(RELIGIONS AND FREEDOM after 1945 – continued)
Jehovah's Witnesses have been described as a persecuted religious group. Jehovah's Witnesses belong to a Christian Protestant tradition. The organization is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, where their governing body of elders resides and their literature, The Watchtower, and Awake, are published. The Witnesses have full-time activists worldwide, and they have part-time members who go door-to-door or stand on street corners promoting their literature. In their 2015 Yearbook they claim a worldwide active membership of more than 8.2 million, as of August 2014. Their yearbook estimates membership growth at 2.2 percent per year.
Jehovah's Witnesses follow what is written in the Old and New Testaments. Looming large in their belief is "God's purpose." They obey the laws of the land believe in honest work and in doing honest commerce, but they see themselves as separate from worship of devotion associated, similar to Christians before the time of Emperor Constantine refusing to participate in the worship of Rome's gods.
Witnesses believe that the establishment of God's kingdom over the earth is the only solution for the problems faced by humanity today. They separating themselves from the politics of "this world" and consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan. They limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses and separate themselves also from other religious organizations, which they fault for participation in politics. They reject the Trinity, immortality of the soul and hell fire, which they consider to be outside holy scripture. Unlike other Christians, they do not celebrate Christmas, Easter or birthdays, and they speak of the pagan origins of these. They consider other religions to be a part of a contaminated world. In my mother's day, at least, they were especially hostile toward Roman Catholicism. The describe themselves as "in the Truth." They are fundamentalists focused on studying the Bible and t are not supposed to have independent positions or to question positions taken by the leadership. They see themselves as the only righteous, truth-holding organization in the world, and holding other religions as contemptuous, they don't describe themselves as a religion.
Jehovah's Witnesses take scripture to be fact. Like some others, they do not recognize metaphor or analogy as limiting the validity of an idea. They are not students of meaning in what is called the science of linguistics – few of us are. During the Cold War, the reference in Daniel 11:40 of the conflict between the "King of the South" and the "King of the North," the latter was described as the Soviet Union and associated with the approach of Armageddon. The failure of Armageddon's arrival on certain dates, using metaphor and dubious chronology, has been an embarrassment to the organization's leaders, and today their leadership claims that the exact date is too difficult to determine.
People have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of brainwashing their children. My mother was opposed to automatic baptisms into a religious organization. She held that one had to become a Witness as a result of one's own rational conclusions and at a responsible age. She was stubborn but not unpleasantly aggressive or strident in expressing her views. When I was seventeen, my father, not a Jehovah's Witness, approved of my joining the Marine Corps. My mother did not approve, but she did not stand in the way of the required parental approval. I suspect that General Eisenhower's mother, also a Jehovah's Witness, did the same for him.
Perceived as unpatriotic during World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses were attacked physically, spat upon, and jailed – in the United States, Canada and Britain. In Canada entire families were imprisoned. They were also attacked before the war. According to the ACLU, by the end of 1940 "more than 1,500 Witnesses in the United States had been victimized in 335 separate attacks." note62 Such attacks included beatings, being tarred and feathered, hanged, shot, maimed and even castrated. note63
Jehovah's Witness were sent to concentration camps in Germany and more than 200 were executed for refusing to serve in Hitler's armed forces. In the Soviet Union they were either deported or sent to labor camps. In Cuba in the 1960s they were categorized as "social deviants" and put into forced labor. In 1967 in Malawi, thousands were savagely beaten by police and by citizens for refusing to purchase political party cards to become members of the Malawi Congress Party. They have been imprisoned in Singapore and Vietnam.
Copyright © 2010-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.