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God’s Sovereignty and what it means for voters

November 4, 2007

Many months ago I invited some strangers into my apartment to study the Bible with me.  My husband and I had been going to a mega-church just down the road, mostly because they offered a service in Spanish.  But after about 2 years there we got disillusioned with the size of the congregation, the lack of pastoral counseling and care, the push for fundraising (aka Lordship 🙄 ), the obnoxiousness of multi-level marketers within the congregation and the lack of professionalism in the nursery.  So, I was yearning for motivation to study the Bible at home and Spanish-speaking Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up at my door.  How convenient!

You may know the type, Jehovah’s Witnesses who target apartment buildings so that they can get all their rejections in one fell swoop.  The nice thing is, I didn’t reject them.  These Latin American women, who come in pairs once a week to my apartment, are now becoming my friends because I am getting to know them as individuals rather than just dismissing them by assigning them the label of “cooky religious fanatics”.

I decided that I do want to study the Bible with someone who understands it.  I’ve never had anyone else willing to come to me, allowing my children to remain comfortable and on schedule.  I also decided that since these women are willing to do this for me, I am willing not to prejudge.  We’ve been studying once a week for what amounts to probably 25 weeks.  Each time, two women come during my son’s nap time and we sit in my living room and study for an hour.

I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a reputation for believing that we are in the final days and that only a few people will get into Heaven.  But I’ve found myself in agreement with almost everything they are teaching me.  I agree with them on almost all the issues that tend to get people riled up.  They are answering fundamental questions that no one else has ever helped me understand.  And they’ve corrected some of my incorrect assumptions about their beliefs (especially my misunderstanding of the 144,000 that get to go to Heaven).

All was well, until last week.  We were talking about the first part of the Lord’s prayer, the part where Jesus prays that God’s kingdom come and that His will be done, and how God’s will is not currently being done on Earth.  It makes total sense to me that God is not reigning over the Earth at this time and we need not lose faith when bad things happen because God is not responsible.  All my life I’ve heard people try to comfort each other by blaming God, perhaps phrasing it, “it was God’s will that you lost your baby” or “God needed another angel so he took a soul from us”.  This has never, ever made sense to me.  The Bible study that I’ve done so far has helped me see that these losses that we suffer as humans are not God’s will.

The premise is: God’s kingdom is coming and all current kingdoms (nations with governments) will be destroyed.  No human is capable of governing correctly and all theories that sound good during campaigns don’t have a chance of working because of the human tendency to fuck things up.  Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they should not participate in government; they should neither run for office, picket, strike nor vote.  Voting would be like casting a vote for a human government rather than casting a vote for the kingdom of God.  It would be like saying, “in Your face” to God.

I know that people who run for political office are not perfect and will not follow through on all their campaign promises.  They will get influenced by lobbies or swayed by the party.  They won’t be able to impose their will on the nation like God would be able to do.  Latin American governments are notorious for corruption, so maybe these women are especially comforted by not voting.  But, still I thought as an American, I was supposed to vote for someone who approximates perfect in my opinion, who I imperfectly judge to be good enough to make governmental decisions and represent me.

I feel like if I don’t vote I can’t participate in anything in our society like send my children to public schools or get happy about a tax refund.  It really made me angry that they would be so bold as to participate in society, accept Medicaid for their children’s healthcare, send their children to public schools rather than homeschool, or go to the DMV to get a driver’s license.  I don’t understand why, if Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t vote, they don’t live on compounds separated from society like FLDS or the Amish.

I agree with Ani DiFranco’s claim that “every time I move I make a woman’s movement” because it’s impossible to separate politics from daily life.  I see these women I am studying with in their subtle makeup, tasteful jewelry, and dressy-casual clothes.  I wonder if they care enough to check the labels to see where the shirt was made or where the fabric came from or if it matters to them who stitched the hems of their skirts.  I just can’t see how not voting would make anyone’s life any less political.  Choosing what to wear is just one of the ways we make political decisions each day.

To make matters more complicated, the week before, one of them expressed her current struggle in studying for her naturalization interview.  Uh, hello?  Do you even believe in the importance of the Constitution?  Do you even know how much you take for granted the stability of our government or how safe you feel compared to how you felt in Latin America?  Isn’t the intangible wealth of our nation what brought you here as an immigrant and motivated you to apply for citizenship to begin with?  I want to ask these questions to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  We are on a journey learning about each other and sparking interest and doubt in each other’s minds, so I hope to phrase my questions so that they are not accusatory.

