The year 1962 nearly brought nuclear war to the world. America armed Turkey and Italy, but then discovered the Soviet Union doing the same in Cuba. The U.S. declared it would board approaching ships so as to stop that from happening.
Nikita Khrushchev is remembered in the West as the hothead who pounded his U.N. desk with his removed shoe and, on another occasion, bellowed: “We will bury you!” He meant economically, but the media liked sound bites then no less than now. Was it his telegram that saved the day? At the John F Kennedy Presidential Library is the 2700-word telegram he sent to JFK, dated October 26, 1962.
Dear Mr. President:
I have received your letter of October 25. From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and (some) sense of responsibility. I value this.
…Everyone needs peace: both capitalists, if they have not lost their reason, and, still more, Communists….War is our enemy and a calamity for all the peoples….I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.
…Mr. President, do you really seriously think that Cuba can attack the United States and that even we together with Cuba can attack you from the territory of Cuba? Can you really think that way? How is it possible? We do not understand this….You can regard us with distrust, but, in any case, you can be calm in this regard, that we are of sound mind and understand perfectly well that if we attack you, you will respond the same way…
We, however, want to live and do not at all want to destroy your country. We want something quite different: To compete with your country on a peaceful basis. We quarrel with you, we have differences on ideological questions. But our view of the world consists in this, that ideological questions, as well as economic problems, should be solved not by military means, they must be solved on the basis of peaceful competition,
If there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this….There, Mr. President, are my thoughts, which, if you agreed with them, could put an end to that tense situation which is disturbing all peoples. These thoughts are dictated by a sincere desire to relieve the situation, to remove the threat of war.
The superpowers came close. Perhaps it was Khrushchev’s telegram that averted catastrophe. Both sides removed missiles and the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba again. We “lucked out,” wrote The Week magazine, commenting on the telegram. Pundits will squabble till the end of time as to who was the worst villain or the best hero. It is in the eye of the beholder.
The little people ever want to get along but the greater interests thwart it. The 1966 movie The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming! featured for plotline a Russian submarine stranded off the New England coast. Before chieftains of the West could assume evil intent and retaliate, townspeople, who had taken a liking to the Russians, came to the rescue. They surrounded the sub with every yacht, sailboat, and dingy they could muster to escort the Russians out to sea and out of danger.
Marooned, a 1969 movie, strands American astronauts in space in a crippled spacecraft. All efforts to save them come to naught until Russian cosmonauts come along and haul them onboard their own craft. The air-starved Americans don’t know what is going on and try to fend off their rescuers, but in the end, everything works out for the best.
On the other hand, when filmmaker Oliver Stone showed the satirical Dr. Strangelove to Putin, apparently sneaking glances to see whether Putin would like it, it seemed pretty clear that he didn’t. Russian leaders are portrayed as buffoonish in that movie, though not villains. They were portrayed as villains when Students Wildly Indignant over Nearly Everything (S.W.I.N.E—from the comic strip Li’l Abner) effusively met the invading Russian General as he was striding ashore from his transport ship, and the first thing the general did was to kick all their behinds, seemingly for the sheer reason that he was mean. When the cartoonist had Russia send over their skilled negotiator Coldfinger during the 1970s period of detente, a period that cartoonist distrusted, he proved so skilled at negotiating that the Americans were soon stripped of their clothes and were reduced to wearing barrels.
At Brooklyn Bethel, they likely didn’t see the movies—they don’t do movies much there—but who could miss Li’l Abner, at one time in 900 daily newspapers? Even those who don’t keep up with politics—and that is Bethel—find it hard to resist the funnies.
Notwithstanding a few films, in dozens of tiny ways, and in some big ones, Russia is portrayed as the villain in the U.S. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” Trump asked during the 2016 campaign, tacitly acknowledging that the U.S. doesn’t. Despite his sentiments and despite his election, U.S.-Russian relations are worse than ever, more mistrustful than even during Cold War times. A 2017 Levada Center poll revealed 68% of Russians consider the United States a threat.1 Putin recently introduced the next generation of nuclear weapons and suggested his countrymen name them. One popular submission was: ‘Goodbye America.’2
It is hard not to absorb something of the culture in which you live, for it is the air you breathe. If anyone can do it, it is Watchtower headquarters, which is in most respects a world unto its own. They follow politics to an astonishingly small degree. Slate.com accurately reflected the reason, in stating “They don’t vote because they are ‘representatives of God’s heavenly kingdom,” it wrote in 2008. “For the same reason, they don’t run for public office, serve in the military, or even pledge allegiance the flag,” though the pledge issue is more about avoiding idolatry, per the first of the Ten Commandments, as it is about neutrality.3
Nations are represented by their ambassadors, and the Bible presents believers that way. They represent their nation, God’s kingdom, before others. An ambassador is not to become involved in the politics of his host nation. His role is to represent his own nation. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God,” writes the apostle to the Corinthian congregation.4
An organization must be based somewhere, and, despite its best efforts, it can pick up the lingo of the host country. One slip-up—say, one reference to the ‘iron curtain,’ in those ultra-suspicious Soviet times, was to fuel distrust.5 ‘How can they be neutral?’ the Russian government grumbled. ‘It’s not an iron curtain at all. It’s a protective border.’ Surely, the Witnesses were a political movement disguised as a religion, they concluded—a suspicion that ran deep in the Cold War period and still remains. There’s bad blood between the governments of the U.S. and Russia. It is long-standing, resulting in Soviet suspicion about any religion headquartered in America.
A plain indication of the Witnesses’ neutrality is found in the Watchtower article considered at meetings in early July of 2017. The topic under discussion was how to give aid of a spiritual and practical sort, to refugees. “Listen patiently to their concerns, but do not discuss politics,” the magazine counseled.6 If ever it was understandable to talk politics, it would be with those who have so recently suffered at its hands, yet it is a topic Witnesses are to avoid as they pursue kingdom interests.
When you set up shop in a new country, you find out what the king wants, and then you do it. Usually that suffices to keep both you and him happy. Usually, all he wants are things having to do with public order, which you also want. You go about your necessary business in the new country, modifying it where necessary to avoid misunderstandings. If the king there intrudes upon what are ‘God’s things,’ matters of worship, then you must take a stand, but in most cases, he does not. Even when he does, you don’t ‘take a stand’ in the form of confrontation. Political protest is just not something Witnesses do. Even Chistyakov releasing his fiery album sought to explain it was not that.
