for them must also bear part of the responsibility. If you don’t vote, then you can’t be held accountable. If you don’t like things about either candidate, then you can’t vote at all. I told him that I was impressed with his knowledge of the political spectrum and he obviously keeps up with current events. I stated;
KW: I think it is a good thing that we know what is going on in our country because the Bible tells us to pray for Kings, magistrates and those in authority over us. If I know what is going on, then I know better how to pray. I need to pray that God’s will be done on earth and then vote so that my voice is heard in this country. My vote reflects God’s morals, God’s will, and His way. I don’t see that as a contradiction at all.
For instance, you are an elder. You are in a position of authority over other people. I could take the extreme view that I don’t want to be in a congregation that has elders because I don’t want to trust the elders, I want to trust God. That would be a misapplication of these verses because it is possible to do both. I can trust God and follow those God has placed in authority over me as they follow God. It doesn’t matter if it is in a Christian setting or a secular one. So I trust in God and also vote the way I believe God would want me to vote. I don’t see that as a contradiction at all. Do you see what I am saying?
JW1: Yes, but I disagree.
KW: I see it as the same argument. If I can follow an elder in a congregation, then I don’t see why I can’t vote for a politician if they are trying to establish godly principles.
There is a certain look my Witness friend gives me when he knows my argument makes sense. His blind loyalty to the Watchtower will not allow him to agree with me even when I use the same form of the argument, but change a bit of the content. In logic there is an argument called a counter-example. If you use the same form of an argument, but can demonstrate one instance where the same form is used, but prove the conclusion false, then you know the form of original argument is false. For example;
We cannot follow, vote or trust politicians to solve problems in our country because it means we are not following God.
If this argument is true then, it must also be true that;
We cannot follow, vote or trust elders to solve problems in our congregation because it means we are not following God.
The form of the argument is the same. Since the second argument is false and the first argument uses the same form, then the first argument cannot be true either.
He admitted to understanding my argument, but still disagreed with it. What he does not yet understand is that you cannot disagree with one example and agree with the other if the same form is used. That is why he gave me the look like he was trapped. It is starting to make sense to him, but if he agrees with my counter-example, then he has to admit that the Watchtower’s reasoning is wrong. At this point, poor JW2 doesn’t know what to do either because he is starting to understand the problem also. He just kept looking at JW1 for some comfort. There was none to be given.
My friend brought up John 17 again so I wanted to quickly jump off topic to implant an idea about something we have already discussed at length.
KW: I know this is off-topic and I don’t want to dwell on it, but as we were reading through this passage earlier, I noticed something in verse 11. “Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me.” Jehovah gave Jesus His name. I think that is interesting.
JW2 immediately turned his Bible to that verse to look at it for himself. He tuned out of our conversation for awhile. It was obvious that this verse had an impact on him. I then turned back to the context and asked my Witness friend where he gets the idea from the context that it means we should not vote. If the political structure of the first century Jews didn’t involve voting, why do we get the idea that Jesus was telling His disciples not to vote?
JW1: The first Christians stayed out of politics, Jesus set the example by not allowing himself to be King and Satan is the ruler of this world. Why would I mess with the affairs of this world?
KW: Then why would I pray for Kings who are in authority over me?
JW1: If I were to pray for a king, I would pray for God’s will to be done.
KW: That is exactly what I pray for and it is exactly what I vote for.
JW1: Satan the devil is ruler of this world so it makes no sense to get mixed up in the affairs of this world.
KW: I don’t understand why you are saying that Satan is the ruler of this world.
JW1: 1 John 5:19 says, “the whole world is lying in the wicked one.”
KW: Sure he’s got power but it doesn’t mean he is ruling over it. Romans 13 says that governments are established by God.
JW1: (Asking with a disbelieving tone) Where does it say that?
KW: Romans 13:1 (reading out of the New American Standard) “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
JW1: God tolerates it.
KW: He establishes it.
KW: That is what it says in my version. What does your version say?
JW1: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.”
KW: It says the same thing. “Stand placed in their relative positions by God.” Whatever power Satan has in this world, God allows him that power. It is not the other way around. Satan is not in control of this world allowing God power. God is in control. Satan is just a loud barking dog on a short leash.
JW1: God is not the ruler of this world.
KW: God establishes all authority. You cannot establish authority unless you have authority. If God is not establishing authority and Satan is ruling, then why does He instruct us to pray for Kings? Why would we pray for God to do something if He isn’t going to do it?
