Watchtower’s Effect on Eisenhower
Watchtower is not a pacifist organization, rather its members are conscientious objectors. What that means is that they are opposed to wars initiated and carried out by humans. According to Eisenhower, his mother was opposed to military warfare because of her religious beliefs.
Jehovah’s Witnesses eschew all political involvement because they believe that the “soon to be established kingdom on earth” is the only solution to all of earth’s problems. All the Eisenhower boys disagreed with Watchtower view in this area. Of course, Watchtower members are not allowed to get involved in politics. Since the 1940’s, even voting is considered a disfellowshipping offense.
When Dwight Eisenhower graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1915, his mother presented to him the American Standard version of the bible used by the Watchtower because it consistently used the term “Jehovah” for God. When Ike was sworn in as president for his second term, this bible was used. The press reports of this account, however, usually did not quote the words the president actually read, which were “Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah,” but instead substituted the word “Jehovah” with the word “Lord.” The Watchtower concluded that this misquote was an attempt to distance President Eisenhower from his parents’ faith by not using a term that was at that time intimately connected with the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect.
The Eisenhower’s embarrassment of their mother’s religion is probably most apparent from this Awake! article regarding her burial:
On September 11, 1946, Mrs. Ida Stover Eisenhower died in Abilene, Kans. Private services were conducted at the home, and public services were handled by an army chaplain from Ft. Riley. Was that in respect for Mrs. Eisenhower? Pallbearers were three American Legionnaires and three Veterans of Foreign Wars. Was that appropriate? … In 1942 her husband, also one of Jehovah’s witnesses, died. One of Jehovah’s witnesses preached the funeral service. Mrs. I.S. Eisenhower, like all Jehovah’s Witnesses, believed religion a racket and the clergy in general, including army chaplains, to be hypocrites. She harbored no special pride for “General Ike;” she was opposed to his West Point appointment. It was gross disrespect to the deceased for an army chaplain to officiate at the funeral.
As for the pallbearers. The American Legion particularly, and also the Veterans of Foreign Wars, are repeatedly ringleaders in mob violence against Jehovah’s witnesses. Hundreds of instances could be cited, but illustrative is the one occurring the Sunday before Mrs. Eisenhower’s death, in nearby Iowa. There war veterans broke up a public Bible meeting of Jehovah’s witnesses, doing much physical violence. Hardly appropriate, then, was it, for such to act as pallbearers? Only death could keep the body of Mrs. Eisenhower from walking away from a funeral so disrespectful of all that she stood for.
Unfortunately, this article did not discuss how the Watchtower’s teachings and policy on military service, education, and involvement in “false religion” contributed to the conflicts noted in the article. President Eisenhower’s religious orientation was described as “moderate and tolerant, simple and firm,” quite in contrast to the confrontational, pugnacious Watchtower sect of the first half of this century. Other reasons for the press’ and the Eisenhower boys’ lack of honesty about their Watchtower background include the Watchtower’s opposition to the flag salute and all patriotic activities.
In violation of Watchtower policy, the Eisenhower boys were “encouraged to reach their own conclusions” regarding religion, and this may have influenced their subsequent decisions to join “more conventional Protestant denominations.” By setting high standards and teaching the value of high moral principles, the parents had given their sons a ‘quiet strength.
Dwight Eisenhower and his brothers, as is true of about half of those raised in the Watchtower sect, left when they became adults. Yet they no doubt were influenced by the Watchtower belief structure, values, and many of its ideals. As is true of many persons raised as Witnesses, however, they could not accept many of the Watchtower’s major theological teachings. One of the primary Watchtower beliefs, common to all fundamentalist, and Protestant faiths, and one that the Eisenhower boys evidently still accepted later in life, was the value and “truth” of the bible.
Eisenhower constantly asked for “God’s guidance in making the right decision,” and during the eight years he was president he “never opened a cabinet meeting without a minute of silent prayer. How sincere Eisenhower was in his belief in God is impossible to judge. He was baptized in the Presbyterian Church in 1953.