As already discussed, the book God’s Kingdom Rules was considered at Witness meetings throughout 2017, as the Russian ban first threatened and then was realized. Besides the high court cases related in chapter 3, it relates many bans that Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced in many parts of the world. In Australia, during the years of World War II, “Witnesses were unable to meet or preach openly. Bethel operations were closed down, and Kingdom Halls were seized. Merely possessing our Bible literature was prohibited. After operating in secret for several years, the Australian Witnesses found relief at last.”7 “You see?” a local Witness commented at a meeting, “nothing changed.” The brothers continued to operate. They simply had to do it ‘in secret,’ which was inconvenient, but the ban didn’t negate God’s command of exclusive devotion. They had to forge ahead at greater-than-normal human cost until the country’s High Court reversed the ban. One Russian brother even said that a ban in his country might be a good thing in a spiritual sense, in that it would prod all into vigilance and bring into stark relief just who is on God’s side and who isn’t.
Though it may seem a technicality, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not banned in Russia. The Russian constitution guarantees freedom of worship and the government has not forgotten that. Misunderstanding the nature of Christian worship, or deliberately redefining it, what is liquidated are the legal instruments that Witnesses use—the instruments that, in the eyes of the government, constitute ties to a headquarters outside the Russian border. They are suspicious of that. It is as though to say: ‘Nobody is saying you can’t drive your Chevy, but why do you need to keep ties to General Motors in Detroit? Yuri’s Auto Repair down the street will do just fine. If he doesn’t have just the exact part, he can improvise. That way everything is safely and agreeably Russian.’
An organization to ensure worldwide unity is an essential component of Witnesses’ spiritual life. Without it, they know they eventually devolve into a hodgepodge of loose cannons each with his own personal relationship with God, each a part of this world in various respects. They become divided along national lines, and the national king inevitably persuades them that he is the hero and his counterpart overseas is the scoundrel. Soon they are further divided along internal political lines. Soon to follow are social lines, racial lines, and economic lines. The way to prevent this is with a centralized overseeing organization. There should be no “divisions among you,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, adding “that you may be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”8
He goes on to liken the congregation to the organization of the human body. “Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.”9
The ruling of the Russian court would place those body parts differently. The ones happening to be in Russia would be divided from the rest of the body. But God wills “that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.”10 This explains the letter-writing campaign, eagerly participated in by Witnesses the world over, started with but a single invitation from the Witness organization. The government today pursues policies so that Jehovah’s Witnesses will not band together. It wants them as independent individuals, who can thereby never get out of hand. It wants to dictate terms to them and see those terms adhered to. God is a fine Person, they acknowledge, so long as He remembers He is Russian.
Mr. Putin knows what it is for people to be divided. He thereby will understand Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lamentation over ones who would divide them. Speaking with American interviewer Charlie Rose, Putin stated: “I indeed said that I believe that the collapse of the USSR was a huge tragedy of the 20th century. You know why?”
Charlie Rose: “Why?”
“Because, first of all, in an instant 25 million Russian people found themselves beyond the borders of the Russian state, although they were living within the borders of the Soviet Union. Then, all of a sudden, the USSR collapsed—just overnight, in fact. And it's turned out that in the former Soviet Republics—25 million Russian people were living. They were living in a single country. And all of a sudden, they turned out to be outside the borders of the country. You see this is a huge problem. First of all, there were everyday problems, the separation of families, social problems, economic problems. You can’t list them all. Do you think it’s normal that 25 million Russian people were abroad all of a sudden? Russia was the biggest divided nation in the world. It’s not a problem? Well, maybe not for you. But it’s a problem for me.”11
He understands the tragedy of division. He will understand Russian Witnesses’ tragedy. With regard to his nation’s effort to divide Jehovah’s Witnesses, the latter might mirror his words back to him: “It’s not a problem? Well, maybe not for you. But it’s a problem for me.” He is essentially saying: ‘Religions don’t count; political nations do.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses, the religion, may seem to stretch the definition of nation a bit, yet they are a nation more so than most physical nations. They are a nation of persons united in spiritual outlook, purpose and cooperation, a nation in which every member is concerned over the welfare of every other member. “Open up the gates that a righteous nation may enter, one that keeps faith,” says Isaiah.12 They regard themselves as that nation.
Putin is like Russian Witnesses in that both love the land of their birth, just as Witnesses elsewhere ever maintain a warm spot in their heart for where they came from. In this regard, individual patriotism is noble. Collectively, however, patriotism transforms into nationalism and is just one more tool of the Devil to divide people. God wants to unite his people. It is not his fine idea that the earth should be carved up into 200 squabbling sub-divisions. To forbid God from uniting his people is an attempt to thwart him. He doesn’t like it. His people are not able to abide by it. They know that illustration of the congregation being like the human body and they also know that it is not to be borne to have an arm cut off.
Secular persons can usually see that neutrality is no threat, especially once they realize that there are just as many neutral Jehovah’s Witnesses on the other side as they are on theirs. If they fight here, they will fight there. Must everyone fight? Is there no room anywhere for anyone to take a pass? Khrushchev had “participated in two wars and [knew] that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.” How can it be so terrible if ones decide to sit it out?
A common bit of wisdom handed to me as a boy in America was that every generation has a war to fight. As a child, my classmates and I ducked under our school desks during air-raid drills, where we were told to clasp our hands behind our necks to guard against ‘flying glass.’ With a child’s imagination, I pictured glass flying as though with wings, searching for children to slash. Generational war was then portrayed as a rite of passage, a part of growing into adulthood—only afterwards could your credentials as an adult be verified—once you had proven yourself. It was as much a constant of life as was the Junior Prom, then the Senior Ball, and might well follow just as quickly—several of my graduating class died the next year in Vietnam. Our grandfathers fought World War I, our fathers World War II, our older brothers the Korean War, and for us it was the war in Vietnam.
It wasn’t clear for the latter wars why anyone should go. There was a boiler-plate line dispensed to all about how the communists invaded one country after another and would topple them like dominoes—it was actually called the domino theory. It remains an example of how the media of any nation spins stories to fit their own narrative. RT.com, gaining in popularity in the States, is lambasted by some as being a source of Russian propaganda. ‘It is from Russia—people take that into account,’ the site says, shrugging off criticism. I like RT.com. I like the China People’s Daily. I like U.S. news sources, both conservative and liberal. By following them all, and not just the home team, one can hope to approximate an overall sense of current events.