JW1: During the exile, the Babylonians were in control. Would God tell us to pray for them?
I couldn’t remember the reference, but I told him about where Jeremiah instructs the exiles to pray for Babylon so they would have peaceful lives. The verse I was thinking of is Jeremiah 29:7. It reads in the New World Translation, “Also, seek the peace of the city to which I have caused YOU to go into exile, and pray in its behalf to Jehovah, for in its peace there will prove to be peace for YOU yourselves.” I plan on texting him this reference to see what he thinks about it.
KW: I am having a problem seeing why this is a contradiction. I don’t have a problem with being loyal to Jesus and voting…
JW1: (Interrupting)… You can only have your loyalty either to Jesus or someone who is under the control of Satan.
KW: Then I shouldn’t be praying for kings, yet I am instructed to do so.
There was that look again. JW2 looked up from his Bible to see the response of JW1. Blank stare. I told them that I pray for our President and that God would get a-hold of him and shake the liberal garbage out of him. We teach our children to pray for him and to respect the office regardless of who holds it. I don’t like Obama, I don’t like his policies and I hate what he allows and stands for in abortion, but we still pray for him. I do not allow our children to disrespect him.
JW1: God didn’t have anything to do with who was in control back then.
KW: I don’t know how you can say that in the light of Romans 13:1.
JW1: No, God stayed out of it.
My Witness friend then talked about how God’s rule was challenged in the Garden of Eden and man wanted to live on their own. God supposedly took His hands off the situation to show how man would screw things up without Him. In Witness theology, it is all about Kingdom rule and how God is going to reestablish it. He admitted to never praying for Obama to which I suggested he should and asked;
KW: Is there anything wrong with praying that a wicked person does something good?
JW1: If I were to pray for him, it would only be for the purpose of the good news being spread.
KW: The Bible also says to pray for our leaders so that we can live a peaceful life.
JW1: That is so we can carry out God’s will.
KW: Exactly! That is exactly what I am saying. I really want to know from your perspective why we are encouraged to pray for our leaders.
JW1: Let me see what the faithful and discreet slave has to say about that.
All three of us laughed, but I could not help but wonder why the Bible was not good enough for him. I had already pushed pretty hard so I didn’t want to ask that question. Instead, I just read 1 Timothy 2:1-3 which says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” I then asked;
KW: If my vote can lead me to a place where I have more freedom to preach the gospel, I don’t see that God is opposed to that.
A really cool thing happened after that. He honestly asked me what I think it means to be “no part of this world.” For him to ask me what I believe about something shows that he is doing some thinking on his own and is open to hearing my side. It is a huge step.
I explained how Christians are to live their lives and not pattern their lives after what the world values. Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard because he hung out with those kinds of people. The difference is, he didn’t act like those people did, yet they were still comfortable being around him because they knew Jesus loved people.
When Jesus prays for His disciples in John 17, He is basically saying that He has done what God called him to do and now that He is leaving, He wants to disciples to be protected so that they can continue in His work. I don’t see anything there about not voting or staying out of politics. If my involvement in politics can further God’s kingdom, I don’t see evil in that. Nero was the emperor when Romans was written, so if the first Christians are instructed to pray for him, then there is no reason why we cannot pray for our leaders today. I also added;
KW: If I can end abortion with my vote, I would be negligent if I didn’t.
JW1: What about just teaching people not to abort babies?
KW: We do both. This isn’t an either/or situation. That is why I first asked you about prayer. If I am going to pray for God to provide for me and then get a job, it is not a contradiction. I do both. I pray for God to provide for us and I work. I would reject the argument of someone telling me that I don’t trust God to provide for me because I work.
I also pray for our protection. We do so every night. Do I still make sure everyone puts on a seatbelt before we drive off? Absolutely. Does it mean I don’t trust God? No, it just means I am using common sense. If I am in a political climate where I can promote God and my vote is going to give me more freedom to promote God, then I will vote for that. I don’t see the problem.
From here our conversation got sidetracked to birthday celebrations. Right, I don’t see the connection either, but my friend switched the topic because he knew I celebrated my birthday this week. At this point, our conversation was already at the two hour mark so I knew we wouldn’t talk about this subject for very long. I decided to chase that rabbit.
Since this post is already long enough, I will address it in another post next week. Please continue to pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends.