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A Willowbrook Legacy

Taking a Pass on World War

They buried a WWI soldier back in March. There’s not many of them left. This one, Lazare Ponticelli, was 110 years of age. Yet some things he had never figured out. Like why he had been fighting in the first place. Or why they had, for that matter, his enemy. Of course he must have known the reasons supplied by national leaders, but how did it ever get so human….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.

“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” (The Economist, 3/22/08, italics mine)

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." (italics mine again)

Don’t think it’s 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. That’s why today’s new age “follow your inner voice” philosophy is such nonsense. It works great when times are easy and fails utterly when they are hard. Nationalism has proven more than equal to the task of molding one’s “inner voice.”

In God’s new system of things on earth, when war is no more, I would worry about anyone who has shown in this system that he will blow my head off if some “leader” tells him to. Surely that was among the factors that attracted me to Jehovah’s Witnesses: their track record showed that they could not be pushed around by leaders.

In Nazi Germany their refusal to support Hitler’s totalitarian efforts led to incarceration for all that the tyrant could lay hands on. It’s well known that Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first consigned to concentration camps, preceding the far more numerous Jews. It’s also well known that once in the camps, they were the only inmates with opportunity to get themselves out; Nazi policy was that if they renounced their faith and pledged allegiance to the regime they could go free. Only a handful took advantage of the offer.

Pressure to resist war fever was also no cakewalk in America either, especially so since perception was, and still is, that this was a necessary war, a righteous war even, and……well, what was wrong with anyone who would not rise to the occasion? But Jehovah’s Witnesses think of themselves as almost a nation unto themselves, and their first loyalty is to God, Jehovah. If German JWs had not contributed to the bloodbath, why should American JWs do so? In contrast, an American Lutheran, say, might feel obliged to go to war, since German Lutherans readily put nation before God.

The overwhelming majority of all Germans in that era were of two Christian faiths: Lutheran and Catholic. If even one of those faiths had stood up to Hitler as did Jehovah’s Witnesses, might WWII have been averted, with its 60 million or so casualties? (And critics rail against us for our blood transfusion stand, which at most has contributed toward a few hundred deaths) Is this what Revelation 18:24 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 those who have been slaughtered on the earth?" The slain "prophets" and "holy ones" are acts of commission, but the far more numerous third group represent a staggering act of omission…..the failure to train members in ways of peace. Jehovah’s Witnesses proved it could be done back then. They prove it yet today

Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.   Rev 18:24


More on Neutrality here    

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


Awake In Rochester

The J.W. were very brave to have stood against Hitler.

I have learned that with war there is always propaganda, and trying to portray the enemy as evil.


It would have been a shining jewel in the crown of Christendom if all or most Christians - Catholic and Protestant, had gotten together and resisted Hitler and his goons to the last, even at the cost of their lives Hitler would never have gotten away with what he did and I think that Christianity would look quite different today. Alas, it was not to be.


Each religion follows its own god / God.

You can't prove the existence of hell to a man reading the Bible, but you'll never disprove it to a man wetting himself in foxhole.

tom sheepandgoats

Now that you mention it, I WOULD like to hear from anyone atheist who's been in a foxhole. Is there anything to that slogan or not?

Ed Hughes

Tom Sheep and Goats,

When I attempt to analyze and make sense of the information on the internet, where most information appears to come forth without any real thought, it makes me appreciative of folks such as yourself that give the reader a sense that you have the knowledge, inspiration and ability to put your thoughts and words in digital format that will make sense to anyone that has a desire to partake of your message. I read the message once and then twice and I will go back over it again to make sure that I do not step on my tongue too much when I respond.

I have been waiting for many many years for that time to come when God will stop man from waging his heathen wars and devastating his flocks. I am not really aware of the Jehovah Witness Doctrine that evidently states what God is going to do with war and conflict. When God was really in control, and spoke openly to the first people, keeping the folks from picking apples seemed to be a big deal, He was unable to control those two folk so He evicted them. Some time later there were only four people on this earth He allowed one to slay the other, what is Gods motive with these humans? I guess that was the first war and I do not think that He even cares that people kill each other by the millions, if He did He could stop this insane killing. Whenever the next person with the designated power talks to God he should just make the suggestion that maybe mans sperm count should be reduced to zero for the next 25 years, and God could send an email to his address book about what is taking place, that message would cover everybody in the world because God is omnipotent and can therefore do anything. It does not matter whether anyone pays attention or not the word will get out in short order. I expect people will pay more attention to that than to a massive flood or a false idol being destroyed.

