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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jehovah's Witnesses and Nationalism, Saluting the Flag and National Anthems

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that bowing down to a flag or saluting it, often in conjunction with an anthem, is a religious act that ascribes salvation, not to God, but to the State or to its leaders. (Isaiah 43:11; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21) One such leader was King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon. To impress the people with his majesty and religious ardor, this powerful monarch erected a great image and compelled his subjects to bow down to it while music, like an anthem, was being played. However, three Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refused to bow to the image, even on pain of death.—Daniel, chapter 3.

In our age, “nationalism’s chief symbol of faith and central object of worship is the flag,” wrote historian Carlton Hayes. “Men bare their heads when the flag passes by; and in praise of the flag poets write odes and children sing hymns.” Nationalism, he added, also has its “holy days,” such as the Fourth of July [Independence Day] in the United States, as well as its “saints and heroes” and its “temples,” or shrines. In a public ceremony in Brazil, the minister general of the army acknowledged: “The flag is venerated and worshiped . . . just as the Fatherland is worshiped.” Yes, “the flag, like the cross, is sacred,” The Encyclopedia Americana once observed.

The aforementioned encyclopedia more recently noted that national anthems “are expressions of patriotic feeling and often include an invocation for divine guidance and protection of the people or their rulers.” Jehovah’s servants are not being unreasonable, therefore, when they view patriotic ceremonies involving the flag salute and national anthems as religious. In fact, when commenting on the refusal of children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to give homage to the flag or to swear the oath of allegiance in U.S. schools, the book The American Character stated: “That these daily rituals are religious has been at last affirmed by the Supreme Court in a series of cases.”

While not joining in ceremonies that they view as unscriptural, Jehovah’s people certainly respect the right of others to do so. They also respect national flags as emblems and recognize duly constituted governments as “superior authorities” serving as “God’s minister.” (Romans 13:1-4) Hence, Jehovah’s Witnesses heed the exhortation to pray “concerning kings and all those who are in high station.” Our motive, though, is “in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Timothy 2:2.
-Excerpt from the WBTS article "Flag Salute, Voting, and Civilian Service"; God's Love pp. 212-215

For more, see:

Neutrality - Links to Information (INDEX; Watchtower Online Library)

What is neutrality and why should true Christians not share in patriotic ceremonies? (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)

Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Vote, Pledge Allegiance Or Support The Military? (Search For Bible Truths)

How do Jehovah's Witnesses view voting? (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)

How do Jehovah's Witnesses view voting? (Search For Bible Truths)

Voting in Political Elections (lv pp. 212-215; Watchtower Online Library)

Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Vote? (Slate article)

The refusal to participate in millitary service includes maintaining respect for governments and their participants. (Jehovah's Witnesses Questions and Answers)

Why don't Jehovah witnesses say the pledge of allegiance? (Search For Bible Truths)

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