Individual and Social Responsibility
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a law-abiding community providing the laws of the country do not conflict with their interpretation of Biblical teachings. Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the authority of secular governments but their allegiance is with ‘God’s Kingdom’, which is understood as a government in itself and as such takes precedence over all ‘earthly’ or secular governments. It is for this reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses remain politically neutral and do not engage in such activities as saluting a national flag, voting, running for office, joining the armed forces or displaying patriotic symbols, even under threat of death as in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. They claim that such a position of political neutrality was practised by Jesus and the apostles. Neither do they join civic groups such as the Scouts or Guides. This is also why they do not engage in any interfaith work or participation in any other charitable organisations with a religious connection, in the belief that working with other religions jeopardies the purity of the Jehovah’s Witness community. Similarly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses uphold human rights law where it does not conflict with Biblical interpretations. Despite having few professionals among their number, they have several highly trained expert lawyers who fight their legal battles throughout the world. As noted above, they are also happy to use the legal systems of different countries in order to set legal precedents which might ensure their future benefit in the area of religious freedom.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses can be seen as having a great sense of social responsibility to members of their community, over and above to members of the public and to society in general – remembering that all other forms of Christianity are considered ‘nominal’ and hence as ‘Babylon the Great’. All members are active in helping others in their community through such acts as building and maintaining Kingdom Halls; liaising with hospitals on the issue of blood transfusion and/or visiting Witness patients in hospital; and engaging in social programmes such as disaster relief. Thus whilst ‘sharing in disaster relief’ is considered to be an act of worship, mandatory for members, it is primarily Jehovah’s Witness communities who are helped first. Their literature states that during disasters, practical relief and emotional and spiritual support is given to both members and non-members, “but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” The literature is critical of major relief organisations for paying their directors large salaries and for failing to ensure that a large enough proportion of the contributions reaches victims.