The Watch Tower Society and the End of the Cold War

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Zoe Knox*

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania professes to be politically neutral, concerned not with secular affairs, political ideology or worldly authority, but only with Jehovah’s divine plan. This article examines one explicitly political state of affairs that featured prominently in the literature produced by the Society from 1946 until 1991: the Cold War. During the Cold War years, the dominant narrative of superpower relations was of the two kings in the Book of Daniel. According to the Society, their historic rivalry would only end with the onset of Armageddon. The demise of Soviet Communism necessitated an entirely new interpretation of the rival kings. The subsequent attempt to reconcile the spiritual and the secular in the modern world indicates that the organization is adept at recasting (and resurrecting) failed narratives and adapting contemporary events to reaffirm Charles Taze Russell’s interpretations of biblical chronology, first expounded in the 1880s.

*Zoe Knox, School of Historical Studies, The University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK. E-mail: [email protected]. The author is grateful to G.D. Chryssides and to the JAAR’s three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this work. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, pp. 1–32 doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfr038 © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected]

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The Watch Tower Society and the End of the Cold War: Interpretations of the End-Times, Superpower Conflict, and the Changing Geo-Political Order

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1 “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you” (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 1984). The verse is from the Society’s own bible, translated from Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew into “modern speech” (5) by the New World Bible Translation Committee and published in six installments between 1950 and 1960. The complete volume was first published in 1961.

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THE WATCH TOWER BIBLE and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (hereafter referred to as “the Society” or “the Watch Tower Society”) professes to be politically neutral, concerned not with secular affairs, political ideology, or worldly authority, but only with Jehovah’s divine plan. The justification for this stance is found in John 15:19, which refers to the righteous as being “no part of the world.”1 For its membership—the Jehovah’s Witnesses—this means refraining from participation in earthly government and secular struggles. The Society cannot help but engage with the profane issues of the day, however. It is contemporary political events that are most often cited as evidence of the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy that humanity is living in the last days. Secular events mark the unfolding of Jehovah’s plan, as foretold in the scriptures, as well as the inexorable march toward (to use the Society’s own vocabulary) the “end of the current system of things” and the salvation of those “living in the Truth.” This article examines one explicitly political state of affairs which featured prominently in the literature produced by the Watch Tower Society from 1946 until 1991: the Cold War. During the Cold War years, the dominant narrative of superpower relations in the Society’s literature was of the two kings in Chapter 11 of the Book of Daniel. According to the Society, their historic rivalry would only end with Jehovah’s dramatic intervention, heralding the onset of Armageddon. The ideological conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States was offered as evidence of the imminence of Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it. When, unexpectedly, the northern king—the U.S.S.R.—fell from power, there was a silence on the significance of the sweeping political changes for Jehovah’s Witnesses and a focus on the details of the emergent new world order. At the end of the 1990s, references to the rival kings reappeared in the Society’s literature; the king of the south remained the “Anglo-American World Power” while the northern king was “yet to rise.” Otherwise, the indicators of the end-times remained static, with the threat of nuclear war central to descriptions of the fear, confusion, and chaos that would foreshadow Armageddon. This reconciliation of the spiritual and the secular indicates that the organization is

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2 Although the annual membership figure given by the Society is the number of practicing Witnesses, defined as those involved in public Bible educational work (i.e., house-to-house ministry), a far greater number attend the annual Memorial of Christ’s Death, the most important event in the Society’s calendar. In September 2010, the number of practicing members worldwide was 7,508,050 and the number attending the Memorial was 18,706,895. Office of Public Information of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2011). 3 The most revealing account of the Governing Body’s decision-making is by Raymond Franz (2007), the nephew of Frederick Franz, President of the Society from 1977 until 1992. Raymond Franz worked at Brooklyn Bethel for fifteen years, for nine of those as a member of the Governing Body (1971–80). The account is dismissed by the Society as apostate literature. The suspicions generated by such secrecy are discussed in Barkun (2006: 277).

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adept at recasting (and, as we shall see, resurrecting) failed narratives and adapting contemporary events to reaffirm Charles Taze Russell’s interpretations of biblical chronology, first expounded in the 1880s. While there is a growing body of literature on Christianity and the Cold War, the Watch Tower Society has been entirely overlooked. The limitations of the existing scholarship deny us insights into how one of the most visible and widely known premillenialist movements interpreted biblical chronology and scripture in the Cold War era and then, when faced with seismic shifts in the global political landscape, recast the narrative of biblical prophecy as told in magazines, books, and pamphlets closely studied by more than seven million practicing Witnesses as well as presented to untold numbers of non-Witnesses, often on their very doorstep.2 An analysis of the Society’s literature also suggests why ostensibly politically neutral Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted by governments around the world, both authoritarian and democratic, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Watch Tower Society has prompted debate about religious liberty, civil rights, and freedom of conscience—in the West at least—for over a century, and remains central to discussions about the limits of religious tolerance in modern societies. These discussions have been shaped by the Society’s interpretations of government rule and world affairs as much as the Witnesses’ beliefs and practices. If religion is “everywhere and nowhere” in American history and historiography (Schultz and Harvey 2010) then the Watch Tower Society, a worldwide religious organization with its origins in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania, is almost entirely absent from the small corner that religion does occupy in studies of the modern history of America and largely absent from the history of religion, with the exception of a few very particular contexts. The deliberations of the Governing Body of the Watch Tower Society, from which all policies emanate, are almost entirely unknown to those outside this circle. 3 This analysis is therefore based on the Society’s literature, which is produced by a Writing Committee, one of six committees

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RELIGION, EVANGELICALISM, AND THE COLD WAR The requirement that Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in public ministry and abstain from participation in political and civic life has repeatedly brought them into conflict with both democratic and authoritarian governments. For this reason, sociologists of religion have long recognized the treatment of Witnesses as a critical barometer of a state’s respect for freedom of conscience and religious diversity and as an indicator of the wider society’s level of tolerance for nontraditional religious groups.6 Since World War II, a number of legal studies scholars have approached Witness history from the perspective of civil liberties (Manwaring 1962; Kaplan 1989; Newton 1995; Peters 2000; Henderson 2004). Yet historians have paid very little attention to the Witnesses, with the notable exception of their treatment in Nazi Germany (King 1982; Hesse 2003; Penton 2004; Garbe 2008) and in the United States and Canada in wartime (Penton 4