Only through studying the Bible did I become aware of a greater cause: allegiance to God’s kingdom, that was a morally consistent ‘out’ for taking part in whatever war was going on at the moment, with no damage done to the country. If all of Jehovah’s Witnesses were to fight, they would simply cancel each other out. Why don’t they all sit it out instead and focus on what they are good at? I have at times asked to hear stories of military service from old-timers I come across in my ministry. They are old, and no one wants to hear their old stories. So I do. I will listen with all earnestness. Who cannot respect a person who puts his life on the line for a cause he believes in? I can genuinely respect his loyalty to country. However, I also must note that were he anywhere else, he would be equally loyal to another country.
My father was but a farmboy when he went to fight in the second world war. When they found he could fix tractors, they stationed him in a motor pool in the Philippines and made him a sergeant. The closest he ever came to combat was when a lieutenant wanted to draft his whole crew to fight off a Japanese incursion somewhere on the island. Pop told him to forget it—where would the army be without jeeps? Decades later, killing time in a small New York town, he and I came upon its war memorial in the village square. All the town’s war dead were carved into stone. Many small towns have such memorials. Pop was troubled. “They shouldn’t do this.” he said. “It just glorifies it.”
He would have agreed with the historian Sir Max Hastings: “Having spent most of my life studying wars, my respect is very great for all those who take part in them and for what some wars have achieved for the rest of us. By their nature, conflicts bring out the very best and the worst in human beings. Writing books about them [he was promoting his] means studying both how low mankind can fall and how high it can rise. ‘The Glorious Dead’—it is the sort of phrase that all nations have to write on their memorials. Otherwise you’d never get anyone to go to war again,” he says.13 Yes. Carve the names into memorials to ensure a steady stream of participants.
The last soldier of World War I from France, Lazare Ponticelli, was 110 years of age when he died. Some things he had never figured out, such as why he had been fighting in the first place. Or why his enemy had, for that matter. Of course, he knew the reasons supplied by leaders, but how did it ever get so human—a worldwide slaughter that took the lives of 14 million? “One of the paradoxes of 1914 is that in every country huge numbers of people, of all parties, creeds and blood, seem, surprisingly, to have gone willingly and happily to war,” states British historian John Roberts.14 Their later reflections would be different. “More than anything, [Ponticelli] was appalled that he had been made to fire on people he didn’t know and to whom he, too, was a stranger. They were fathers of children. He had no quarrel with them.”15
Hermann Goering, the German Air Force leader from the next World War understood these things quite well: “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”16
Do not think it is easy to resist the “leaders of the country who determine the policy.” It is these who form the backdrop of popular thinking, the unconscious elements that everyone draws from. The contemporary “follow your inner voice” philosophy is but sloganeering which works splendidly when times are easy and fails utterly when they are hard. Nationalism has proven more than equal to the task of molding inner voices. Wisdom from on high, on the other hand, will enable one to withstand, perhaps wisdom that has been forged with Jesus words: “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”17 If ever there was a reason to unsheathe the sword, it was in order to deliver Jesus from death. Surely, if you don’t do it there, you don’t do it anywhere.
During that second World War, there were only two major faiths in Nazi Germany: the Roman Catholic Church and a union of Protestant churches known as the ‘German Evangelical Church.’18 If even one of those faiths had stood up to Hitler as did Jehovah’s Witnesses, might the war have never occurred, with its 60 million casualties? Is this what Revelation means when it blames Babylon the Great, that conglomeration of unfaithful religion, for not only the blood of the prophets and the holy ones, but for all who have been slain on the earth?19 The slain prophets and holy ones slain are acts of commission, but the far more numerous third group represents a staggering act of omission: the failure to train members in ways of peace. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of other tiny faiths observe those ways.
60 million casualties! Even were we to multiply the supposed count of Witnesses who are alleged to have died refusing blood transfusion20 by a factor of hundreds, the product would be but an infinitesimal amount compared to the lives saved, theirs and that of those they might target, by declining war participation. As much as this world carries on about the value of life, if the cause is right, it will mow them down by the millions. If it deems the cause not right, one is too many.
Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was among the first to break ranks during my youth. “No Viet Cong never called me nigger”21 he declared and refused the draft into the Vietnam war. Exactly. What quarrel did he have with persons halfway around the globe? If the kings of the earth couldn’t get along, how did that become his problem? His real enemy was elsewhere. Ali didn’t go to jail—he won his case on appeal22—but he was stripped of his Heavyweight Title and lost several years boxing. There is a price to be paid to sit out the war that the world leaders would funnel you into. The price is especially steep when, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, you not only sit out war but also the substitute civilian activity that is clearly designed to support the war. As for me, had I not become a Witness when I did, perhaps I would have been shipped out of Vietnam in a box for a cause history judges not especially noble—for I could not then, nor now, scrap like Mohammed Ali.
Most wars are ambiguous. Though the victors write history, a case can usually be made for the other side. World War II is an exception. To this day, those who would defend the defeated side can be fit, relatively speaking, into a thimble. Yet even in this theater the Christian consciences of Jehovah’s Witnesses moved them to decline participation. Victor Blackwell defended many American Witness youths in the local courts of that time. Almost always the punishment for declining military service was prison, usually delivered with some heat, such as: “I sentence you to five years in a federal prison to be approved by the Attorney General. My only regret, you yellow coward, is that I cannot give you twenty five years!”23 Blackwell writes of an exception to this rule, in which he said:
“May it please the Court, even though my client is in truth a minister of Jehovah, yet he could not meet the strict criteria for the Act for the ministerial exemption, as the Act has been constructed by the Supreme Court. I shall therefore not impose upon the Court’s time and patience by asserting a defense which my client and I both recognize as untenable before the law. However, I would like to make a brief statement in mitigation of the sentence of this Court.
“The defendant here was accorded the conscientious objector status, which he had claimed….The tender and delicate conscience of this youth, trained in the Holy Word of God, would not permit him to accept the civilian work. Much as he did not like to disobey the board order, he could not and would not disobey the more binding order of his conscience. It was not a matter of ‘defying the law,’ but of responding to what he earnestly believed to be the “Law of God.”