I spent most of my working life preparing for the battle that my country thought was coming. I do not feel that I wasted my time and I spent 24 years training for my country to interdict in the actions of, or destroy any enemy that threatened our way of life. The last 15 years of the time I was allowed to serve my country, I and many like me kept nuclear weapons trained on the enemy in order to keep them in line and that is one of the things that has given you the freedom you have today. It is not necessary for you to recognize the sacrifice Soldiers and Sailors and other military individuals offered to their country, and there are a few of those individuals that regretted what they did for their country, but I say they are wrong and we could well be speaking German, Japanese or Russian today with out the wars that the American Serviceman fought in the past 90 years. It would be wonderful if everybody could place flowers in the gun barrels of the enemy and stop the slaughter of war. But those flowers do not stop those bullets from piercing the flesh and the only thing that will stop the enemy from fighting is to defeat them in battle or make them think that they will be defeated. I never killed the first enemy Soldier or citizen, but they knew that I was there and would always be there as long as the United States was being threatened by them, or there would be another to take my place when I was unable to continue the great effort of “ The major deterrent to nuclear war”. I did not meander blindly willingly and happily into facing the enemy as John Roberts states, but I was willing to go because my country needed me for the protection of her citizens, that includes pacifists as well as every other citizen regardless of their philosophies.

Hermann Goering, has little credibility with his statement, a Gestapo leader working for the dictator Hitler would probably only say what he felt his leader would have liked. He spoke for the dictatorship where one had no choice and tried to apply that to all countries, even democracies, and it does not fit well.

War has been with the human race since right after man /woman was first conceived and I hate war, probably not as much as you, but I am, or was I should say, one that was willing (but not gladly) to take up arms in order to help my country stay free.


tom sheepandgoats

“It is not necessary for you to recognize the sacrifice Soldiers and Sailors and other military individuals offered to their country”

Perhaps not, but I do recognize it. I am not anti-military, nor are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You don’t have to be a policeman to appreciate what policemen do. You don’t have to be a doctor to appreciate what doctors do. So it is with soldiers. Where they have defeated tyranny and defended people, as would certainly appear to be the case in the instances you cited, they have performed a valuable service and should be accorded respect, even gratitude, on that account. I have no problem recognizing that, even if I would not be one myself.

You used the term “role” once, as in “I am playing a role.” I now use it on you. You say you do not feel you were wasting your time. I don’t either. You played your role honorably and it brought the tangible benefits you describe. If I understand you correctly, you thought it important to fulfill a certain role and irresponsible to shrug it off.

Pacifists put flowers in gun barrels. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t. We are neutral to military concerns; we don’t work in opposition. The Bible uses the word “ambassadors” illustrating for us the role Christians are to play:

We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: “Become reconciled to God. 2 Cor 5:20

If you were an ambassador from a foreign country stationed here in the U.S, you would adapt to all laws and customs locally. You’d likely come to love the land in which you live, and its people. But when it came to the politics of your host country, you wouldn’t take a position...nor would anyone expect you to. It is not your business...your business is to represent wherever you are ambassador from. Even if heavy issues develop and positions evolve for which, since you live here, you may have some feelings, still, it is not your job to take sides. Your lack of involvement would not be because of callousness, or apathy, or lack of interest in fellowman...but it is simply not your place, representing another government, to take sides in the disputes of your host country.

Now, God’s Kingdom is a government very real to Jehovah‘s Witnesses. It is the government with which God will bring an end to human rule, unite all peoples, restore earth to it’s original paradise state, and extend everlasting life to all those under it’s rule. We view it as the only hope for mankind. No amount of tweaking of human governments will ever approach what God brings through his own rule. We believe that it rules from heaven now, and will shortly extend its rule earth wide. Those who believe in it are charged to represent it, to announce it….in effect, to act as ambassadors of that government.

It’s a role. That’s not to deny that there are other roles which people may play honorably. Though we do think ours is the role that will endure over the long run.

“I am not really aware of the Jehovah Witness Doctrine that evidently states what God is going to do with war and conflict.”

Not surprisingly, I recommend that you do become aware of it. It’s easy enough to do, as our people offer free home Bible studies….it is the goal of their visits…. after which you can decide for yourself whether there is anything to it. But all the issues you brought up are addressed. Here and there I’ve written on some of them. But my stuff is meandering and sporadic. An actual Bible study is the best way to get the sense of things.

Ed Hughes

Tom Sheep and Goats,
You have provided what seem to me to be good honest answers, but I had to read your comments over a couple of times before I could grasp the full meaning of what you were saying. Do not let that worry you because you also will be old and a little addled one day and distracted by the things that pop up in your mind when you are trying to concentrate on reading something – and, yes, I did turn the garage light out when I left there, but that came to my mind out of the blue, so I had to go and check.

As all people of nearly any faith would, you gave me an invitation to view what the Jehovah Witness program has to offer in answer to my questions. Most of the questions were rhetorical and I over a period of time have discovered things about the literature produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A pair of them would come around because they would see me milling about my place and offer me the publications they had, as I recall it was the Watchtower and Awake and they would bring up some of the subjects contained in these periodicals. They were always congenial and pleasant and we would talk, but the South Carolina sun is a bear cat and they did not stay around long. I have not seen any of them for some time, maybe they gave up on me?



There is currently one surviving (verifyed) U.S. vetern of the first world war. His name in Frank Buckles and he's had a rather interested life, check out his wiki entry:

tom sheepandgoats

He looks awfully good in that picture at 103!

Thanks for the factoid, Nate.

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