Published bimonthly until 2007; since published monthly. Published bimonthly. Richardson and van Driel have argued that the importance of marginal religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses “is not in their numbers but in their demonstrations of the limits of tolerance” in modern society (1994: 131). See also Doktor (2002). 5 6

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charged with executing the directives of the Governing Body. Scholars of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a vast ocean of printed material at their disposal; the publication of religious literature has been of paramount importance since Russell began publishing Bible tracts with proceeds from the family millinery business (even today, Witnesses who engage in house-to-house ministry are known as publishers and figures on membership are given as publishing statistics). This article draws on material produced for both Witness and non-Witness audiences, such as articles in the magazines Awake! 4 and Watchtower,5 the annual Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! (1999). There is a remarkable degree of uniformity in the Society’s literature across the 236 countries in which the organization is active— Watchtower is published in 176 languages simultaneously, for example. The literature distributed by its Branch Offices around the world is produced by the Writing Committee at the international headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and, after translation into the vernacular by a linguistic team two thousand five hundred-strong, published in its own printing plants (Office of Public Information of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2009). There is, therefore, a worldwide audience for these interpretations of the Cold War and post-Cold War world orders.

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For a detailed discussion of the historiography of the Witnesses, see Knox (2011). Kirby (1997: 1–17). On religion and anticommunism in postwar America, see also Heale (1990: 170–173) and Lahr (2007). 9 “By depicting the Cold War as a battle against an enemy who not only needed to be defeated militarily, but also spiritually, they [U.S. policy makers] tied national security to a renewed commitment to traditional religion” (Schäfer 2006: 177). See also Schäfer (2009: 223–241). 8

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1976, 1997; Peters 2000). Even within the historiography of nineteenthcentury millennialism, and of new religious movements, the Witnesses have been largely ignored.7 In stark contrast, there is a burgeoning literature on mainstream evangelical religious movements and the Cold War, focusing almost exclusively on the United States. In the literature on religion and the Cold War, the emphasis has firmly been on the integration of religious rhetoric into the diplomatic and ideological language used to describe the conflict. Diane Kirby observed this trend in the immediate postwar years, when “Truman’s Cold War oratory was suffused with religious imagery” (2000: 389). She argued that his administration presented the conflict between East and West as a crusade in which western civilization, in general, and Christianity, in particular, must be protected from the godless Communists in the Kremlin, thus offering a basis for strengthening the Anglo-American alliance (2000: 385–412). There has been a great deal written on religious support for political anticommunism in the United States, particularly the Catholic Church’s support for McCarthyism in the 1950s and the influence of conservative Protestant churches on Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s.8 The understanding of the struggle against Soviet Communism as a religious crusade was accepted at the highest levels of the political order: Reagan infamously coined the term “evil empire” during an address to delegates at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals (1984: 363–364). There have been numerous studies of the rise of evangelical Protestantism in the United States during the Cold War years, a product of the resurgence of the Christian right after World War II in general and its influence upon the Republican administrations of Reagan and George W. Bush in particular. Axel Schäfer argued that although evangelical Christians have traditionally promoted the strict separation of church and state, the conditions of the Cold War strengthened the relationship between them and the U.S. government, enabling the “political resurgence” of evangelical Protestantism.9 Lahr (2007: 48) has also contended that the confluence of secular concerns about the destructive potential of the Cold War and the premillenialist convictions of evangelical Christians contributed to the rise in political power of

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10 In Russian-language scholarly literature, the Witnesses are frequently described as a late current in Protestantism (e.g., Gordienko 2002: 11–12). 11 This understanding has been encouraged by the Society’s own rhetoric; the Society has long emphasized its separation from, and hostility toward, what it calls the false houses of Christendom. Rutherford in particular railed against the mainstream churches. A typical tract is Rutherford (1940). 12 The Watch Tower Society would not disagree with this.

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conservative evangelical Protestantism. While these studies emphasize the rising political influence of evangelical Christianity, the Witnesses lie firmly outside of this trend because they reject involvement in politics and regard earthly governments as tools of Satan. In this sense, the Witnesses are inconvenient, scholastically speaking: despite sharing the same nineteenth-century Adventist roots as many Protestant evangelical churches, they are regarded—by western scholars at least10—as outside evangelical currents (if indeed as Christian).11 The place of religion in the popular culture of the Cold War years has more recently emerged as a historiographical theme. For many Americans, the Cold War was viewed as a spiritual as well as an ideological conflict, a message reinforced in popular culture (on film, see Shaw 2003). The evangelist Billy Graham was perhaps the greatest antiCommunist crusader of the era. Speaking for all of his co-religionists, he stated in a sermon in 1953: “almost all ministers of the gospel and students of the Bible agree that it [Communism] is master-minded by Satan himself”12 (Whitfield 1991: 81). Graham interpreted the Cold War conflict as linked with both patriotism and piety: “If you would be a true patriot, then become a Christian. If you would be a loyal American, then become a loyal Christian” (Whitfield 1991: 81). A renewed level of popular interest in the Bible as prophesizing global geo-politics arrived with the publication of Lindsey and Carlson’s blockbuster The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). This brought premillenialist anticipation into the home of the average American Protestant. In viewing the Cold War conflict through a scriptural lens, the Watch Tower Society is of course not unique. What is unique about its interpretation is the refusal to align with either of the Cold War camps or to be drawn into displays of patriotism, despite the legal, socio-cultural, and political pressures on both sides of the ideological divide. For their part, historians of the U.S.S.R. continue to be preoccupied by unearthing and analyzing the new material on religion, as well as other aspects of Soviet society, following the “archival revolution” of 1991. It is indisputable that religious institutions allowed to operate legally could not adopt political positions that departed from those of the regime (meaning unequivocal hostility toward the West), that state policy toward religion

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THE END-TIMES IN WATCH TOWER THEOLOGY13 The movement known today as the Jehovah’s Witnesses was founded by Charles Taze Russell. Born in 1852, Russell was the son of a draper from Allegheny City, which is now a part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Russell was raised Presbyterian but moved to Congregationalism in his youth. He began to question Christianity when he was unable to defend traditional tenets of Protestantism when challenged by nonbelievers. In 1870, Russell wandered into a sermon given by Jonas Wendell, a Second Adventist preacher, where, he later wrote, “I first had my attention called to the second coming of our 13

The following section draws on material presented in Knox (2011: 159–161).