The judge ordered the young man released. It almost never happened. Blackwell writes: “The federal prosecutor was flabbergasted. He had told me before trial he had a foolproof case….Ironically, this prosecutor had told me in connection with previous cases tried with him: ‘It is most distasteful for me to prosecute and send these fine, clean young men to prison. They are the finest specimens of youth I have ever seen. If it were left up to me, I’d throw every one of these files sent to me in the wastebasket.’ Yet, through the years, for a quarter century, he continued such prosecution. In later years, he became bitter and hostile toward them.”24
With regard to another young client sentenced, Blackwell writes: “He served one year and was paroled. The final parole report said of him: ‘as was anticipated [he has] made an excellent adjustment under supervision….He is a Jehovah’s Witness and is active in church activities. His prognosis is excellent.’ With perhaps negligible exceptions (though I am aware of none), this is the kind of final probation report filed in the cases of the many thousands of other American citizens who paid a dear price for keeping an unblemished conscience.”25
Blackwell also defended a young man in military court, who became a Witness while enlisted. He writes: “The judge was more than fair-minded and impartial. He was gracious, both to the youngster and his counsel. He permitted the most extensive questioning of the accused by his own counsel and army counsel. The youth was allowed to explain in the most complete manner the causes and reasons which impelled him to sever his relations with the army. His skillful use and handling of the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, was most impressive to the judge and all others present at the hearing.” Council for the army did not insist upon his being kept in the service, and the judge subsequently said: “I have known many of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their sincerity, as with this young man here, is beyond all questioning. The earnestly believe that they have a higher mission than serving their country in the military, commendable as that is….Their scruples here should be respected. I do not have the authority to discharge you, young man. However, I direct the authorities here to put through a request to Washington for your early release.” The release order came through within a reasonable time, the young fellow was discharged, and has since been devoting a large measure of his time to the ministry as one of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses.”26
The foregoing is the same ancient pattern playing out in modern times. “A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [121-180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service,” states one source.27 “It will be seen presently that the evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier between 60 and about 165 A.D. is exceedingly slight….Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least, no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism,” states another.28 “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans … Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers,” states yet another.29 “It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes,” states a fourth.30 The legal price to pay is usually substantial, but there is no wiggle room in which to wiggle.
In modern times, some governments have proved progressive (and some haven’t)—willing to substitute neutral civilian service for military service. Taiwan instituted such a program in 2000. Kou-Enn Lin, director general of the program, recommends it to other nations during an interview with a Witness representative. Approved applicants to the system are assigned sites such as hospitals, government offices, nursing homes; there are sixteen possible venues. It’s not “very light work,” Kou-Enn makes clear, because the purpose is to substitute for, not exempt from, military service. It is a win-win, he maintains, and he cites figures to indicate a satisfaction rate of 90-97% among the agencies to which applicants are assigned. The greater goals of religious people are to serve, he says. They fit right in and need no discipline; they attack their work with enthusiasm. “At one time we had a situation where there were people with religious conscience in jail and people with little conscience outside of jail. Resolving this contradiction shows our respect for human rights.”31
He concludes with: “It’s good to have a system in parallel with regular military service as an alternative. That’s the solution. The results and benefits exceeded what we expected. Human rights, religious suppression; all of these things can be resolved. I really hope other counties will come and draw lessons from our experience.”32
The general world of churches tends to accept the world’s division of people into myriad nations as a God-given reality. They pray to God to bless it, particularly the section in which they live. Jehovah’s Witnesses say it is all from the Devil—it is his idea, not God’s. That’s not to say that human leaders operating therein have evil intent. More often than not they are conscious of a responsibility to govern and provide for the public good. If the system allows for it they stay as long as possible, for one cannot provide such governing from the outside looking in. As though students of Newtonian physics, they seek to remove friction so that the object in motion (themselves) will stay in motion. There is no need to bad-mouth anyone. Has Putin amassed money while in office? American politicians do no less. They come in poor and they leave wealthy. They come in wealthy and they leave wealthier.33 The current president is one of the few who go against the pattern. He comes in wealthy and has seen his financial interests suffer, as he takes no salary and sees opposers boycott the family business.
The worst problem leaders may inflict comes when they decide that they can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. It primarily then becomes a problem for the eggs, not the leaders themselves. Unfortunately for Witnesses, even though they strive to be ‘good eggs’ as people, they are still eggs. Political leaders don’t reliably look into spiritual matters and many take it ill that human government should be described as Satanic—never mind that all governments are described that way and not just theirs.
Witnesses say what they say because the Bible says it. The gospel of Luke relates how Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers him headship for simply an act of worship. Jesus rejects the offer, but not the premise that the kingdoms are the Devil’s to offer. It has been that way from the rebellion of Eden. That is not to say Christians disobey the governments, for until his purpose is realized, they exist as a stopgap measure. They build the roads. The deliver the mail. Woe to the people where anarchy prevails. Even an abusive government is better than that.34
In a sense, if you want a certain policy to take place, then you must side with the party promising it. One can hardly vote for one party and then complain that the policies of the other are not taking place. If you want righteous conditions realized earth-wide, reason the Witnesses, then you must ‘vote’ for the party that has such in its Bible platform. You cannot vote for the party that has never managed to bring it about. You must vote for the party that has given evidence that it can deliver. Of course, you also must wait until inauguration day.
Alas, Witnesses are not diplomats who ever so gracefully sidestep subjects unpalatable. They crash into them head-on, worried not about being blunt. Accuse them of ‘watering down’ the Word and they double down just so that there should be no misunderstanding. Still, these days they are careful to point out that while the system is of the Devil, that is not to imply that the players therein have horns. They have not always stated matters so delicately. For they ham-fistedly call a spade a spade. They decline to pussyfoot around, as do some who manage to convey the muddled impression that a spade is really just a misunderstood heart, a club with poor self-esteem, or a ‘diamond in the rough.’
If you try to ‘expose’ the faults of the king, he gets mad. Keep out of his way, and usually you’ll do fine. In all lands it is: ‘Ask the king his ground rules for maintaining public order, and then do them.’ Witnesses’ life is not about human rule. Do what he says and get on with life. Of course, if he turns against you, siding with the house Church, you are up the crick and our brothers have it very tough for a time. The only caveat is that they are used to it, as others might not be.
