In what year did Rutherford forbid military service?

by jwfacts 14 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • MrMonroe

    See also WT January 15, 1918 (pg 6202R) reporting on the shareholders' meeting (at which JFR was re-elected president and explained it was the Lord's will):


    Quite a number of our brethren in different parts of the country have been denied military exemption. Some of them, because of their refusal to engage in military service, have been court-martialed and sentenced to long terms in prison, while others are held in detention camps in different parts of the country. Those attending the convention felt it incumbent upon them to express their love and sympathy in support of these dear brethren who are so loyally standing for the prineiples represented by our Association; and it was deemed proper to pass a resolution relating to the matter. A committee previously appointed for that purpose reported a resolution on Sunday morning which was read before the convention and, upon motion, was seconded and unanimously adopted. The resolution follows:

    ... That we recognize ... that the Congress of the United States, representing the people of that nation, placed a provision in the Selective Act that no person should be compelled to engage in military service who is a member of a well-organized religious organization or association whose teachings or principles forbid its members to engage in war, or who are against war in any form; that in taking the position they do, our members are claiming only the protection the law provides against violation of conscience.

    "THIRD. That we are followers of the Great Master Christ Jesus our Redeemer, and have covenanted with the Lord to do his will; and that we are certain that it is not his will that we, as his followers, should participate in the great war now upon the earth. We recognize in the present great war one that is different from any other war ever before known, to wit: That it marks the end of the world -- that is to say, the end of the present evil order of things -- and is purging the nations and preparing the way for the kingdom of God for which followers of the Great Master, Christ Jesus, have prayed for many centuries; and that for forty years past this Association has held and taught that the year 1914 would mark the beginning of this great international conflict which the prophets of the Lord foretold must take place, immediately preceding the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of righteousness.

    The official line at that point, then, was that Bible Students did not fight.

  • Leolaia

    I think the policy was under evolution at the time, so there are bound to be ambiguities. I'm not so sure that Rutherford really was making military and/or alternative service a conscience matter, as he quite clearly laid out only two options, and one of these is to "not have anything to do with the war in any way". I'll have to look at the original letter but I think this is essentially the same stand that DeCecca gives more explicitly. And yes, DeCecca was advising conscripts from Bethel and was one of the seven arrested in May 1918.

    Official Watchtower articles from May and June 1918 however were very compromising, advising Bible Students to join in national prayer for Allied success in the war and to buy war bonds.

  • jwfacts

    Thank you MrMonroe for the excellent quotes, and also for the clarification Leo.

  • wobble

    I would be interested to see if anybody has any info. on the attitude of Rutherford and the WT in the late 1930's.

    It was my understanding that the JW's would not join the military, but would accept direction to work on the land or similar.

    This to my fathers mind was not neutral enough, he was in a "reserved occupation" (agriculture) and so could have avoided "Call Up".

    He chose not to support the war (W.W 2) effort in any way, even in his employment, so he faced a Tribunal, had his say as to what was wrong with the war, and with Mr, Churchill, and received a six-month prison sentence.

    He did not at this time call himself a JW although I think he was leaning towards joining them, but the were not neutral enough for him.

    Sadly , in clink he met several JW's, all had received a shorter sentence than him because they simply played the religion card and were not against the war as much as him. Shortly after the war's end he joined the JW's hence I was born in, dammit.

    I would be interested if anyone could shed light on the late thirties, or even early forties, did they not publish WT's on "Neutrality" ?

  • jwfacts

    That's interesting about your father, Wobble. I cannot locate anything from the 30's.

Share this