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wavered with the whims of the regime, and that the Kremlin regarded membership in international religious organizations, such as the World Council of Churches, as an opportunity to spread Soviet propaganda. Scholars are still grappling with the questions of the degree to which religious leaders were influenced by Communist authorities and how much independence officials in the Council for Religious Affairs, the body overseeing religious life, had from the Kremlin (Chumachenko 1999). Very little has been written about the Cold War and its influence on the religious communities operating underground in the U.S.S.R., including the many evangelical groups across the country’s vast expanse. They were treated with disdain by the Communist establishment, especially when their allegiance was to a religious institution based in the West, as was the case with Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses (Kalugin 1962). The Jehovah’s Witnesses thus departed significantly from most American evangelical movements. While they drew on the secular issues of the day to give their interpretations of biblical scripture relevance and urgency, as this article shows, they eschewed the increased political voice that might accompany the adoption of eschatological rhetoric by the political establishment. Their message of salvation was not wed with any lessons about the supremacy of one political ideology over another. This partly explains why the literature on religion and the Cold War has entirely ignored the Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite the conflict looming as large on the pages of Witness literature—perhaps even larger—than that of other American religious organizations. Before this article turns to the place of the Cold War in Watch Tower theology, it first examines the biblical chronology that underpinned the Society’s understanding of the conflict, and the end-times it heralded.

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That we are living “in the last days”—“the day of the Lord”—“the end” of the Gospel age, and consequently, in the dawn of the “new” age, are facts not only discernible to the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony, and we are desirous that the “household of faith” be fully awake to the fact. (Russell 1879b: 1)

Russell became very well known in his day. He had regular syndicated columns in a number of U.S. newspapers. He also traveled extensively, across North America and Europe and to Japan and Russia, accompanied by small groups of supporters. This international activity was guided by the belief that Jesus would come when his word was ministered to the end of the earth.14 This is the same strategy guiding the Witnesses’ worldwide activities today. 14 In accordance with Matthew 24:14: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come” (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 1984).

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Lord” (Russell 1879a: 1). The chance encounter renewed his interest in studying the Bible, which led in turn to revelations about prophecy, based on biblical chronology. The chronology uncovered by Russell centered on the overthrow of Jerusalem by Babylon, which marked the end of Jehovah’s theocratic governance and the beginning of man’s, an era called the Gentile Times (Crompton 1996; Chryssides 2010). The first six volumes in the Millennial Dawn series ( published between 1886 and 1904 and later renamed Studies in the Scriptures) showed a program of end-time occurrences concluding in the year 1914, which would mark the return of rule by Christ. In common with many religious figures of the day, most notably Adventists following the failure of William Miller’s prophecy (the “Great Disappointment” of 1844), Russell was preoccupied with the second coming. He believed that Christ would return invisibly, rather than bodily, to resurrect the dead and during his presence would establish rule over heaven and earth (hence Second Presence, not second coming). Russell’s core mission was to seek the truth in scripture and advertise this to all, principally through the printed page. Guided by his own tracts, small groups of men began meeting to study scripture; they became known as Bible Students. Russell began financing periodicals, most notably Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (known since 1939 as The Watchtower). The opening sentences of the first edition stated the aims of the publication:

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THE TWO KINGS AND THE COLD WAR The souring of relations between Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union following World War II was interpreted by the Society as a continuation of the historic rivalry between the king of the north and the king of the south. The identities of the two kings have changed over time; an article published in Watchtower explained: “Bible history indicates that it is the continuation of a struggle for world leadership that began nearly 2,300 years ago” (1986: 3–5). The Cold War therefore had much deeper roots than the creation of the world’s first socialist state in October 1917. Its origins were explained in the book Your Will Be Done on Earth (1958), the chapters of which were serialized in issues of Watchtower in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to the Society, the Cold War conflict emerged when the previous king of the north (Germany) was defeated by the king of the south (the Anglo-American alliance) in a struggle for global supremacy (World War II). In accordance with biblical prophecy, a new rival was needed to replace the northern monarch: A new politically strong power must step into his shoes, that the rivalry between the two kings for world domination might go on to a final decision or a draw, a standstill. Who could do so? Who did? Events quickly revealed—the Soviet Union, the Communist power that, since it seized power in Russia in 1917, has held world domination as its aim to this day. (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society [hereafter “WTBTS”] 1958: 278)

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Russell died on October 31, 1916, on a train in the Texas Panhandle, returning from a speaking circuit. Although the organization has changed significantly in the years since Russell’s death—particularly under the presidency of his successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford—the chronology underpinning the movement has changed little. Rutherford’s main aim was to create an identifiable, disciplined organization, not to alter the biblical chronology uncovered by the young Russell, nor the emphasis upon preparing for the Second Presence. The signs of the end-times were looked for in all events. Rutherford affirmed that Christ had indeed arrived (invisibly) in 1914, as evidenced in the global chaos of world war. It was therefore only a matter of time—possibly only days—before the arrival of Armageddon. Armageddon is eagerly awaited by the Witnesses because this final battle between good and evil will bring theocratic rule, the establishment of Jehovah’s earthly in addition to his heavenly kingdom.

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15 The following extract, which condemns the three branches of Christianity for their involvement in political struggles, is typical: “Catholicism runs the gamut from guerrilla-fighter priests to bishops campaigning for a nuclear freeze. . . . The World Council of Churches, supported by 301 Protestant and Orthodox denominations with an estimated 400 million members, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to politically oriented revolutionaries” (1984b: 16–21).