Visiting Uzbekistan, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, asserted that “insulting religious feelings is one of the forms of extremism, this is what shakes the foundations of social life, what provokes internal conflicts.”35 If we do not confine our gaze to the real thing, many things can be described as forms of extremism. The Patriarch’s concern for shaking the foundations of social life and the welfare of the state calls to mind the concerns of other religious leaders from long ago: “These people who have been creating a disturbance all over the world have now come here!”36
At the same time, traditional religions, according to the primate, “are called upon to strengthen the foundations of national existence.” Patriarch Kirill called on religious leaders “to work with their flock, but to educate this flock in the spirit of respect for each other, in caring for the stability of public life, in caring for the welfare of the state.” If only he had called upon them to strengthen their flock’s foundations of Bible knowledge, as most of the flock will assume is their role. But, no. It is the foundations of national existence and welfare of the state that comes first. God is welcome in the soup of national sovereignties, so long as he knows that his place is to serve as a balm applied to the prevailing system in hopes it will run a bit smoother. Pour it on like a syrup. Perhaps it will seep into the foundation somehow and fortify it.
The World Youth Festival opened for 2017 in Sochi, Russia. President Putin addressed the delegates. He spoke of challenges of the future—the payoffs can be very real, but the threats are also very real. The young—Putin takes an interest in them—must pursue the future that science makes possible, but they must not abandon moral and ethical values in doing so, he warned, for that could cause a catastrophe larger than a nuclear war.
“In the nearest future, humanity may enter and will, most likely, enter a very difficult and important period in its development and existence,” he said, referring to recent scientific breakthroughs. “What I’ve said now may be more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. Therefore, no matter what we’re doing, we must never forget about the moral and ethical basis of our business. Everything that we’ll be doing must benefit the people and empower humanity, not destroy it.”
The president used genetic engineering as an example to illustrate his words, saying that this discipline can bring both positive and negative results. “It’s great” that it can provide the possibility to change the genetic code of people suffering from serious diseases, he said. “But there’s another component to this process. Humanity also receives an opportunity to meddle with the genetic code, which was created either by nature or, as people with religious views say, God.”37
Yes, it is right around the corner, he said: the possibility of “creating a human with predesigned characteristics.” However, “it may be a genius mathematician or musician, but also a soldier, who will fight without fear, compassion and regret, without pain,” Putin warned. He gets into such things speaking to the young people, who are the prospects for the future. It is unfair for the West to accuse him of making himself a cult figure. Or, rather, if he does, it is with no evil intent, but for the good of those he leads. If being perceived a cult figure helps him better lead, so be it. It may well facilitate his greater object. Does he pump iron and ride bare-chested and slam hockey players half his age into the boards? Okay. It means he could best the American president in hand-to-hand combat any day, despite his smaller stature, and sometimes one wishes that world leaders would settle their disputes just that way. He calls to mind Jesse Ventura, former pro wrestler turned governor of Minnesota. The bumper stickers read: “My Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor.”38 Reporters asked whether he had seen them. He said that he had and that furthermore, they were true. He had been to those governors’ conferences. He had looked those flabby guys over. There was not one of them he could not take.
Putin makes clear his vision for the future speaking before those students. It is science. It is human efforts. It will be a challenge that human science does not outmaneuver human ethics, he says, for it is all human. Does religion play a part? It can, if that part is modest and does not rock the boat. “Humanity also receives an opportunity to meddle with the genetic code, which was created either by nature or, as people with religious views say, God,” he says. Gone are the days when the Soviet State insisted it could only be ‘nature.’ Now if one wants to say ‘God,’ that is okay. So long as he doesn’t overdo it. So long as he acquiesces that God’s place is to assist human efforts to save the planet through science. If people want to entertain some silly stories about afterlife, we all can live with that—they do no harm to the overall program. But to suggest human efforts are not up to the job in the present life, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do—to suggest that God disapproves, that he will one day replace the status quo—to get people all worked up over that? Surely only a pest would behave that way. It is the purely secular outlook of the future that sees religion as unnecessary, but so long as it does nothing but reinforce, its efforts are tolerated and sometimes even welcomed. But if it runs off with an agenda of its own, it must be stopped. Why can’t it just line up with the Orthodox Church which has the God base adequately covered? Why does it have to go and be a pest? Why does it have to rock the boat? It is too much to bear.
“We found this man to be a pest; he creates dissension among Jews all over the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazoreans,” the religious leader said of Paul.39 What was Paul’s problem—in their eyes? He was a pest. He created dissention in that religious world. If he stopped doing that, then he would not be a pest and all would be fine. Why can’t he just go along with the way things already are: make a suggestion or two and leave it at that? Putin likes the Russian Orthodox Church because they help build a strong Russia. But now they, too, report a pest. Why should he see them have to suffer a pest? So he signs off on the move to harass all minority religion and ban the most pernicious one in particular.
If one allows that it may be God, and not just nature, who made all things, might not some deductions be made? Is our origin truly a matter of no consequence? If God made all things, it stands to reason that he may have some purpose behind it all. He thus may not stand aside and see it all be wasted away or otherwise brought to ruin. However, if nature is responsible for all things—nature through evolution—then if there is any hope for humanity it lies entirely with what humans are able to do. And they are not doing so well. That is why Putin cautions them.
The president talks a good game—how scientists, in the person of those young delegates present—must rise to the occasion of making the world better, or at least ensuring that it has a future. Does he believe it? Does he have misgivings? Who can tell? But the issue is: Will it be human efforts or God’s efforts saving the future? The Russian government unreservedly looks to human efforts. Jehovah’s Witnesses unreservedly look to God’s efforts.
It is not unlike the post-World War I innovation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind to tackle governing the entire planet through human means. Its object was to get the governments talking to each other and defuse conflicts before they could trigger another war. That very year (1919) Jehovah’s Witnesses held a convention in Cedar Point Ohio in which they embraced God’s kingdom as the sole hope for governing the planet: a government by God, not men. The two are philosophically precise opposites. At this fork in the road, which stand did the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America take? It famously declared the new League of Nations to be the “political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.”40 Religion must be ‘practical’ in its eyes. It must support human aspirations of governing equitably and not roil matters by suggesting God will one day replace it all. Does any religion maintain that the stone cut from divine sovereignty will one day strike the idol on the feet and crush it?41 Surely that is extremist.
If Putin carries on about morality and ethics, how can he go along with, if not ordering, Jehovah’s Witnesses to be suppressed, even with violence? It is a reasonable question, and the answer may be found in how Jewish religious leaders described Paul to Roman governor Felix: he was that pestilent fellow not worthy of Rome’s justice.
