Two pleasantly plump Jehovah’s Witness women have just departed, their undelivered invitation to the upcoming District Convention in hand.
They were still huffing and puffing a bit from the exertion required to climb the driveway when they rang the bell. For a moment, I was tempted to pretend not to be home. Sigh. Nah. I instructed Ben to go play elsewhere in the house so that I could talk to them.
Follow the Christ. Sigh. I let them go through their opening remarks, and observed them closely. They were black women, a little bit younger than me – in their thirties, I’d guess. They both wore clingy dresses of artificial fabric – uncomfortable clothing for a muggy day like this. One wore glasses. They had kind, somewhat keen, expressions, and by their manner of speaking I would guess that they both had some amount of higher education – a bit unusual.
I found myself feeling sorry for them, and so my self-presentation was, I think, somewhat muted – even sad.
I told them that I was aware of the convention, although I hadn’t known where the local one was being held. I’d even blogged on the topic. That surprised them, and one exclaimed, “You blogged on it?!? Were you ever a baptized Jehovah’s Witness?” Interesting question – I wonder if they ask that now to establish whether they might be talking to an apostate. But no, I was never baptized. I told them that my father had been an elder and I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness.
I asked them in what way they thought they were following the Christ. They looked at the invitation for clues, but it was really very general. “Well, we go out in service, like he told us to, and we oppose Satan.”
Wow. I’ve never heard the “opposing Satan” thing before. Yikes. When you consider that JWs believe that this entire “system of things” is ruled by Satan (including schools, police, government…) that’s a pretty wide-open sort of statement. They used to confine Satan remarks to insiders.
Hmmm. Where to begin.. “But there are a lot of things that Jesus instructed people to do that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t do, and a lot of teachings he gave that JWs don’t really follow, right? Forgiveness, compassion, caring for the poor, sharing bread and wine together….” My words kind of faded off. There was so much to say, but…
They looked utterly dismayed, even stupefied. I don’t think they were ready for that kind of response.
Before they decided to start quoting, I tried once more. “If you’re Christian, and you have love and spirit amongst yourselves, wouldn’t it better to follow the Christ than to follow the governing body and the Watchtower? Look at how many times they have been wrong, how many times they have changed their guidance to you.”
Oh, they had a response to that, all right. “We are all imperfect, but the light gets stronger and they have more understanding…” They started to smile again, almost like mirror reflections of one another. There is reflective strength in the buddy-system.
“Why would you be salespeople for a very wealthy, very worldly corporation in New York, especially when – as you say – they are only imperfect men? Why would you hand your lives over to this group of men, just because they claim to be God’s channel? Don’t JWs always criticize other religions for putting priests and bishops and holy men between the congregation and God? Why would you need another mediator than the Christ? I think there are many good Jehovah’s Witnesses. I just believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are being misled.”
Their smiles had frozen at the first sentence. Now they were expressionless. Totally blank.
“I’m sorry. I know you do what you think you are supposed to do, but I think that you are being misled. I truly believe that you are Watchtowerites, not Christians.”
I looked at them miserably, hands open. Then I handed back the invitation, and they turned, without a word, and – slowly – stiffly – started walking back down the driveway. They went directly to their vehicle, got in, and drove off.
Yea, sisters, time for a coffee break.
They will label me, they may even put that “X” over my house on the territory map at last. There wasn’t really very much in what I said to vilify me, but in another way, I said the worst possible thing: I spoke against God’s supposed channel on earth. And it may have scared them, because they are trained over and over to think that anyone who could do that is demonic, controlled, a slave of Satan.
I wonder if either one, maybe years from now, will ever read the scriptures and start thinking about the wider message that Jesus tried to deliver. They looked like strong women. What if they somehow found themselves able and willing to intervene when they saw cruelty – what if they were able to say “this is not a loving thing that we are doing.” Maybe they could allow themselves other kinds of service to others than simply preaching the end of the world. Maybe they could spread kindness. You never know.
Language is a virus. Maybe one small idea may turn out to have been contagious, mutating, incubating, ready to re-emerge later in changed form. Someday. Maybe.
“We had as our goal to capture, brain wash and establish thousands of Kingdom Publishers, making them all think alike, like robots. When in 1938 the Theocracy was decreed, all these fell down in abject submission before this newly erected ‘Image of the Beast’ of the Watchtower religion of ‘buying and selling’ (Rev. 13). All the companies of Jehovah’s Witnesses at that time voted in a resolution declaring that henceforth and always that would accept all instructions and appointments handed down by the Watchtower Society. All shreds of congregational independence was thus given up, together with every semblence of a personal Christian religion. A new world organization based on the concept of robot-like obedience and performance had now been realized and would now expand to become a New World Society. It is described by Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s Organization or Kingdom. It is in actuality nothing more than a dictatorship of the Faithful and Wise Servant Class in Brooklyn” – William J. Schnell, Thirty Years A Watchtower Slave, p.130.