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Thus, the Soviet Union “stepped into the shoes” of Germany to become the nemesis of the “Anglo-American World Power” (WTBTS 1976: 94). The attack on Egypt by the army of the king of the north and his consequent influence over the Libyans and the Ethiopians described in the Book of Daniel were interpreted as the ideological, military, and propagandistic offensive of Soviet Communism (WTBTS 1960: 156–157). The Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe were considered to be within “the realm of ‘the king of the north’” (WTBTS 1990: 19). Further evidence of the U.S.S.R. as the new king was found in Daniel 11:37, which identified him as atheistic (“to the God of his fathers he will give no consideration . . .” New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 1984). Although the conflict between the two kings had a long history, the tensions of the postwar era had particular significance in Watch Tower teaching. This was because the Book of Daniel describes a major escalation of tension as a harbinger of the end, provoking the king of the north into a final assault that leads to the end of the Gentile Times. The Cold War was therefore interpreted as a sign that Daniel’s prophecy had moved “into its final stage of fulfilment” (WTBTS 1984a: 16–20). The Cold War thus brought the time of the end even closer—and gave the Witnesses’ message of salvation even greater urgency. The “Watching the World” section of nearly every issue of the Awake! magazine published in the 1950s and 1960s included an account of the latest diplomatic tension or arena of competition between the U.S.S.R. and the United States. The Society did not side with one or the other of the superpowers during the Cold War. This marks it apart from the majority of evangelical Christian churches in the United States, which viewed the antireligious campaign in the U.S.S.R. as evidence that it was indeed the evil empire. In the postwar period, the Society saw no authority in governments, international institutions, or political parties or movements, and criticized mainstream Christian churches for their involvement in political struggles, especially in wartime.15 According to the Society, since the reign of Emperor Constantine in 312 CE, Christian rulers as well as Christian churches have interfered in secular matters. The Society also taught that there was no reason to support either Communism or

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capitalism. The futility of nations aligning with one of the two blocs is made clear in an address by Nathan H. Knorr (Rutherford’s successor), reproduced in Watchtower in 1961. It is worth quoting at length for its dismissal of bloc politics and national allegiance:

The Society teaches that there is no prospect of world peace under the rule of earthly governments. Any hope that the United Nations (“a contradiction of its own name”17) might bring an end to wars is in vain, since the member nations recognize a plethora of different gods and belief systems and cannot possibly be expected to agree on which god should ultimately govern. The Society reminded readers of Awake! that the Bible’s revelation that the superpower tensions would not end in nuclear war, a defining fear of the era, should provide comfort to the witnesses of Jehovah: “What a blessed relief this will be for all those who now put trust, not in the military power of any nation, but in Christ’s righteous government, his kingdom!” (1971: 5–9). For the Witnesses, the United States and the U.S.S.R. represented twin evils because of the conviction that all world governments are controlled by

The upper case ‘w’ for ‘witnesses’ was not used by the organization until 1976. WTBTS (1984c: 16–21). The United Nations is understood to be “the disgusting thing that is causing desolation” in Daniel 11:31 (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 1984). The conviction that the United Nations was an instrument of the devil was a common theme amongst evangelical fundamentalists. See, for example, Lindsey and Carlson (1970: 169–171). 16 17

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There is no need for the democratic Western bloc of nations to fear that the Communist bloc will take universal control of the earth. There is no need for the socialist Communist bloc to worry in fear that the democratic Western bloc of nations will take over world domination. There is no need for the neutral bloc of nations to try to keep in the middle, siding with neither bloc, for fear that either bloc of “cold war” fighters will gain final victory and then what will they do if they have sided with the losing bloc? None of those national blocs will gain the world domination, no matter which bloc dominates at present in outer space. The universal rule, including domination of the whole earth, has already been conferred, not on the choice of the Democrats, nor on the choice of the Communists, nor on the choice of the neutrals, nor on the choice of any man, but on God’s choice of ruler, mankind’s Savior Jesus Christ. At the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in 1914, Jehovah God took his power and enthroned Jesus Christ in the heavens. So in loyalty to the “King of eternity”, Jehovah’s witnesses16 unite under God’s kingdom, no matter in what lands they are found. They preach it everywhere. (1961: 612–626)

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18 This supports Beckford’s thesis that the organizational and administrative changes under Rutherford were initiated by Russell (Beckford 1972).

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Satan. The Book of Daniel states that both of the kings would oppose Jehovah’s people. There could, therefore, be no winner in the competition, since the kingdom which the Witnesses so eagerly await will not be ruled over by any earthly power but by Jehovah’s theocratic government. The Society’s theological interpretation of the two kings was shaped by its understanding of the authority held by the secular state. M. James Penton has shown that its position swung from cautious acceptance of state authority in the 1870s to outright hostility after World War I and back again in 1962, based on changing interpretations of the “superior authorities” referred to in Romans 13. Russell initially advised Bible Students to avoid involvement in political affairs whenever possible but to ultimately obey secular authorities, even when their beliefs were compromised (such as performing military service). Penton observed that in his final years Russell’s position toward secular authority hardened, and that this was taken to an extreme by Rutherford, who adopted a position of unequivocal hostility toward secular authorities that led to widespread persecution of the organization’s leadership and its followers.18 In 1962, the Society adopted a softer line similar to that originally expounded by Russell, which was to obey secular authorities unless the state’s laws directly contradicted Jehovah’s teachings (Penton 1979). This remains its position today. In light of this interpretation of secular authority, there is an obvious paradox in the Society’s use of courts of law (regional, national, and international) to protect its rights as an organization and the civil liberties of its members. Côté and Richardson (2001) have argued that the use of litigation has profoundly shaped the organization. In a sense, the recourse to legal procedures stands in for political lobbying. Judging by the number of landmark rulings in civil liberties involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, particularly in Europe, North America, and the Anglophone world, this approach has been just as successful as the political petitioning carried out by many evangelical religious groups: legal procedures rather than party-political lobbying has brought the Jehovah’s Witnesses notoriety and visibility and accorded them the same rights as mainstream religious groups. This is not seen as a concession to secular authority because “unlike political participation, litigation can less easily be construed as ‘compromising’ with the World” (Côté and Richardson 2001: 19).

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19 The Society does not make available membership figures for countries in which it is forced to operate underground.

