Dialogue 3b: Is political neutrality Christian? Part 2

 

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bullets CHRISTIAN CONVERSATIONS WITH JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES—Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask

(WDGR Lesson 13: “How Can You Find the True Religion?”)

(CONTINUED FROM A PREVIOUS DIALOGUE)

KAREN: Cindy, last week in our study of the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us?, we discussed the fact that the Bible says that Christians are to be “no part of the world.”1. Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret this to mean that Christians are not to “get involved in the world’s political affairs and social controversies.”2. Yet, the Bible says at Romans 13:1-2 that the governmental authorities are “the arrangement of God” and that they “stand placed in their…positions by God.”3. I had asked, if human governments are God’s “arrangement” as the Bible teaches, how can it be wrong for Christians to take part in God’s arrangement for maintaining law and order?

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CINDY: Karen, the “Questions from Readers” section in the November 1, 1999 Watchtower notes that “the apostle Paul referred to himself as an ‘ambassador’ representing Christ to the people of his day.…Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ Jesus is now the enthroned King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, and they, like ambassadors, must announce this to the nations.…Ambassadors are expected to be neutral and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries to which they are sent.”4. So, Karen, can you see why “as representatives of God’s heavenly Kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel a similar obligation not to interfere in the politics of the countries where they reside”?

KAREN: Cindy, why is a foreign ambassador required not to interfere in the political affairs of the country to which he is sent?

CINDY: Well, Karen, I believe it’s because he is representing his country to that foreign nation; so to interfere in that country’s political system would be a violation of his purpose as an ambassador.

KAREN: OK, Cindy. But what if he was to go to that foreign nation as a visitor, and not as an ambassador for his country. Would he then be allowed to vote in that country’s political elections?

CINDY: Well, no. He wouldn’t be allowed to vote because he is not a citizen of that nation.

KAREN: That’s right, Cindy. So wouldn’t you agree that the real reason foreign ambassadors are required to abstain from the political affairs of the countries in which they are serving, is not due to their responsibility as foreign representatives—but rather—is due to the fact that political involvement is a privilege to be granted only to the citizens of those nations?

CINDY: Well, I guess you’re right, Karen.

KAREN: But, Cindy, aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses citizens of the countries in which they reside? Since foreign ambassadors are not citizens of the countries in which they serve—but Jehovah’s Witnesses are—how can this scenario apply to Jehovah’s Witnesses?

CINDY: Well, I’m not sure, Karen, but another “factor to consider is that those who have a part in voting a person into office may become responsible for what he does.…Christians have to consider carefully whether they want to shoulder that responsibility.”5.

KAREN: Cindy, what would happen to a family if the parents decided not to discipline their children because they don’t want to be responsible for how their children grow up? Doesn’t God hold parents responsible for their children, regardless of whether they are or are not directly involved in shaping the moral values of their children?

CINDY: Well, yes, Karen. Jehovah God does hold parents responsible for their children, but what does this have to do with a Christian’s refusal to be responsible for the election of a bad governmental official?

KAREN: Cindy, just as God holds parents responsible for instilling Christian moral values in their children, Jesus said that Christians are to be the “salt” and “light” of their world.6. How can they be “salt” and “light” in every aspect of the world if there are certain levels of society that Christians refuse to influence? For example, what would happen to a nation if all of its citizens who are upright and moral in their viewpoints decided to refrain from politics altogether? By their abstinence from politics, wouldn’t they basically be responsible for allowing the wicked, immoral, and unrighteous individuals of that nation to take control of the country? Since God holds Christians responsible for influencing every aspect of the world—not just the non-political areas of the world—how can “neutrality” in refraining from political elections not be a vote for evil?

CINDY: That’s a good point, Karen, but “Jehovah’s Witnesses greatly value their Christian unity.…When religions get involved in politics, the result is often division among their members. In imitation of Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid becoming involved in politics and thus maintain their Christian unity.”7.

KAREN: Cindy, that same November 1, 1999 Watchtower article you are quoting regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position on voting states: “There may be people who are stumbled when they observe that during an election in their country, some Witnesses of Jehovah go to the polling booth and others do not. They may say, ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses are not consistent.’ People should recognize, though, that in matters of individual conscience such as this, each Christian has to make his own decision before Jehovah God.”8.Cindy, since the Watchtower Society admits that Christian unity is not violated when “some” individual Witnesses “go to the polling booth and others do not,” why do they argue that Christian unity is violated when individual Christians participate in the political affairs of their country?

