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Jehovah’s Witnesses: an American Religion? I Don’t Think So: An Exploration of Psalm 33

Most Russians think Jehovah’s Witnesses are an American religion. In this age of poisoned East/West relations, that’s not good.

That’s not the main reason the Witness organization was banned in that country in 2017, but it’s a sabotaging corollary. Obviously, their HQ is in America. Everyone has to be somewhere. But do they pick up on and push the nationalistic policies of the country? They do not. They just exist there.

So how to fix that misconception that they are an American religion?

1A5C7823-40C7-484F-B578-099BCA0F1447A) You can’t. If the tract ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses: Christians or Communists?’ designed to fix just the opposite impression, doesn’t do the trick, nothing will. First published in 1951, it was used into the early 1970s. I remember carrying it myself at that tail end of that period, though I rarely used it. By then, everyone knew Witnesses weren’t communist. Imagine. Russians are saying Witnesses are American, and just a few decades ago Americans were saying Jehovah’s Witnesses were Russian [Soviet]! The 70-year-old tract has become a collectible. And to think you used to be able to pick up a handful of them for free!

1BA3D765-5DD0-4917-923E-502998D6511AB) There is also a second, more complicated solution (said 1974 Murder on the Orient Express Hercule Poirot, before opting for the simpler one even though he knew the second one was right).

The more complicated solution presents when Dwight D. Eisenhower, at his swearing in as president, suggested either that his country was or would be the country identified with Psalm 33:12: “Happy is the nation whose God is Jehovah, The people he has chosen as his own possession.”

‘Oh, no you don’t!’ the Watchtower said in effect. ‘That verse is referring to something else—the Israelite nation of antiquity whose God really was Jehovah* and the modern day spiritual descendant of it, which is NOT the country in which HQ is located, nor is it any other earthly nation.

*(“Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You [ancient Israel] will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5-6)

How’s that for evidence Jehovah’s Witnesses is not an American religion, Mr. Putin? [whose leadership is being considerably undermined by some ‘anti-cult’ loons] Eisenhower says his country is “the nation whose God is Jehovah.” Oh, no it isn’t, says HQ.

It’s from a two-paragraph segment wedged in to the Watchtower Study article of November 15, 1968. The entire congregation would have considered it. It reads downright strange today. It would have read downright strange to non-Witnesses even then, most likely. But active Witnesses would have picked up on it instantly. It would have been ‘food at the proper time’ for them.

What few of the general public knew then, and none of them do today, is that the 34th president of the United States had been raised a Witness. Back then it was called ‘the International Bible Students’—the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ was adopted in 1931. Eisenhower was raised as one. He left his Witness background behind upon reaching adulthood (and his family to this day does all it can to obscure that former connection), but he was raised that way.

My question is—did any Witnesses of his era come to regard him as ‘our guy’ who became deliverer—almost like a Moses? If so, I’ve never heard it before, but it makes sense that some might. He liberated the Nazi concentration camps where many of them were imprisoned. He won World War II—it was he who was appointed Supreme Military Commander of Allied troops. Even today’s Watchtower, without naming names, necessarily include him in the earth that swallows up the waters of persecution emitting from rivers, the more stable elements of this world vanquishing the more unstable.

Eisenhower followed a familiar path: the victorious general gets elected president. It worked for Washington, Jackson, Taylor, Grant—it worked for Eisenhower. The prestige of the United States rode very high immediately after World War II. Learning a lesson from World War I, it was magnanimous towards its beaten enemies, and worked to rebuild their economies. True, it had to dump that megalomaniac McArthur, who in time wanted to pepper North Korea with 50 of those new-fangled atomic bombs (if that country is unhinged today, it is not as though someone didn’t seed their paranoia). But he was most magnanimous in rebuilding Japan. (Historians attribute the reason to his desire to be adored, but that still does not mean he was not that way.) Moreover, under the Marshall plan, Germany too was rebuilt.

President Eisenhower would have overseen all this—he, the one raised a Jehovah’s Witness, though never baptized. Some training would have stuck, though. I’ve gone so far as to suggest his warnings of a coming “military-industrial complex” (it was going to be “military-industrial-congressional” complex, but he didn’t want to offend that prickly body) is patterned after those one-time continual Witness characterizations of a big business, big government, big religion deleterious triumvirate—a characterization you never hear today but used to be heard frequently.

So were there some Witnesses then who regarded him as a deliverer? I guess he was in the sense that Cyrus was also a deliverer. But Cyrus has no background in Jehovah’s worship. Eisenhower did. Did Witnesses regard his as one of ‘theirs’—the hometown boy that turned out incredibly good, swatting a grand slam, not just for them, but for the whole wide world?

Any such notion is tamped down firmly in that November 15th Watchtower. Two paragraphs of the 22 paragraphs are devoted to it. ‘The Happiness of the Nation Whose God is Jehovah’ is the title of that article, and the remaining 20 paragraphs identify just what is that nation. It is neither Eisenhower’s country nor any other earthly one today.

“No, it is not the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth today,” said that Watchtower in paragraph 3. It wasn’t the one whose “thirty-fourth president was being inaugurated for his second term in office. Following the custom, he was being sworn in with his right hand resting upon an open Bible. This Bible was not the British King James or Authorized Version Bible, but was the American Standard Version of the Bible as published in the year 1901 C.E. This particular copy had been given him by his God-fearing mother when he was about to graduate from the national Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1915 . . .”

Good old mom, who, like moms everywhere, never gives up hope that junior will return to the fold.

During that inauguration, Eisenhower’s hand “purposely rested at Psalm 33:12, which, in the American Standard Version, reads as follows: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.’”

‘Don’t even think it,’ is the thrust of the next paragraph (4):

“By this gesture the reinaugurated president may have been suggesting that the United States of America was that blessed or happy nation or that he would serve in the presidency to make it such. But during his two terms in the presidency did he lead his nation into the blessedness or happiness spoken of in Psalm 33:12?” then the article goes on to document a litany of unhappy woes, such as we are good at doing—though by today’s standards those woes seem downright cheery.

So if there is some historical context to think that the victorious U.S really is that Ps 33:12 nation in which all is hunky-dory, the Watchtower does not let that notion stand. Does it anticipate or acknowledge that some brothers did?

On the JW Library app, if equipped with research notes, pressing the number of any particular Bible verse will bring up, in the adjacent column, a host of previous articles that have commented on the verse. Pressing ‘12’ for the 12th verse brings up that November 15th Watchtower, but not as the first offering. Pressing ‘10’ does bring it up as the first offering. What is verse 10?

Jehovah has frustrated the schemes of the nations; He has thwarted the plans of the peoples.” as though one of the “schemes of the nations” is to claim that one of them is the happy nation whose God is Jehovah! As though Eisenhower himself is trying to pull a fast one, but the Watchtower won’t let him get away with it!

There’s two other locations (verse 16 and 17) which also pull up that November 15th Watchtower, though not as the first item. “No king is saved by a large army; A mighty man is not saved by his great power. The horse is a false hope for salvation; Its great strength does not ensure escape,” they read. Okay? Just because you have a large army—horses being the ancient equivalent of tanks, don’t think you get Psalm 33:12 status from it. U.S. has huge military might these days. So does Russia, for that matter. So does China. Doesn’t make them the happy nation.

See what projects you can get into when you supplement Bible reading with the Research Guide?

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

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