Moses Addressing the Israelites - Trump-Style
Trump, Covid, JW HQ, and ‘Rex’s Gas n Go’

Ecclesiastes 10:20 - ‘Do Not Speak Ill of the King’ JWs and Politics in the Age of Trump

I pay attention to politics and most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. Witnesses are politically neutral. They don’t do politics. Most of them feel it is best to go light on the topic for fear of being drawn in, taking sides in a dispute not really theirs—we should be ‘preaching the kingdom.’ The apostle Paul even calls Christians ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and by extension for God’s Kingdom that he heads. Everyone knows that ambassadors for one kingdom do not show up at voting booth of another kingdom. A fair number of our people even think it downright wrong to take an interest in politics for this reason. “Jehovah’s Witnesses ARE NOT interested in politics!” one firebrand brother tweeted. “Actually, sometimes they are,” I pointed out. “I think what you mean is that they do not PARTICIPATE in politics.” (2nd caps mine, but first his). But he repeated his tweet and blocked me!

Got it. We’re neutral. So when I post something that shows some knowledge of politics, I get slammed by some of my own people. Yes, I can explain how it is possible to follow something merely as an example of human interaction without choosing this side or that, and it sort of registers, but with some, the aversion to the political schemings of man is just too strong and I cannot break through. Nor do I particularly care to—they criticize me, not me them. It surely is irrelevant to the Kingdom, slated for eventual replacement by God (not us), and it is light years from having “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Got it. Not a problem.

And yet—and yet—these same brothers upbraiding me will post (or more typically retweet) content that presents the President as a doofus, spotlighting rash, crass, or insensitive things, with an air of: “Get a load of this idiot.” This is a far worse indiscretion, it seems to me. “Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,” my wife quotes the verse (Ecclesiastes 10:20)—my wife who has almost no interest in politics—she is a quite typical JW in that regard, and what she does know is mainly due to me. Whereas there is NO Bible injunction of speaking favorably of him—at worst it is ‘getting into politics,’ a red flag for a people who strive to be ‘no part of the world,’ but otherwise the idea of praising someone, king or otherwise, plays far better with the scriptures than does putting one down. In my more surly moments, I get fed up with this ‘hypocrisy.’

It is not hypocrisy. It plays that way, but it is not. It is simply brothers who do not think a thing through, and they do not do it because the thing to be thought of is that of ‘human rule’—slated for the wrecking ball. The upshot is simply that, if you avoid praising the king, you certainly have to avoid ridiculing him, for there IS a direct scriptural condemnation of THAT, whereas there is not about speaking well of someone.

The foible is facilitated by a disinterest of the topic, because it means our people plug into the news very little—maybe just the network evening news where reporters almost universally hate the current President. 90-95% of news media personnel vote Democrat, so how likely is it that they will be non-biased toward the side they don’t like? But our people don’t see that—they’re not following closely enough, there being no cause to—and when the networks label him a powermad nutcase they assume that it must be so. This accounts for why one brother—a circuit overseer! advised the pioneers on how they must stay neutral and how hard that was, because “we all know that Trump is crazy, but...” One sister looked at another and said: “I know that my Dad is a good man, and he voted for Trump.”

I understand the temptation to take a shot or two, because he has to be one of the most ineloquent men in all history. I’ve had a field day skewering both him and those who oppose him. I’ve done past presidents, too. I have said that I wish Dwight D Eisenhower had not hidden his JW upbringing because I would love to have portrayed he and his wife standing in front of the White House holding up the Watchtower and Awake magazines featuring the article: ‘Can Presidents Bring Peace?’ Oh, yeah! Trust me, I would know what to do with that one.

It is tremendously destructive in any crisis to take shots—whether warranted or not—at whoever is running the show. Whatever you have, you’re stuck with it, and you’d better learn to work with it. Being like Absalom is no good:

Absalom would say to him: “See, your claims are right and proper, but there is no one from the king to hear your case.” [He] would say: “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then every man who has a legal case or judgment could come to me, and I would see that he receives justice.”.... so Absalom kept stealing the hearts of the men of Israel.”

It doesn’t work when you are supposed to be pulling together in crisis. In principle, it is not all that different from why the Governing Body is so relentless in their counsel to avoid ‘apostasy’—there are people who just live to undercut their authority, and to yield to them damages not so much them, but the program they represent—which is usually the overall goal in the first place.

Trump is not eloquent, but eloquence is over-rated—its correlation with effectiveness is slight. It may even be inverse. He should have someone more eloquent as a spokesperson, but the media would never allow that. Now, eloquence is great stuff—pour me a double shot of it. But it can have a downside of making people think they are far more insightful than they really are.

