For whatever it’s worth, If I see evidence of military service at someone’s home, I will ask about it. When there is a plaque that a son or daughter is a proud Marine or Navy or Army member, I’ll make the point that you cannot have anything but respect for someone willing to lay his life on the line for what he believes in. If there is some old fellow who identifies with any branch of military service, I’ll hear him out. Everyone has a story to tell, but nobody wants to hear it. I’ll hear them out—providing I’m not keeping an entire car group waiting as I do so.
If someone’s flag is all wrapped up around the flagpole—the way the wind will do that—I’ll unwrap it while waiting for them to answer the door. And if I see a flag flying in tatters, I get mad—if you’re going to do it, do it right.
I think of that experience—it was published in one of the old yearbooks, I think, of the teacher, for some sort of a civics lesson, telling a Non-Witness and a Witness child to salute the Canadian flag. The first did. The second did not. Next came the direction to spit on the flag. The first did. The second did not. “Why don’t you spit on the flag?” the question was asked, “you didn’t salute it.” The answer was that the flag was a national symbol and as such should be treated with respect, even if not given an act of worship that Witnesses consider a salute to be—the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that way as well. But maybe more telling is the “patriotism” of the first child, who salutes on command and spits on command.
There is often a vague mutual respect between members of the military and members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, each of whom recognizes that the other is not rabble and is amenable to discipline. They also recognize about each other that neither harbors racism—people rise and fall independent of race (speaking of the American military here—I’m not in position to testify as to other nations). And it was at the 1958 Divine Will International Convention in New York City (Yankee Stadium & adjacent Polo Grounds) that the U.S. military sent observers to report on how it was possible for Witness volunteers to provide a full-course meal to their quarter-million conventioneers within a short noontime interval—this as related in a Special Report on that event that can be googled and downloaded. (this info supplied by B.F. Shultz, the researcher who is never wrong, who is lauded for “almost a fanatical attention to detail.”)
Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are politically neutral and will not wage war, one might surmise that any encounter with a militarily aligned householder will prove disagreeable, and this can happen. But it doesn’t have to happen, and usually does not by approaching the person with respect and reference to the above points. Often it can be worked into conversation about how odd it is that an individual is serving his country with great feeling and sacrifice, yet if he were in any other country, he would feel exactly the same way with regard to that country—and isn’t it strange that the earth should be divided up that way? Many military and especially veterans are mellowed with their service. I wouldn’t want to go up against a General Patton, who wanted to shoot anyone sitting out the fray, but most are more reflective. My own father, who was a WWII vet and who left religion as a young man and never returned, commented (to my surprise) on the small town square war memorial of the hamlet we were passing through, “They shouldn’t do this—it just glorifies it.”
“Doesn’t happen too much around here,” someone says. “We even keep RVs down to a minimum,until they become studies. “
Around here there are quite a few that do just the opposite—focus on return visits—and you know the challenge of finding return visits home. It drives me nuts, and I am adamant not to be part of a large car-group, sometimes even a van, doing it. Occasionally I am outmaneuvered and when that happens I lose all interest in the ministry, take the back seat in the van, and nap or compose a blog post.
“That experiment was In 1990, and repeated a couple of times since then. A great experiment, but one that would get the principal and teacher fired.“
I would think so. The only way I could get my head around it was to read it was in a different country.
”Great about the military observing—similar comments from outsiders were announced at the end of many of the assemblies.”
The concluding speaker told how a cop had said, with regard to some pretty obnoxious protestors, “Why don’t you just pop them one?” As to the one of the military monitoring mealtime, I had just about concluded that it was an urban legend—I had a Mormon tell me something similar about his people—but then Shultz told me where it was published.
”Have to admit I have never been alert to flags and war memorabilia, but I'm sure it puts the householder at ease to let them talk about it.”
We all get better at handling challenging situations as we ourselves age. Running into the clergyman is another—or a group plainly immersed in conversation and directly in your path. One fellow eyed me cautiously as I approached. He was lugging heavy boxes from a moving van. “You look like someone that wants to talk about the Bible!” I said jokingly. He laughed so hard he nearly dropped the box.