CINDY: Karen, the Jehovah’s Witnesses who “go to the polling booth” in those countries do so because certain countries require their citizens to vote, but just as the Watchtower Society notes in this article, “ ‘Where Caesar makes it compulsory for citizens to vote…[Witnesses] can go to the polls and enter the voting booths. It is here that they are called upon to mark the ballot or write in what they stand for.…’ ”9. You see, Karen, Jehovah’s Witnesses “stand for” Jehovah God and Christ Jesus as the ruler of His heavenly Kingdom. Since they have already voted for King Jesus, when certain countries require them to vote, this is what they write on their ballots. Unlike Christendom whose members look to human political candidates for peace and security, Jehovah’s Witnesses are united in their firm position not to break integrity with Jehovah God by pledging their allegiance to human candidates in place of Jehovah God’s anointed King Jesus.

KAREN: Cindy, when you elected your husband Steve to be the spiritual leader in your life, did he take the place of Jehovah God’s anointed King Jesus in your life?

CINDY: Of course not, Karen, but what’s your point?

KAREN: My point is this, Cindy. If voting for a human candidate to be the leader of a country is viewed as electing a candidate to take the place of Jehovah God’s anointed King Jesus, why isn’t the election of a husband as the spiritual leader in the home not also viewed as taking Jehovah’s place as well? If the decision to elect a human leader to be the spiritual ruler in the home is not a violation of God’s rulership over the family, then why is the decision to elect a human leader to be the governmental ruler in the country viewed as a violation of God’s rulership by means of Christ Jesus?

CINDY: Well, I’m not sure, Karen, but one thing is clear. Jesus said that Christians are to have “no part” in this wicked system of things, so Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to take part in politics in any form. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to compromise on what they stand for, they have been ridiculed, beaten, and even killed in countries where political involvement is required. One example of this persecution is described in the March 22, 1976 Awake! where the Society reports that over 36,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were forced to flee the country of Malawi to live in refugee camps in Zambia and Mozambique, because they wouldn’t “violate their conscience and buy membership cards for the dominant political party.”10.

KAREN: Cindy, did you know that the English word “politics has its origin in the Greek words polis [meaning] (city) and polites [meaning] (citizen)”?11. And the word “political” comes from the Greek word “politikos having to do with citizens or the State.”12. Since any “civil organization” of people is a “polity” or political entity in the strict meaning of the word, to be a citizen of a country is to be a member of that political community, and the taxes or “dues” that every Christian is required to pay to these political communities have to do with their membership status in these entities.

CINDY: I never thought of it that way before, Karen.

KAREN: Cindy, if it is not a violation of integrity to God for Christians to be citizens of a country, and thus be members of that national political community, how could it have been a violation of integrity for “citizens” of the country of Malawi to purchase a political party card that merely stated their membership in that country’s ruling organized entity?

CINDY: That’s a good point, Karen. I’m not sure why, but one thing Jehovah’s Witnesses have found is that “keeping out of politics gives Jehovah’s Witnesses freeness of speech to approach people of all political persuasions with the important message of the Kingdom.”13.

KAREN: Cindy, the Bible reports at Acts 8:27 that the Ethiopian eunuch to which Philip preached Christ, held a prominent position in the government of Ethiopia as he served “under Candace queen of the Ethiopians and …was over all her treasure.”14. If a Christian’s Kingdom work would be hindered by involvement in the political affairs of his country, why didn’t the Ethiopian eunuch at Acts 8 abandon his political position after becoming a Christian? If political involvement in God’s “arrangement” for governmental authorities15. is a violation of integrity to Jehovah God, why did Jesus praise the army officer for his “great faith” at Matthew 8:5-13, rather than correct him for his political standing? And what about Cornelius who was “an army officer of the Italian band”16. in Caesarea? Why does the Bible report that he was “a devout man and one fearing God.…a man of righteousness,”17. when there is no indication whatsoever that he ever gave up his position of authority in the government?

COMMENTS:
Friends, just as Karen and Cindy discussed today, Jesus said at Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”18. If Christians refuse to participate in politics, how can the light of Christianity penetrate every aspect of the world if there are certain areas of society which Christians refuse to influence?

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1. John 17:16
2. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 27:7
3. N New World Translation E
4. N The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29E
5.The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
6. Matthew 5:13-16
7. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
8. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
9. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
10. Awake! March 22, 1976, p. 5
11. Morris Dictionary of Words and Phrase Origins, 2nd Edition, by William and Mary Morris (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1988), p. 464
12. The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, Robert K. Barnhart, editor (The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988), p. 813
13. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
14. New World Translation
15. See Romans 13:2, New World Translation
16.
Acts 10:1, New World Translation
17. Acts 10:2, 22, New World Translation
18. New International Version

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