The subject of War will fire up a Jehovah’s Witness unlike most subjects. In their minds it proves that they are the one true religion because they refuse to participle in War where they may be forced to take someone’s life. They would be horrified if it was the life of another Jehovah’s Witness. They reason, “How can we say we have love among ourselves if we are fighting each other in war?”
The first time I ever heard this argument, I was taken aback. I had never really thought about the fact that in World War II, Protestants were killing Protestants and Catholics were killing Catholics. Witnesses will proudly declare that no Jehovah’s Witness ever killed another Jehovah’s Witness in World War II. When my Witness friend felt backed into a corner due to my questions about how the organization can change “truth,” he retreated to his safe place “knowing” that he belongs to the one true religion because they don’t kill each other in war.
My friend brought up Major Nidal Hasan, the Muslim army officer who killed 13 soldiers in Fort Hood Texas because he knew those soldiers would be responsible for killing his fellow Muslims in combat. My Witness friend said he understood Hasan’s reasons and that is why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t go to war. When I asked if he was a pacifist, he answered that he was not. I then asked;
KW: If you saw another Jehovah’s Witness about to kill someone, would you stop him?
KW: If, during your attempt to stop him, he turns on you and intends to kill you, would you kill that person if you had to in order to save an innocent life?
KW: So you would let him kill you? Then all he would do would be to go back and kill the person you tried to saved after he killed you. If that is the case, why would you intervene at all?
JW: War and self-defense, that is two different things. Well maybe it isn’t, but We don’t do military service because there is always a risk that we would have to kill our brothers who are on the other side.
My Witness friend was quick to understand my argument. If we would be willing to take lethal action against another member of our faith in order to save an innocent life, then what is the difference if my brothers are on the wrong side of a war?
KW: If I saw my neighbor beating his kids or about to kill his wife, you’d better believe I’ll be all over that guy. If he then turns his aggression towards me and tries to kill me, I would defend myself with lethal force if necessary. At that point I would be saving my life as well as the life of the original person he attacked. It doesn’t matter if this guy goes to my church or not.
JW: You see, that is where all the churches have it wrong. They aren’t following Bible principles.
KW: Self defense is a Bible principle.
My friend then took me to various Old Testament passages which talk about peace in the Kingdom of God.
JW: You see, if people are instructed not to do those things, then it wouldn’t happen
KW: But this kind of thing does happen.
JW: Not among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
KW: Are you telling me that Jehovah’s Witnesses never commit crimes?
KW: You’re telling me that Jehovah’s Witnesses never commit crimes.
I was dumbfounded. I had to be careful here because I know about the sexual child abuse that happens among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not too long ago a former Jehovah’s Witness woman was awarded a 28 million dollar settlement in a sex abuse case against the Watchtower. This has been an ongoing problem for decades. The Watchtower has a rule where a sexual crime must have at least two witnesses. Seriously, how many witnesses do you think will observe the sexual abuse of a child? Sexual predators go out of their way to make sure there are no other witnesses to their crime. If something like this is reported to the elders of a congregation, then their priority is to protect the reputation of the organization instead of bringing the criminal to justice. Countless Jehovah’s Witness children suffer every year because no one else witnessed the crime. This kind of thing makes me angry so, like I mentioned above, I had to be careful.
KW: Have you read the news recently?
JW: What news?
KW: I read something recently (almost daily!) about Jehovah’s Witnesses and child abuse cases.
JW: Yeah, uh, you know. That’s a tricky issue and it is often times one person’s word against another’s. I haven’t read anything about that. The Slave is all we need and if people just followed the instruction we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems.
My friend jumped off that topic quicker than I have ever seen him jump. In one sentence he went from talking about child abuse to following the directions of the Slave so that there would be no more war. I didn’t want to push the child abuse issue yet and kept answering his objections to War. I restated my position that if I saw one person attempting to murder someone else, I would be willing to jeopardize my life and even possibly take one in order to save and innocent person.
JW: Yes, but if everyone was like Jehovah’s Witnesses, there would be no reason for war and that is what God wants. He wants us to beat our swords into plowshares. The churches are totally off when they say they need to intervene and interfere and that it is God’s will that we do this.
KW: I don’t understand the difference between your view and pacifism then. When would you fight?
JW: We are not executioners.
KW: When would you ever fight?
JW: I would never fight.
KW: Then you are a pacifist.