’Classism’ is at work. Reporters value eloquence highly, and dismiss those without it. Is it that they wrote good term papers in college and and tend to look at life itself as a term paper? Political malice is only a part of why they misportray him. Social malice also plays a part. They are eloquent (whether full of poppycock or not is irrelevant) & he is not. That triggers very displeasing displays of ‘superiority.’ I don’t care about politics as for getting partisan over it. But social divisions and put-downs on that account always get my interest, and Trump is put down a lot by a class that thinks itself better educated and thereby smarter. Maybe it is because Jehovah’s Witnesses are also put down by a class that thinks itself better educated and thereby smarter that I spot not just that but many parallels. I mean, there certainly is an ‘everyman’ quality to him, selling himself as one who stands up for ones typically ignored.

He is no more dangerous than any political leader. That is not to say that things might not blow up in his face, but probably no more so than with anyone. It may be that ‘He is the one!’ but Oscar Oxgoad’s ancient Dad has said that about every president since Truman. Humans don’t have the answers, but it is very hard identifying individual villains. Trump is skewered by pundits who highlight his more outrageous statements, usually taking care to divorce them from elucidating context, and some of our indiscreet brothers retweet those ill reports. The only consolation to those who are alarmed is that most of his ‘lies’ are actually overly-vague statements, wishful thinking, hyperbole, even taunts to his many enemies—techniques that Witnesses forsake (though me...sigh....not always). He usually is persuaded by his advisors, like Dr. Fauci, before he actually follows through on what might be rash. Though, on occasion, he fires them. Just ask Rex Tillerson, once chairman of Exxon, now probably the proprietor of a small gas station somewhere out in the boonies—‘Rex’s Gas n Go.’

I have said it way too many times, but to me Trump’s election is a godsend, and it has nothing to do with politics. It used to be that if you read that long list of derogatory traits said to characterize people of the last days and your householder did not agree that they apply, there wasn’t much you could do about it. Plainly, the verses are subjective. But in the aftermath of Trump’s election, people are screaming at each other day and night, and it is very hard to ask: “What was Paul smoking when he wrote THAT?”

It can’t that bad to stay abreast of politics. If we are said to keep aware of world affairs with an eye on ‘keeping on the watch,’ which we are—well, it is the interaction of politics that drives those world events. Examined for that reason, they can aid one in being discerning. I mean, there is hardly any shame in being clueless on these things, but neither is it any great virtue. It enables you to speak in what to many people is their ‘language of the heart.’ Draw a parallel to cars. You don’t have to know anything about what’s under the hood in order to drive. But there are always a few that must know the workings and interplay of each component therein and they are never criticized for it. Sometimes we just get incurious and then pass it off as ‘holiness.’ 

It’s so hard to stay neutral. I recall one woman in our congregation explaining how people just assume what her politics must be as a member of a socially conservative religion, forcing her to continually explain that it is not so. No wonder Brother Jackson cautions to keep the stuff at a distance. He points out how it is especially hard when one side or the other favors something that will personally benefit you. He speaks of resisting the inner voice that says: “I hope that idiot doesn’t get into power!” Is it only me who says: “I wonder what idiot he has in mind?”

Okay. That’s it. No more politics! (I wish)

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

WitnessFTP

As you pointed out, there is a difference between being interested in, or paying attention to, politics and taking a stand for a particular political faction or ideology.

Jehovah himself takes an interest in politics. Every pronouncement he has ever made against governments and human rule show that. He has even influenced governments to accomplish his will – Babylon's attack on Israel and the upcoming attack of the Wild Beast on Babylon the Great come to mind. See also the next paragraph for more.

As Christians we are commanded by Jehovah and Jesus to 'be on the watch'. This must include paying attention to the political scene. Examples:


  • During the last 100 years, Jehovah's modern day servants have been persecuted by governments – all political entities – and because of political reasons (we won't vote, we won't serve in the military, we will not buy political cards, etc.). We certainly note our dear brothers in Russian and Eritria who are being persecuted by the current political powers in those countries.

  • Nebachadnezzer's dream of the immense image (Dan. 2) depicts various world powers through history. The iron/clay mixture of the feet of the image depicts the political and social situation ('not sticking together') of the Anglo/American world power – a political entity.

  • The upcoming cry of "Peace and Security!" will be a political one.

  • The attack of Gog of Magog on Jehovah's people will be done by the political powers of the world. And Jehovah will manuever the political elements into attacking his people by 'putting hooks into their jaws'.

  • 1 Tim. 2:1, 2 urges us that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high positions, so that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with complete godly devotion and seriousness." For us to do this means we have to be aware of the political situation.

These few examples show that we have to take an interest in politics to be able to tell where we are in the stream of time and to do the preaching work assigned to us. Yes, as you and brother Jackson brought out, taking an interest in politics can easily turn into taking a stand for a particular candidate or issue. But, with everything a Christian does, we have to cultivate balance – know when to speak, and when to keep silent (Eccl. 3:7b).

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