It is human efforts that must save the day, they say. Nothing must get in the way. Nothing must distract or discourage. The stakes are too high. Those who cannot fathom God cannot understand why anyone would quibble over different perceptions of him. The more authoritarian ones among them do not want it even to happen on their watch. It does little good to carry on about the Russian constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is not a Russian concept. It is appended onto the constitution because it sounds good. But it does not resonate. It is boiler-plate language for many Russians, legalese inserted at document’s end in the confidence that nobody will read it. The Levada Center recently reported that, whereas 79% of the Russian population in the early 1990s thought the repressions of Stalin constituted “a crime that has no justification,” the figure has now dropped below 40%.42 ‘Enough of freedom,’ many say. ‘It means nothing but trouble.’
Jehovah’s Witnesses steadfastly advocate the Bible viewpoint in Russia, and for that they suffer. It is the trials of the ancient people of God revisited. They “endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.” Update it but slightly. Replace ‘scourging’ with beating. Strike the ‘chains,’ but keep the imprisonment. Cancel the detail about ‘clad with skins of sheep and goats’ and settling in ‘caves and crevices.’ Instead, just sack them from their employment; let them survive if they think they can.43 The only part of the verse to remain is “the world was not worthy of them.”44
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will think Paul’s preceding words prophetic: “You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.”45 ‘You got that right,’ they will say to Paul, for they have seen a lot of property confiscated. Can one really accept such things joyfully? Not in and of itself, no. It is an atrocity. But in the greater picture, yes. People whose horizons are only the goals of this system of things can never appreciate the mentality of those who are not. It is but one more way that “the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually.” One hates the confiscation of one’s things, but it is compensated for by being a “spiritual person, [who] can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.”46
“During the chaos of the early post-Soviet years,” writes the Moscow Times, “the average Russian was adrift, aghast at his sudden job insecurity and embarrassed about his country’s poverty….Then came Vladimir Putin to restore his sense of dignity. Putin assured Russians that every country had skeletons in the closet, ‘nothing to be ashamed of.’ More important, he returned the state to its role ‘as a paternalistic caretaker.’ The modern Russian is very much like [the Soviet Russian] only with a car and nicer clothes” and is not inclined to protest or make trouble.47
The Russian experiment with Western freedoms produced a mixed bag of results. Some things blew up in their faces. It was too much. So they beat a partial retreat. The administration’s 2000 National Security Concept stresses “protecting the cultural and spiritual-moral legacy and the historical traditions and standards of public life and preserving the cultural heritage of all Russia’s peoples.” Also, “there must be a state policy to maintain the population’s spiritual and moral welfare, prohibit the use of airtime to promote violence or base instincts, and counter the adverse impact of foreign religious organizations and missionaries.”48
The average person cares not overmuch about government. He or she has a life to lead. A weakness of most media is that they are obsessed with government and are staffed with persons who imagine it the central hub of life. This writer recalls a personal friend who used to point out how Newsweek and Time would completely miss the thrust of this or that story, whereas Watchtower-published Awake! would capture it. Not if the subject was politics or business, of course, but if it had to do with the general populace, Awake! would win hands-down. Those two secular magazines would send their wildly overeducated reporters into this or that barrio, and the locals, thoroughly over-awed, not wishing to appear stupid, would tell them anything they wanted to hear. Awake! would send in their peers and get the true picture.
Not too long ago, BBC interviewed a poverty-stricken man in an impoverished nation. “Whom can you trust?” the reporter wanted to know. “I trust in God,” the fellow replied. “Yes, yes, you trust in God,” repeated the newsman, eager to get this useless bit of trivia behind him, “but what about politicians?” “Some politicians, but not all politicians,” the man said. Ah—at last! Now we’re talking—human efforts! Awake! would have zeroed in on his initial response, taking for granted the general irrelevance of politicians to most people. Ancient governments are likened in Scripture to the heavens. They would shine on you one moment, rain on you the next, and there was nothing you could do about it. For all the democratic notions prevalent in some lands, the situation is little different today. To get an ounce of result, you must apply a ton of pressure, and most people are simply not up to the job.
The human record of exercising authority is not good. “All these things I saw and I applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun, while one person tyrannizes over another for harm,” says Ecclesiastes.49 Yet the Witness view is that God allows it as a stop-gap measure. Heaven help the people where there is anarchy.
The last chapter or two of each gospel is Jesus interacting with Pilate. If Christians were meant to ‘change’ government, surely it would be revealed here. One sees not a trace of it. Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. Jesus said he was. Pilate knew straight away that he was looking at some sort of religious thing, and not the literal sedition the Jewish leaders, hoping to cause Jesus trouble, made it out to be.
Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to this world’s justice system when the occasions for it arise. They work until they don’t. The course has precedent. A full quarter of the Book of Acts is the apostle Paul appealing to authorities following his arrest in Jerusalem. As he wends his way up to Caesar for a final trial, he does not criticize Roman government. Nowhere does he call them on their deeds, heavy-handed though some of them were.
His appeal was ultimately unsuccessful.50 He ended his days under house arrest in Rome. But it was successful from a witnessing point of view, and it is part of the Bible record that has stood for two millennia. Paul witnessed to each official he met. When his appearance sparked a riot in Ephesus, the Romans took him into protective custody. It was not too protective, however. The Roman officer in charge wanted to know why all the ruckus and he figured that he would beat it out of Paul. But Paul was a Roman citizen and, as such, had certain rights:
“The cohort commander ordered him to be brought into the compound and gave instruction that he be interrogated under the lash to determine the reason why they were making such an outcry against him. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion on duty, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and has not been tried?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the cohort commander and reported it, saying, “What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen.” Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” he answered. The commander replied, “I acquired this citizenship for a large sum of money.” Paul said, “But I was born one.” At once those who were going to interrogate him backed away from him, and the commander became alarmed when he realized that he was a Roman citizen and that he had had him bound.”51
This was not the first time Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen before government officials. When local authorities threw him and his companion into prison and magistrates sought to undo it quietly the next day, Paul would not permit it: “The jailer reported these words to Paul, “The magistrates have sent orders that you be released. Now, then, come out and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, even though we are Roman citizens and have not been tried and have thrown us into prison. And now, are they going to release us secretly? By no means. Let them come themselves and lead us out.” The lictors reported these words to the magistrates, and they became alarmed when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and placated them, and led them out and asked that they leave the city.”
So it was that the Governing Body made sure that the Russian trial to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses was held in the largest venue possible and received worldwide attention. If there was to be an injustice, let it not be done in secret. Let the world know. One is also reminded of the Watchtower’s campaign of the 1950s and 1960s, related in Baran’s book, to ensure that Russian Witnesses knew their rights under the Soviet constitution—those rights buttressed by pertinent U.N. resolutions and even select quotations of Lenin. If the rights were not to be respected by government authorities, that did not mean they were nonexistent.