JW: If someone broke into my house, I wouldn’t kill him. I would do what I could, but if they had a gun, what could I do? I would never get a gun myself.
KW: Why? If someone broke into your home and they had a gun, that would be the best time for you to have one.
JW: I would do my best to beat them up, but I would not kill them. I do not have the right to take anyone’s life.
KW: Not only do you have the right, but you have the obligation to protect your family. You are the provider and also the protector of your family.
JW: There is only so much I can do.
KW: Right. Because you don’t have a gun. I have had my life threatened and then person who threatened me claimed to be a retired Texas Ranger. If this guy showed up at my house, what am I going to do, call more police? If this guy ever showed up, I know he’s got a gun. How would I defend my family against someone like that? Or any home intruder coming into my house with a gun. The only thing that stops bad guys with guns are good guys with guns. We saw evidence of that recently in Washington DC. This guy goes out and shoots up the place killing 12 people…
JW: Are you a member of the NRA or what?
KW: No, I am not.
KW: Because they said the same thing.
KW: Then they make sense.
KW: If we were in another country with no guns, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.
KW: Yeah, but then I would be a subject and not a citizen.
JW: They are democracies too.
KW: We are a Republic, not a Democracy.
JW: Americans have a different take on guns than most countries.
KW: I know. It is written into our Constitution.
From there we spoke about gun laws of the US in contrast to other Nations. I told him about how crime rose in Australia and in the UK after they banned guns. My friend expressed confusion about why so many “Christians” and conservatives in the Bible belt are pro-gun. We talked about the second amendment and how the right to keep and bear arms is part of our heritage. The founding Fathers understood the need to have guns to be able to separate themselves from subjugation and then to defend their newly founded country. I tried to make the connection that if you are willing to defend your family and friends, you really are not that far off from also defending your country, which is war. The bottom line principle is the same.
JW: This is not what Jesus taught.
KW: Yes He did. He said if you don’t have a sword, go get one (Luke 22:36).
JW: He revised that later on.
KW: So He was wrong?
JW: No, circumstance changed.
KW: Exactly, and I am prepared for those kinds of circumstances.
JW: Isn’t it better to teach people to love your neighbor? Then there wouldn’t be a need for guns in the first place.
KW: This isn’t an either/or issue. We do teach our children to love our neighbors. We’ve got some kids in the neighborhood who are not exactly exemplary, but we teach our children to love them anyway. We teach them to be responsible in our community and respectful to adults, but not everyone holds our beliefs. If someone to kick my door down, I would love my family enough to protect them. I would rather have a gun and not need it than to need one and not have it. I love my family too much to gamble with them.
I also don’t look at it as, “I want to kill someone” because I don’t. After that guy threatened me, there were times when I would be walking down a dark hallway and I would mentally see him step out of the shadows and I would know what would happen next. I don’t scare easily, in fact when people try to intimidate me, I laugh. I really do, but that guy threatening me really bothered me. If he were to show up at my house with ill intentions, what would I do? My mindset is that I want to stop an attack and if necessary use deadly force. If I am in a situation where one of my family members is going to die or someone else is going to die, I’m not going to choose one of my family members to die. I don’t want to kill anyone, but then I don’t want him killing me or my family either. I enjoy shooting guns and use to compete almost every weekend, but I certainly don’t want to have to use it to protect my life, but I am glad to have it in case I do.
JW: Guys at work talk about shooting guns and how fun it is, but I don’t get it.
KW: (Smiling) I should take you some time!
JW: No, no, no.
KW: Aww come on! It’s fun.
JW: There are some brothers who go hunting and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I guess it really depends on where everyone is coming from.
We ended our conversation with me reiterating the fact that my mindset is one of self-defense and not aggression. I didn’t specifically link the idea to war, but I trust that he got the point. I know that war, self-defense and guns are touchy subjects with anyone and not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. My object was not to turn my friend into the next Rambo, but I did want him to see that the issue is not as cut and dry and the Watchtower teaches that it is. It may sound noble to say that you don’t want to go to war because you may end up killing another person of your same belief system, but the fact of the matter is, even our own brothers and sisters are capable of doing heinous crimes. My personal belief is that I need to be ready to defend the innocent, regardless of the identity of the aggressor.
As for World War II, the Jehovah’s Witness can claim no Witness ever killed another one in the war, but then they also cannot claim to be part of liberating other Jehovah’s Witnesses in concentration camps either. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness elder friend.