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The Soviet Union held a particularly prominent position in Watch Tower literature produced during the Cold War. The Society’s understanding of the U.S.S.R. was, of course, defined by scripture. According to its reading, Communism was condemned in the Book of Revelation, which describes the Apostle John’s vision of seven heavenly angels sending seven plagues to the earth. The second of the angels poured blood into the sea, killing all life within. This is interpreted as a statement about earthly power: “So God views world Communism as the blood of a man who has been violently killed and which blood [sic] has congealed, caked” (WTBTS 1966: 515–519). Communism was no better or worse than other political ideologies. An article published in Watchtower conceded that at least the Soviet leadership did not entertain the false, hypocritical churches of Christendom, although it too will be destroyed at Armageddon (1959a: 43). It should be no surprise that Communist authorities, as representatives of earthly government, were condemned by the Society as “. . . haters of God, haters of people who choose to worship Almighty God with spirit and truth . . .” (1956: 209–218). The nonpartisan approach taken by the Society was not, as one might expect, accepted by the Soviet authorities as evidence of the political neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were well aware of the Watch Tower Society’s profoundly hostile position on Communism (as a secular ideology) and the Soviet regime (as earthly government). It was not permitted as an institutional presence in the U.S.S.R., despite petitioning for permission to establish a national Branch Office, distribute literature, and maintain contact with the international headquarters. The Society’s teaching that the U.S.S.R. was the successor of Nazi Germany as the northern king was seen as a particular insult (Konik 1978: 69–79). The Watch Tower Society counted 4,797 Witnesses across the U.S.S.R. in 1946 (WTBTS 1993: 508); of this number “more than 1,600” were in Russia (WTBTS 1946: 47).19 The Soviet government treated them with unequivocal hostility, deporting entire communities of Witnesses from parts of Ukraine, Belarussia, the Baltic states and Moldavia to Siberia in 1951, imprisoning believers in forced labor camps, and seizing literature in raids on Witness homes. This literature was understood by officials as aiming to distract citizens from the task of constructing Communism and therefore as undermining the Soviet project. It was also taken as evidence that Witnesses were agents of

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20 The files of the Council for Religious Affairs include reports on the seizure of Watch Tower literature and samples of the literature. See, for example, Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (State Archive of the Russian Federation), f. 6991, o. 6, d. 1165, l. 140–142.

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American imperialism.20 Through exile and deportation, the government helped them to spread their message, as noted in an article in Watchtower in 1956: “But now the Communist government itself has sent them from one end of the country to the other to work in these slave camps; and, as they see it, the government has paid their fare to new territories to preach the Kingdom message” (209–218). The Society also contrasted the Witnesses’ resilience to the weaknesses of other Christians who, “frightened” by persecution, “closed their ears to the good news of the Kingdom” (1957: 245–249). It was further evidence of their intransigence while others calling themselves Christians were willing to compromise with the atheist regime. For many people living in the West, a defining fear of the Cold War years was the prospect of nuclear conflict between the superpower states and the radioactive fallout that would follow. An article in Watchtower in 1959a warned of a far greater danger: “It is the danger of what the last book of the Holy Bible calls ‘the war of the great day of God the Almighty,’ for which the kings of the entire inhabited earth and their armies are described as being gathered to the symbolic place called Armageddon.” The earthly concern of nuclear war diverted attention from the real danger facing mankind, one “much worse than nuclear war between man and man. It is the danger of war between God and man, war between Christ and the invisible ruler of this world, Satan the Devil, with all his demon hosts and earthly armies” (1959b: 612–621). Unlike most American evangelical religious movements, the threat to humankind was not the godless Communists but the forces of Satan directing the governments of the United States and the U.S.S.R. The scientific manifestations of the Cold War conflict—the atomic bomb and the space race—were seen as signs of the impending apocalypse. Lahr (2007: 31) has pointed out a fundamental paradox of the evangelical movement in the Cold War era: scientific advancement— such as the development of the bomb—was understood as evidence of premillenialist expectations rather than as a threat to religious belief (see also Geraci 2008). The literature produced by the Society drew on popular anxieties that the confrontation between the two superpowers would become a “hot” one. The fear generated by the postwar conflict has been attributed to the origins and emergence of Scientology; Hugh B. Urban has argued that the visions of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s

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1989/1991 IN WATCH TOWER LITERATURE Kremlinologists, Sovietologists, and other close analysts of the U.S.S.R. were not the only observers to fail to foresee the total collapse of Soviet Communism. This event also gave pause to eschatological discussions that had for some forty years centered on the impending world destruction arising from the rivalry between Communist East and Capitalist West. Lahr observed of the conservative evangelical movement in the United States: “Prophetic anticipation generated by the Cold War experienced a temporary halt in 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved” (2007: 165). However, it soon regained its vitality and visibility, casting new enemies in the role of the evil other (most notably Islam) and maintaining the United States’ primacy as defender of the free world. Given this response to the end of the Cold War within the mainstream evangelical community, how did the Watch Tower Society present the thaw in superpower relations under Mikhail Gorbachev and ultimately the demise of the Soviet Union? This is a particularly salient question, given that it had never viewed the Cold War through an ideological or patriotic lens. It also offers insights into how the organization managed to avoid the disaffection that might have accompanied the end of a conflict that had been so central to its teachings on the end-times and how it responded “when prophecy failed,” to paraphrase the seminal study by Festinger et al. (1956). 21 “Far from a strange aberration, Scientology in fact embodies many of the obsessive concerns with secrecy, information-control, and surveillance that ran throughout Cold War America.” Urban (2006: 356).

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founder-leader, were a product of the Cold War environment.21 The origins of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are much older, of course, but the dangers of the stockpiling of nuclear weapons were a frequent theme in its literature, pointing to the imminence of the universal war of Armageddon. Articles in Watchtower and Awake! used the rhetoric of those in the secular, even scientific, sphere to describe the horrors that war would bring, particularly in “a world bristling with nuclear weapons” (1988: 5). The fear, chaos, and disorder that this would engender were presented as the fulfillment of prophecy in the Book of Revelation, and therefore as inevitable. The only escape from this scenario was the acceptance that the legitimate world government was that of Jehovah. This article now turns to how the Society presented the end to the ideological conflict that had loomed so large in the pages of its literature since the late 1940s.

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22 For a survey of developments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union, see WTBTS (1991c: 8–13). 23 “Trucks loaded with The Watchtower and Awake! leave the huge printery of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Selters/Taunus, Germany, and stream across the borders into Eastern European countries. How different from the times when, at the risk of imprisonment, the Witnesses had to smuggle literature into these countries!” (1991e: 8–17).