After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he made himself a persistent menace to the religious powers that were then, peeling off their adherents willy-nilly. Picture their annoyance at watching this play out in town after town, and take note of their response: “Following his usual custom, Paul … entered into discussions with them from the scriptures, expounding and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead, and that ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I proclaim to you.’ Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas; so, too, a great number of Greeks who were worshipers, and not a few of the prominent women. But the Jews became jealous and recruited some worthless men [imagine—going down in history as ‘worthless’] loitering in the public square, formed a mob, and set the city in turmoil.”
Nor was it just Paul. All Christians were encouraged to do likewise, so as not to be a lamp placed under a basket. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.”52 The word ‘workman’ is telling. It would not be a separate, elite class who would ‘impart the word of truth without deviation.’ It would be the ‘workmen’ that the educated class scorned. Christians would be run-of-the-mill persons made powerful though coordinated study of the Word. It is little wonder their enemies felt they had no recourse but to silence them.
As stated, Paul never emerged from under that arrest in Jerusalem. He appealed his case to Caesar. The book of Acts from that chapter on tells of his travels to Rome. Along the way he met a bevy of officials—some petty, some major—and he pitched Christianity to each one. They all ran for cover, the same as folks do today. They all had their reasons, the same as folks do today.
First off was provincial governor Felix. “He had Paul summoned and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he spoke about righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now; when I find an opportunity I shall summon you again.” Felix does not comport well in history; many are the complaints of his ‘cruelty and licentiousness.’ It is hardly surprising that ‘righteousness,’ ‘self-restraint,’ and the ‘coming judgment’ made him sweat. The succeeding verse does nothing to put him in a better light: “At the same time he hoped that a bribe would be offered him by Paul, and so he sent for him very often and conversed with him.” Paul had little control over who his audience would be, but he did have control over whether they would be an audience.
Notwithstanding Felix’ dubious record, when the high priest traveled from Jerusalem with a spokesman to make trouble for Paul, the spokesman gushed: “Since we have attained much peace through you, and reforms have been accomplished in this nation through your provident care, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all gratitude. But in order not to detain you further, I ask you to give us a brief hearing with your customary graciousness.” When it was Paul’s turn to reply, he said “I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years and so I am pleased to make my defense before you.” In so many words he says: “Well, you’ve certainly been around for a while.” Yet even so, he is nowhere disrespectful, nor does he tell Felix how to run his jurisdiction.
Felix leaves Paul in prison so as to please the dominant religion. His successor is a man named Festus. The same representatives of that religious system come down to secure Paul’s doom once again, having failed in their previous attempt to have him sent to Jerusalem, where they had hoped to assassinate him along the way.
Festus eventually entertains a neighboring king and tells him the background: “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. So when (they) came together here, I made no delay; the next day I took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. His accusers stood around him but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.” Agrippa said to Festus, “I too should like to hear this man.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”
The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great ceremony and entered the audience hall in the company of cohort commanders and the prominent men of the city and, by command of Festus, Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all you here present with us, look at this man about whom the whole Jewish populace petitioned me here and in Jerusalem, clamoring that he should live no longer. I found, however, that he had done nothing deserving death, and so when he appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write about him to our sovereign; therefore I have brought him before all of you, and particularly before you, King Agrippa, so that I may have something to write as a result of this investigation. For it seems senseless to me to send up a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
Agrippa said to Paul: “You are permitted to speak in behalf of yourself.” Then Paul stretched his hand out and proceeded to say in his defense: “Concerning all the things of which I am accused by Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.”
Paul gives an account of his past and how he came to be where he was. It is too much for Festus: “Now as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice: ‘You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!’” (Some Witnesses alive today recall various clergymen discouraging study of the Bible, claiming it would make one ‘crazy.’)
Paul wasn’t put off by this remark. Instead, he countered: “I am not going mad, Your Excellency Festus, but I am uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind. In reality, the king to whom I am speaking with freeness of speech well knows about these things; for I am persuaded that not one of these things escapes his notice, for this thing has not been done in a corner. Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe.” But Agrippa said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” At this Paul said: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am, with the exception of these bonds.” Some lemons are hard to make into lemonade—“bonds’ for example. Nobody can say Paul was timid speaking before the king, though, nor ashamed of the cause for which he was arrested.
“And the king rose and so did the governor and Bernice and the men seated with them. But as they withdrew they began talking with one another, saying: “This man practices nothing deserving death or bonds.” Moreover, Agrippa said to Festus: ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”
So it was as Paul worked his way toward Caesar, establishing his innocence at every stop. Still, they decided to keep him restrained, anyway. Everywhere he is an ambassador for God’s kingdom, and everywhere he avoids telling them how they should run theirs. It is the same way that Jehovah’s Witnesses act toward the governments under which they live.
The Book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest. The dominant religious system did not attain its goal of killing him, but they did attain its goal of restricting him. The restriction was less successful than they might have imagined, for Paul went on to complete the majority of letters in the New Testament. Higher critics maintain he essentially founded a different religion, putting his own spin on the words of both Moses and Jesus.53
Tradition has it that Paul was executed during the time of Nero. This is consistent with the fact that Nero pinned the burning of Rome on the growing Christian movement. That attempt to eliminate it triggered many an atrocity. Over time, Christianity modified itself. It learned to accommodate its enemies and be molded by them. Paul had forewarned: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” These men did not lose. They won. They would win today except that the timing is different.54
Jesus illustrated the change of timing with his parable of the wheat and weeds. The enemy sowed weeds among the fledgling wheat. “Leave them be,” the owner tells his slaves, and the weeds promptly overrun the wheat. During the harvest, however, it is a different story. “Then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”55 The weeds that were victorious soon after planting are not victorious at the harvest, despite the efforts of the dominant religious empire. Even though they maneuver the governments into fighting against God, they are not victorious.