This post has been hard for me to write because I can’t sort it all out.  It has to trail off; there is no grand conclusion.  I hope no one expected me to give my take on the meaning of life.  I am continuing to study the Bible with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Our next lesson is tomorrow, so this post is to be continued . . .

Here is a lullaby that Dave Matthews wrote and that I sing to myself and my children.  It’s kind of encouraging children to be quixotic.  Like, even when you know you’re just inside a bottle and a weakling you still hope you can change something about the world.  That’s why I vote, I guess.

lyrics and music by Dave Matthews (copyright 2003)

Baby, it’s alright
Stop your crying, now

Nothing is here to stay
Everything has to begin and end
A ship in a bottle won’t sail
All we can do is dream that the wind will blow us across the water
A ship in a bottle set sail

Baby, it’s alright
Stop your crying, now

There was a weakling man
Who dreamed he was strong as a hurricane
A ship in a bottle set sail
He took a deep breath and blew across the world
He watched everything crumble
Woke up a weakling again

Some might tell you there’s no hope in hand
Just because they feel hopeless
But you don’t have to be a thing like that
You’ll be a ship in a bottle set sail

Baby, it’s alright
Stop your crying, now
It’s alright
So, stop your crying, now
You’ll be a ship in a bottle set sail

  1. November 5, 2007 8:11 am

    Someone called “A” left a comment but it ended up on the wrong post (that has been happening when the comments don’t match the post) so I deleted the comment. It was the fault of a bug in my blog, not of this person posting.

    This is what “A” had to say:
    “You should go to
    and review the Job study notes.”

    This recommendation doesn’t help me because my problem is not lack of understanding of Job’s suffering. My problem is not understanding the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view of voting. I’m sure we will talk about it in our lesson today, since election day is tomorrow. Maybe then I will see the connection between Christianity and removing ones self from governmental affairs.

    Also, I went to that site and found it very difficult to navigate and could not find any study notes on Job even though I clicked and clicked for 10 minutes. I am studying the Bible, but I cannot therefore ignore the importance of the Constitution or my preference for good web design. But, thanks for coming and commenting anyway, “A”.

  2. November 6, 2007 9:07 am

    I didn’t get to talk to the Jehovah’s Witnesses yesterday. They ended up not coming (for reasons unrelated to me blogging about them, I hope). I was thinking how, according to the Bible, a man is supposed to govern his household and his wife is supposed to be his wife.

    Well, the couple get to choose to marry each other and nuns choose not to marry because they think Jesus is the perfect husband (this is my presumption, please correct me if I’m mistaken). So, given that Jesus is the perfect husband and that nuns abstain from marrying and given that Jesus would be the perfect ruler of a kingdom and we should abstain from voting—why does the Bible encourage us to choose a mate and enjoy that mate and make the best of an imperfect relationship? Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize forming families and enjoying our humanness even though we know we will not choose the “perfect” husband? Why is this not like voting for a candidate even though the candidate is not perfect?

  3. November 6, 2007 5:15 pm

    I love the quote from Ani Difranco. Powerful words!

    I’ve also got to check out the song by DMB.

  4. November 6, 2007 8:40 pm

    Hey Brian! What’s up? Thanks for coming over. Well, I really really want to talk to a Witness about not voting. I was drinking coffee and thinking, the brand of coffee is political, the sugar is political, perhaps the mug too. I mean, how can you get away from politics? I can’t see how they can live in our society and claim not to be participating in politics. Maybe people who live on self-sustaining farms are not participating, but these are women who shop at Wal-Mart, so give me a break.

    It’s easy to point out others hypocrisy. I know I do a lot of contradictory things too.

  5. chineseambassador permalink
    November 8, 2007 12:13 am

    I’ve studied too much on the Jehovah’s witnesses and their beliefs to be able to have a serious conversation with them on biblical issues, so I can’t help too much on their logic. Just reading about their gazillions of failed prophecies about the end of the world made me think they were off their rockers. Kinda like Pat Robertson in the past. ha.

    As to the question of “should Christians be involved in political life”, I think Jesus was clear when he said “render under Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s”. Meaning, we pay taxes to the earthly government, and we give our spirits to the Lord. I think voting in elections is just part of “rendering unto Caesar”. We pay the taxes, and we do our duties to our earthly governments. Voting is one of those duties, I think. But I don’t get judgemental if someone wants to abstain from voting because they don’t like any of the candidates, for instance. I think as long as we are obeying the laws and paying our taxes, it only makes sense that we vote so our interests are not trampled.

    Obviously earthly governments live and die by the will of God – so by voting in a local election, we are not “casting a vote against God”. I don’t think there’s any biblical basis for that idea.

    how did this post get so long?! sorry!