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According to the Society, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, was not the evidence of a new unity in a previously divided world. An article in Awake! downplayed the significance of the political changes sweeping across Europe: “Whatever the nations may be able to accomplish, human efforts to unite our divided world cannot remove selfishness or make the earth a paradise.” Readers were reminded that change in the international order could not achieve this because “[o]nly a superhuman force can bring true unity and remove even sickness and death” (1990: 19). In April 1991, an article in Watchtower emphasized just how misguided the optimism and euphoria were that accompanied recent events. The possibility of peace was illusory since there were “at least 15 wars raging around the world,” each smaller conflicts that together had claimed millions of lives since World War II (1991a: 2–4). The Society reiterated that the United Nations could not facilitate world peace; it was a harbinger of deceit, decay, and destruction, not a force for good (1991b: 8–10). The Watch Tower Society did acknowledge one “thrilling” development: the opportunity for Jehovah’s Witnesses to minister openly and legally, without fear of reprisal, in Eastern Europe.22 The legal registration of the Society in the Russian republic of the U.S.S.R. on March 27, 1991, allowed the Witnesses to enjoy a range of freedoms that had previously been denied them. Two members of the Governing Body traveled to Moscow to mark the occasion, including Milton Henschel, who became president of the Society the following year (1991d: 8–11). The freedom to import and distribute religious literature—so central to Witness ministry—was also cause for celebration.23 The disintegration of the U.S.S.R. on December 25, 1991, and the creation of the Russian Federation as its successor state, led to very visible demonstrations of the presence of Witness communities formerly operating clandestinely. Most notably, from June 26 to 28, 1992, an international convention was held in the (recently renamed) city of St. Petersburg, the first ever on the territory of the former Soviet Union. A total of twenty-nine thousand Witnesses from the newly independent post-Soviet states attended. They were joined by seventeen thousand foreign delegates, ten thousand of them from Finland. A triumphant

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THE END-TIME AND THE POST-COLD WAR WORLD ORDER In 1999, the Watch Tower Society released the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! at the annual District Conventions around the world. The book discusses both the narrative and prophetic aspects of the Book of Daniel and can be seen as a reaffirmation of the relevance 24 WTBTS (1992: 23–28). It should be noted that observations about the harmoniousness of these large annual conventions are not limited to the Society’s own reports. Outside observers of these conventions invariably comment on the smoothness of the events, despite the challenges posed by their scale (which, in the case of the first Russian convention, included having to build temporary lavatories in the dilapidated stadium in the weeks prior to the event).

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report on the convention appeared in Awake! It presented a familiar account of the extensive logistical coordination, the stories of delegates traveling from far and wide, and the praise for the exemplary behavior at, and smooth organization of, the convention by non-Witness officials involved, such as the police and local authorities.24 In many senses, the account of the convention reflects the normalization of the experiences of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia; it was now another country in which the Witnesses could freely minister, albeit faced by challenges that have accompanied their ministry elsewhere in the world. As discussed below, these accounts would change again in the late 1990s, as a result of a vigorous campaign against nontraditional religious groups that eventually led the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be banned in Moscow (see Knox 2008: 298–302). It is striking that the articles published by the Watch Tower Society on the end of the Cold War and the demise of Soviet Communism in the immediate aftermath of these developments were almost entirely narrative and largely devoid of references to scripture. Typically, the geopolitical changes in the international order were surveyed. The role of world leaders loomed large in these assessments (1991f: 3–4). It is as though the theological implications of these dramatic secular developments were yet to be digested; as though the Society’s position was yet to be formulated. Of course, we cannot know this, for the deliberations of the Governing Body are almost entirely unknown to those outside it. In any case, there is very little discussion of the two kings in the Society’s literature from around 1992 until 1999, in stark contrast to the previous four decades, when the Book of Daniel was central to discussions of world events, international relations, and global geopolitics.

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With the disbanding of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the king of the north suffered a serious setback. Who will be this king when Daniel 11:44, 45 is fulfilled? Will he be identified with one of the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union? Or will he change identity completely, as he has done a number of times before? Will the development of nuclear weapons by additional nations result in a new arms race and have a bearing on the identity of that king? Only time will provide answers to these questions. We are wise not to speculate. When the king of the north embarks on his final campaign, the fulfillment of prophecy will be clearly discerned by all who have Bible-based insight. (1999: 280–281)

The chapter closes with the reminder that the kings will not destroy one another, but will be destroyed by Jehovah’s intervention. There were a number of threats to world order and world peace which could bring about this destruction, one of which is mentioned in the extract above: nuclear weapons. The threat of nuclear war has remained a key theme in the Society’s literature in the twenty-first century (2004a: 3–4). The threat to nonWitnesses has not changed, despite radical shifts in the world order. The message is that secular conditions are ephemeral, whereas scripture remains constant. The threat of terrorism, the amassing of nuclear warheads by members of the “nuclear club,” and its expansion to include India and Pakistan all offer evidence of the continuing fear arising from the precipice upon which humankind teeters. The triggering of nuclear war by accident was added to the list of terrifying possibilities arising from the expansion of the global nuclear arsenal (2004b: 5–6). The continued emphasis upon the threat of nuclear annihilation reveals a reluctance to abandon the rhetoric of the Cold War years. In the mid-1990s, the snippets of news presented in “Watching the World” quoted academic experts and reproduced extracts from reports noting that although the Cold War had ended, military expenditure had

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of the scripture to the chronology of the end-times. Chapter 16, entitled “The Contending Kings Near Their End,” reiterated that Daniel provides evidence that Armageddon is imminent: “The rivalry between the king of the north and the king of the south—whether by military, economic, or other means—is nearing its end.” It also presented a scheme of kings (see Appendix) throughout biblical history and explained that while the identity of the king of the south remains the Anglo-American World Power, the identity of the king of the north is as yet unknown:

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25 These are neatly summarized in an article surveying the continuation of high military spending by national governments, the international arms trade, the build up of nuclear warheads, ethnic rivalries, and violence and ‘sense of foreboding’ about the future despite the end of the Cold War: WTBTS (1996a: 7). See also WTBTS (1995a: 28–29 and 1996b: 29). 26 Festinger et al. observed in Why Prophecy Fails (1956) that disconfirmation does not necessarily lead to the abandonment of faith but can, in fact, strengthen it, and ever since sociologists (and anthropologists) have sought to test this thesis against the experience of various millennial movements. There is a large sociological literature on prophetic disconfirmation and the Watch Tower Society is a favored subject. See, for example, Schmalz (1994: 293–308), Singelenberg (1989: 23–40), Snow and Machalek (1983: 25–44), and Stone (2000: 1–30).