From the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah's Witnesses Write Russia
See also safe version
- “Russia’s Biggest Enemy Is U.S. — Poll,” The Moscow Times, January 10, 2018, accessed March 24, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russias-biggest-enemy-is-us-poll-60146
- “Goodbye America — Russians Suggest Names for New Nukes in Online Vote,” The Moscow Times, March 2, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/goodbye-america-russians-suggest-names-for-new-nukes-in-online-vote-60690
- Jacob Leibenluft, “Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Vote? Slate.com, June 26, 2008, accessed March 24, 2018, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2008/06/why_dont_jehovahs_witnesses_vote.html
- 2 Corinthians 5:20
- Emily P. Baran, Dissent on the Margins - How Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) 134
- “Helping ‘Foreign Residents’ to “Serve Jehovah With Rejoicing” The Watchtower – study edition, May 1, 2017, 7
- God’s Kingdom Rules (Brooklyn, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2014) 158
- 1 Corinthians 1:10
- 1 Corinthians 12:14-18
- 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
- Announcement of the American Embassy of the Russian Federation Washington DC: “Vladimir Putin Gave an Interview to American Journalist Charlie Rose,” Embassy of the Russian Federation Washington DC, September 28, 2015, accessed March 24, 2018, Shttp://www.russianembassy.org/article/vladimir-putin-gave-an-interview-to-american-journalist-charlie-rose
- Isaiah 26:2
- Tobin Harshaw, “Trump, Brexit and Echoes of World War I,” Bloomberg.com, November 11, 2017, accessed March 24, 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-11-11/trump-brexit-and-echoes-of-world-war-i
- “The Nations Are Still Not Learning,” Awake! August 8, 2002, 6
- “Lazare Ponticelli, the Last French Foot-Soldier of the First World War, Died on March 12th, Aged 110,” The Economist, March 19, 2008, Obituaries, accessed March 24, 2018, http://www.economist.com/node/10875719
- Gustave M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: New American Library, 1961) 278 See: https://www.snopes.com/quotes/goering.asp
- Matthew 26:52
- “The German Churches and the Nazi State,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005206
- Revelation 18:24
- The issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusion has been downgraded in the West (though by no means eliminated as a concern) and for that reason, I do not go into it in this book. Facilities practicing ‘bloodless medicine,’ either stand-alone or as departments of existing medical facilities, have become common-place. Long gone are the days when my wife, as a young girl, was administered a blood transfusion for a nosebleed – one might view it as ‘topping off the tank.’ Studies detailing inherent transfusion risks have become well-known. New Scientist Magazine summarized several such studies in its April 26, 2008 article entitled “An Act of Faith in the Operating Room,” in which the act of faith referred to was not withholding a transfusion but administering one. See also the Watchtower-produced video: ‘Transfusion Alternatives - Simple, Safe and Effective.’
- Ali’s exact words: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot … some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big, powerful America, and shoot them. For what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me,” recorded on a 1980 documentary by the black public affairs television program ‘Like It Is.’ Stefan Fatsis, "No Viet Cong Ever Called Me Nigger, slate.com, June 8, 2006, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2016/06/did_muhammad_ali_ever_say_no_viet_cong_ever_called_me_nigger.html
- Muhammad Ali’s chief attorney in 1967 was Hayden Covington, who argued many successful Supreme Court cases on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses two decades earlier. See: Robert Lipsyte, “Politics Wins in the Ring,” New York Times, April 28, 1967, accessed March 25, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/sports/year_in_sports/04.28.html
- Victor V. Blackwell, O’er the Ramparts They Watched (New York: Carlton Press, 1976) 213
- Ibid., 236-237
- Ibid., 239
- Ibid., 246
- Earnest W Barnes, The Rise of Christianity (London: Longmans Green and Co, 1947) 333
- C. J. Cadoux, The Early Church and the World (T & T Clark, LTD, 1955) 275-276
- N. Platt and M. J. Drummond Our World Through the Ages (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1961) 125
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London, 1776) Vol. I, p. 416
- “A Successful Program of Alternative Civilian Service in Taiwan” JW Broadcasting, August, 11, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018,
- “There is No Sect, There are No Problems,” portal-credo.ru, December 28, 2017, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=129229. For English Translation, see http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/171228a.html
- Andrew Katz, “Congress Is Now Mostly A Millionaires’ Club,” New York Times, January 9, 2014, accessed March 25, 2018, http://time.com/373/congress-is-now-mostly-a-millionaires-club/
- Luke 4:5-6
- “Uzbekistan: Patriarch Kirill Equates Insulting Believers’ Feelings to Extremism,” Ruptly TV, September 29, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.newstube.ru/media/uzbekistan-patriarch-kirill-equates-insulting-believers-feelings-to-extremism
- Acts 17:6
- “Giving Up on Moral & Ethical Values ‘More Dangerous Than Nuclear Bomb’ – Putin,” RT.com, October 21, 2017, accessed March 25, 2018, https://www.RT.com/news/407414-moral-ethical-values-putin-sochi/
- The colorful slogan is preserved only on Wikipedia and a humor page or two, which might not remain. One can sometimes find memorabilia online, such as a coffee mug bearing the same words I recently saw advertised on eBay for $12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Ventura
- Acts 24:5.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1992) 192
- Daniel 2:44
- “Russian Condemnation of Stalin’s Repressions Plunges,” RadioFreeEuropeRadioLibery, November 30, 2017, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-condemnation-of-stalins-repressions-plunges/28724392.html
- Forum 18 cites examples of Jehovah’s Witnesses fired from their jobs or forced to resign, solely on the basis of religion. Victoria Arnold, “Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses Now Banned,” Forum 18 News Service, July 18, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2297
- Hebrews 11:36-38
- Hebrews 10:34
- 1 Corinthians 2:14-15
- Eva Hartzog and Led Gudkov, The Week, October 27, 2017
- Daniel P. Payne, “Spiritual Security, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian Foreign Ministry: Collaboration or Cooptation?” Рубрика: Статьи современников, February 10, 2012, accessed March 25, 2018, http://rpczmoskva.org.ru/stati/daniel-p-paynespiritual-security-the-russian-orthodox-church-and-the-russian-foreign-ministry-collaboration-or-cooptation.html
- Ecclesiastes 8:9
- It appears that Paul was released for a time, and was hoping to preach in Spain, and he was later rearrested and condemned to death. Since Acts makes no mention of this, I have taken it all as a needless complication and have edited it away as, in the spirit of the times, as though it were fake news
- Acts 22:24-29 begins a narrative that continues through Acts 26 and is the source of the remaining portion of this chapter.
- 2 Timothy 2:15
- This is another reason The 100 from ‘Introduction’ rates Muhammad as a more significant figure than Jesus. The former founded a complete religion. The latter did only in tandem with Paul.
- Acts 20:29-30
- Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43