  6. November 8, 2007 9:35 am

    ChineseAmbassador, good to see you here! Thanks for coming over. Well, I thought that the ones with the failed prophecies were the Mormons. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have a scripture like the Mormons do, apart from the Bible. The one who predicted the end of days or the construction of the Temple of Zion is Joseph Smith. He is the Mormons’ prophet who said that the Book of Mormon was superior to the Bible, which would make one think they are off their rockers. But the idea that a person of faith is off his rocker is all relative anyway . . .

    This is a site that I found helpful.

    Two weeks ago when this issue of voting came up in our study, we talked about the render unto Caesar quotation from the Bible and she said they are law-abiding and not anti-government, but that voting and making sure their interests aren’t trampled (like joining a union and striking at work or picketing on Capitol Hill) are not things that Jehovah’s Witnesses do. It’s like you said–they don’t like any of the candidates on principle since none is perfect. But to me, that would mean a woman would never choose a husband because that husband could never provide for her in the same way that a perfect celestial husband would.

    They think that things that happen on Earth are not the will of God: that God is biding his time and letting Satan reign for a while. When God cast Satan out of Heaven, Earth is where he “landed” and where he continues to be today. To me, studying the Bible is something I do out of interest and curiosity. They do think there is biblical basis for their ideas and are very intense about their beliefs, but they are also respectful of me. That’s why I like studying with them.

    It’s like the Dave Matthews lullaby I quoted; we are not able to “set sail”. We are not in control of what happens to us. The difference is that some people assume God is in control and Jehovah’s Witnesses assume Satan is in control. So when we pray, we ask for strength from God to withstand what is happening to us on Earth.

    I’m speaking from my experience and conversations and I’m not a scholar, so if anyone has anything to contribute to this discussion, by all means, please do so.

  7. thecanvasgrey permalink
    November 8, 2007 9:41 am

    Hey FW!

    As many types of religions will tell us, your questioning is on a slippery slope, for most cannot answer the hypcrisies. For me there is just one verse that comes to mind when I see all the inconsistencies, hypocrisies of living within any one religion. “I am in the world but not of it.” Which to me means, my spiritual being is here but not of here.

    The more I study and learn it becomes easy to find the problems with any one thing explaining everything. My dear friend who is a devout Christian and I are in it all the time. Because I can’t wrap my head around how a Christian can have gobs of worldy goods while others are starving, have no shelter, etc.

    I’m currently studying about ying and yang and must there be a balance in it all or are we constant flux and that is life.

    Please keep us updated on your studies with these lovely ladies. And they are lovely, lovely to care and share even if they don’t question things as deeply as we…I have another friend who tells me to keep it to myself because it is too hard to think about! 🙂 Which I can understand as well.

    Have a wonderful day!!!

  8. November 15, 2007 11:44 am

    My update, after having talked to the Jehovah’s Witness who is applying for citizenship, is that focusing on the politics of life distracts the Witnesses from their beliefs. So, if she needs a skirt, she will buy one–just going with the flow, not questioning who made the skirt or if the price is fair, etc. I think I do get it now, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I asked her if they had any reverence for the Earth, like feeling compelled to recycle and she said yes. I think we have to be visionaries and activists, duh, that’s what makes me quixotic, so this may be the point of contention from here on out between me and these women I am studying with.

  9. thecanvasgrey permalink
    November 20, 2007 3:07 pm

    But ya know I think it is great that you asked. Now at least you and everyone that reads your blog knows how they settle these questions within their own minds. Thanks for the follow up!

  10. You, madam, are no Sei Shonagon permalink
    January 4, 2008 10:27 pm

    A very interesting post indeed, now I get what you were talking about over at my blog. I have explored many different belief systems over the years to satisfy my own curiosity and to try to get “answers.” I find myself attracted to my husband’s Catholic traditions and deeply attracted to Zen Buddhism, but there will always be this great leap that I can never quite make into the realm of faith. Still, I count myself an “agnostic” because in the end we can’t fathom the true nature of the universe.

    Thanks for this post!

  11. January 5, 2008 6:16 pm

    CanvasGrey, you are right about that biblical verse. “We are in the world but not of it” is the reason that Jesus declined the suggestion that he become an Earthly king. That is one of the verses that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use to justify their abstinence from politics. They think that “this system of things” here on Earth is not something that believers should entwine themselves in, since it is controlled by Satan. I guess no one told that to Huckabee. What an ass.

  12. January 5, 2008 6:17 pm

    Madam, it looks like we are in the same spiritual boat, then. 🙂 I loooooooove your blog, by the way!

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