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not lessened to a significant degree and there was no greater level of funding for humanitarian programs.25 The implication was that governments worldwide were still concerned with military might rather than peace and prosperity for their citizens, continuing the prophecy in the Book of Daniel. Alongside the persistent theme of the greed and corruption of worldly governments, many articles warned of the importance of identifying and avoiding danger (usually secular influences distracting from Jehovah’s work) and of staying focused on spreading the news of the imminence of Armageddon (see, for example, 1994: 22–25 and 1997: 25–29). Although articles and booklets warned readers to be ever alert to the signs that the end is near, references to the Cold War conflict entirely disappeared from the Society’s literature. The examination of the high profile of the Cold War in the Watch Tower Society’s publications from 1946 to 1991 allows us insights into how one millennial organization incorporated shifting political circumstances into existing prophetic expectations. The reframing of the conflict as part of an age-old battle between the two kings, rather than as its climax, would seem to affirm Joseph Zygmunt’s argument that the organization survives recurring prophetic failure because its predictions of the end-times are open to chronological, but not substantial, disconfirmation (1970: 944).26 George Chryssides has challenged the notion that Watch Tower teachings are prophetic in the traditional sense on the basis that for the Society “the principal role of prophecy is not to predict the future, but to interpret the past” (2010: 44). The delay in the arrival of Armageddon resulted in a reaffirmation of scripture through the examination of the emergent post-Cold War world order. The explanation of the ongoing conflict between the two kings in Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! supports Chryssides’ argument: the interpretation of the conflict was recast to explain the unfolding of Jehovah’s divine plan, not to substantively alter the Witnesses’ understanding of the apocalypse, of the earthly and heavenly kingdoms that would be created in its wake, or of political conflict, worldly authority,

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or the secular state. How, then, were the sole remaining superpower— the United States—and the successor to the Soviet Union—the Russian Federation—depicted in the literature of the Watch Tower Society?


27 At the time of writing, the campaign is ongoing and it seems likely that the ultimate aim is to close down the Russian Branch Office of the Society. The campaign has been met with equally vigorous legal challenges by the Society that have reached the European Court of Human Rights. 28 There is a heavy emphasis in Bible study on learning scripture verbatim, so individual verses may be quoted in full or located swiftly to support a point. An American working with a Witness

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The dramatic change in the international order necessitated an entirely new interpretation of the former Cold War adversaries. There were three major themes in the Witness literature on Russia in the first decade of the twenty-first century. First, there were frequent references to the hardships endured by Witnesses in the Communist period, in particular cases of deportation, internal exile, and incarceration. The stories of Soviet Witnesses (especially in the republics of Moldova, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) were told in the video production Faithful Under Trials: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Soviet Union (2001a) and in an extended study in the 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2008), which marked the first time a yearbook had focused on one country since 1975, and featured part three of a series on Witnesses in the United States. Second, the literature emphasized that persecution was not relegated to the Communist past. Each year since 1996, the country report on Russia in the Yearbook has included information about challenges to the Witnesses’ legal status as well as accounts of extra-legal persecution. In Russia, campaigners for more restrictive religious legislation frequently cited Jehovah’s Witnesses as one of the harmful foreign cults that should be banned. In 2001, this was reported by the Society with concern for the implications for ministry (2001b: 13–15). At the other end of the decade, in early 2009, Russian authorities began a vigorous campaign against the Society which led to raids on Kingdom Halls, attempts to ban its literature under extremism laws, and protracted legal trials. The renewed persecution was widely publicized by the Society in its efforts to hold the government accountable to the guarantees of freedom of conscience enshrined in the Constitution and religious laws.27 Third, the Society’s literature noted both the challenges and opportunities offered by this newly opened mission field; the opportunities were great, given the high level of literacy, because studying the Bible —and, importantly, memorizing scripture28—was made easier. The

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family in Russia reported how impressed he was with their knowledge of the Bible (1995b: 23–27). The report focused as much on their ability to memorize the passages as it did on their understanding of the messages of scripture. 29 In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Witnesses in the village of Stratton, Ohio, to conduct house-to-house ministry without a permit from the mayor. The Witnesses objected to this administrative procedure because their authority derives from scripture, not from civil authorities. The village’s ordinance was ruled a violation of the First Amendment. This marked the Witnesses’ 48th Supreme Court victory (WTBTS 2002a).

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challenges were little different from those faced in many other countries around the world, including some with a much longer history of democratic governance. Many of the articles on Russia raised similar issues to those in other countries, such as efforts to introduce bloodless surgery to mainstream medical practice and the campaigns of Christian churches to keep people ignorant of biblical truth. There are far fewer articles in Witness periodicals dedicated solely to the United States because as a country it is frequently discussed in the literature—after all, this is where the movement originated and where the Gilead mission school and world headquarters are located. There are a number of specific contexts in which the cases of Witnesses in the United States are raised, such as ongoing legal battles. While these are not as headline-grabbing as the Supreme Court ruling in the case Minersville School District v. Gobitis in 1940, which upheld the expulsion of Witness children from a public school in Pennsylvania for refusing to salute the flag (Peters 2000: 71), the Society nonetheless continues to set legal precedents.29 These victories are recognized by scholars as historic legal rulings which expand understandings of individual rights and religious liberties in the United States and around the world, but in Witness literature their importance is relayed in terms of their ongoing battle against the forces of Satan which seek to suppress Jehovah’s good work. There was one particular event in the first year of the twenty-first century that dominated discussions of the United States—the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. This emerged as a recurring theme in the literature in 2002, although reference to the attacks much diminished in the following years. According to the Society, “at least 14 Witnesses” perished. The victims, some of them profiled in the pages of Awake! and Watchtower, “suffer[ed] the effects of ‘time and unforeseen occurrence’ (Ecclesiastes 9:11)” (WTBTS 2002b: 10–12). The world headquarters of the Watch Tower Society, near Brooklyn Bridge, was depicted as a beacon of hope, providing relief to Witnesses caught in the chaos. The response from the Witness community to the tragedy was swift; in

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CONCLUSION The Society presented the postwar divide between Communist East and Capitalist West as evidence that Armageddon was approaching, the final confrontation between good and evil which would follow the visible return of Christ as King and lead to the salvation of those living in the Truth. Neither the United States nor the U.S.S.R. would prevail since Jehovah, not an earthly government, would determine the future of humankind. An article in Watchtower assured readers: “In God’s due time he will make an end to Communism and all other ideologies that

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the days following the attacks, nine hundred thousand Witnesses in the United States conducted house-to-house ministry to offer comfort to those grieving or in shock (WTBTS 2002c: 13–22). At the same time, they “endeavored to point to the only true hope for distressed humanity” (2002b: 10–12) by distributing their literature, most notably two issues of Awake! published earlier in 2001 addressing the themes “The New Look of Terrorism” and “Coping With Post-traumatic Stress.” Interestingly, in the Society’s articles on the terrorist attacks, there is never any specific mention of the threat from fundamentalist Islam. The event has not been woven into the Watch Tower Society’s interpretations of the end-times, as one might expect of such an iconic scene of destruction and death. Almost all of the articles relating to Islam are explanations of its central creeds to educate readers. This might be a result of the Society’s view that the mainstream Christian churches are as divisive and misguided as Islam, if not more so for their pretense at directing people to true Christianity. This marks the Watch Tower Society apart from conservative evangelical groups. Being “no part of the world” prevents the Witnesses from engaging with the political aspects of the populist polarization of Christian and Muslim in the post-9/11 world. There are insights into how the Society understands secular history to be gained from examining the changing interpretations of the world order after 1991. There is, however, very little on the relations between the United States and Russia in the Society’s literature after 1992. With the hiatus in the rivalry between the two kings, terrorism was interpreted as part of the widespread fear that characterizes the last days, not as a scourge that should be understood in ideological or political terms. It has not been replaced with a new counter-position of Christianity versus Islam, as it has been for other evangelical groups. In short, the Cold War conflict has entirely receded in this discussion, which has moved on to identify other world powers and rivals.

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fail to take cognizance of the rule of his anointed Son, Christ Jesus” (1953: 707–708). Despite this neutrality toward political ideology, the Society frequently referred to the political conflict in its literature. There was a fundamental paradox here: the Witnesses eschewed political involvement yet referenced political ideologies, movements, and events to offer support for a literal interpretation of scripture. This made the Society as an organization and its membership open to persecution on ideological pretexts across the twentieth century—from the incarceration of its leadership in the United States in 1918 to mass deportation in Stalin’s U.S.S.R.—and into the twenty-first century, as demonstrated by anti-Witness campaigns in post-Soviet Russia. The demise of Soviet power was welcomed as an opportunity to establish a legal and administrative presence across the territory of the former Communist bloc, but this was secondary to its theological implications. For the Watch Tower Society, the end of the Cold War was not to be celebrated for the triumph of democracy and capitalism over Soviet Communism. Although this was the way the event was received by conservative evangelical Christian groups, the Society’s theology led to an entirely different approach. In short, the dichotomy between good and evil cut across different lines. While evangelical Christians understood the divide to be between democratic, Christian America and the godless, Communist Soviet state, the Witnesses interpreted it as between earthly government and Jehovah’s rule. The end of the Cold War was offered as evidence that changes in the secular realm would not usher in world peace, because the Book of Daniel had indicated that neither king would triumph or bring peace to all nations but that their struggle would only end with the intervention of Jehovah and the coming of theocratic rule. Theological explanations of global geopolitics ceased entirely for a time, as the king of the south needed a new aggressor. Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, the new enemy other for conservative and evangelical Christian movements has become fundamentalist Islam, this time popularly understood as an explicitly (rather than implicitly) religious threat to freedom and democracy. The enemy is no longer an atheist evil empire but a more nebulous entity which similarly has at its core an anti-Christian agenda. The Watch Tower Society, however, has not presented the post-Cold War international order in this way. It is the Christian churches, in alliance with earthly governments, which pose the greatest obstacle to spreading Jehovah’s word. There is therefore a fundamental difference between what mainstream evangelical Christian churches and the Watch Tower Society see as the major sources of instability in the twenty-first century.

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Daniel 11:5 Daniel 11:6 Daniel 11:7–9

The King of the North

The King of the South

Seleucus I Nicator Antiochus II (wife Laodice) Seleucus II

Ptolemy I Ptolemy II (daughter Berenice) Ptolemy III

30 The lengthy historical periods without any designated kings is explained by the Society elsewhere: “It is not to be expected that the angel [who explains the rivalry to Daniel] would cover every individual ruler from Ptolemy down to ‘the final part of the days.’ Rather, we understand that after verse 19 the prophecy jumps to the years immediately preceding our Common Era . . .” (WTBTS 1987: 10–15).

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Far from remaining aloof from the political issues of the day, the Watch Tower Society explicitly engaged with the political debates and secular issues of the Cold War era. It even published articles considering which side was winning the Cold War, such as one weighing up the evidence for and against the claim that the Soviet Union was gaining power over the United States by calculating the nuclear arsenal and naval power and advances in industrial and agricultural sectors of each country (1971: 5). The rhetoric used by the Society to describe the Cold War was at once familiar and foreign: the conviction that the confrontation between the superpower states would destroy the existing world order and that the U.S.S.R. was a force of evil was widely held by evangelical Christians in the United States, although the conviction that there was no right or wrong of the two superpowers and that the U.S.S.R. was no better or worse than the United States was unique to the Witnesses, borne of their conviction that only Jehovah’s government, not either king, could rule the earth in peace. The failure of the tensions between the “Communist bloc” and the “Anglo-American World Power” to reach a physical assault and to be interrupted by Jehovah has been absorbed into its teachings on the end-times. Scholars of religion will find in this interpretation of the Cold War and post-Cold War worlds a significant departure from the theology of other American religious movements preoccupied with biblical chronology and a persistent rejection of explanations of the secular world which call on anything other than scripture.

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Daniel 11:10–12 Daniel 11:13–19

Daniel 11:27–30a

Daniel 11:30b, 31 Daniel 11:32–43 Daniel 11:44, 45

Hitler’s Third Reich (World War II) Communist bloc (Cold War) Yet to rise

Ptolemy IV Ptolemy V; Successor: Ptolemy VI

Queen Zenobia Britain, followed by the Anglo-American World Power Anglo-American World Power Anglo-American World Power Anglo-American World Power

Source: WTBTS (1999: 284).


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Daniel 11:20 Daniel 11:21–24 Daniel 11:25, 26

Antiochus III Antiochus III (daughter Cleopatra I); Successors: Seleucus IV and Antiochus IV Augustus Tiberius Aurelian; the Roman Empire breaks down German Empire (World War I)

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