JWs at My Door

JWs at My Door

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.

15 thoughts on “JWs at My Door

  1. P.S. Could they have gone home and Googled? This is from an Atlanta BellSouth client, and it’s not me.
    Came From:
    Georgia, Atlanta, United States, 0 returning visits
    12th June 2007 12:54:37

    http://www.google.com/hws/search?q=former Jehovah Witnesses&client=dell-usuk
    12th June 2007 12:55:28
    12th June 2007 12:55:54
    12th June 2007 12:59:29

    And sent an email, from which someone with a Google mail account clicked?

    Came From:
    12 Jun 12:21:36

    Maybe they needed “guidance.”

  2. Wow. In the entire time I’ve been separated from the JW’s, I’ve had a group of three brothers come to call on me. I’d just gotten out of the shower and when they asked for me and I recognized them, I said “She doesn’t live here anymore” and closed the door. They had no clue who I was and yet they were looking for me in a group of three… you can figure that out I’m sure.

    Now, I live next door to some JW’s and they don’t even speak to us. They don’t speak to anyone on our entire street. And I work with one of them! She was not a happy girl when she discovered we were moving in next door to them. The stories I could tell…oy.

  3. Heidi–
    I used to be ‘plagued’ by JWs. They ply my neighborhood on a weekly basis.

    One day, with nothing better to do, I answered the door and said, “Man, am I glad to see you guys. Come on in and let me get my Bible.”

    After about 45 minutes of my preaching, they hurriedly excused themselves and left. They have to have some way of marking your house; as this was a couple of years ago, and though they still regularly canvas the neighborhood, they never stop to talk to me. Not even when I’m outside in the yard. I tell them, ‘hello’, and they just keep on a-walkin’.

  4. “Language is a Virus,” but sometimes innoculation can give you really strong anti-bodies. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear…

  5. Traci – They probably Xed you on the map as a apostate/disfellowshipped/evil slave/whatever. I’ll bet you DO have stories (hugs and chuckles).

    Brother Tim – I don’t know for a fact they they still do it this way, but what they used to do was hand out laminated “territory maps.” When they felt that the person at the door was someone to be avoided – an apostate, someone who would hit them over the head with a rolling pin (like happened once to my mom) or set their dogs on them, an official voice of the whore of Babylon the Great (“false religion” or evil interfaith movements) – they would mark an “X” on the map to warn other Witnesses.

    I suspect that these addresses were reported back to New York, but I couldn’t say for sure. The “X” was used very sparingly, because they had to weigh the need to preach (their interpretation of) the word to all corners of the earth against satanic contagion or actual danger. General “persecution” such as a simple refusal wouldn’t even register.

    You’re the most dangerous kind – the silver-tongued serpent (so to speak). Grins.

    Gerald – Oh, they are innoculated, all right. But it works both ways.

  6. Good story. I’ll try to remember it if I am ever confronted again. It has been a long time now. I’m sure I handled them much less gracefully.

  7. As an ex-Christian I understand the whole brainwashing aspect of these groups. I don’t understand how highly educated people, like the ones you encountered, can fall into their trap.

  8. Heidi, if anyone can show them the “light” it is you! I hope they went home googled you and read and learn! I remember once I said to my father that the Catholic Church was like a cult – you are raised to believe something and brainwashed till you accept it. That was the ONLY time in my life my father ever raised his hand to me! Did not hit me, but instinct took over! I then proceeded to listen to a 45 minute lecture! LOL We had JW’s come a few times to the neighborhood, the first time right after we moved in, my neighbor kept them in his house over an hour, and it was hysterical to watch the JW’s trying to get away, they kept taking steps out the door, he kept talking! They came to my house and I used a trick my friend had told me “let me just put out the candles near the pentagram” and they bolted! lol

  9. I detest the “light got brighter” response. It’s such a cop out. Why couldn’t the same be said for other churches who’ve changed their policies? The longer I’m out and away from the JWs, the more I realize how brainwashed those poor people are. What’s scary is that it’s sort of a walking around in the daylight kind of cult. They function in the world, but certainly aren’t able to see what’s around them!

    I had a woman offer me an invitation to the convention here. I normally just smile and say thanks or no thanks. I don’t think I’m at the point of trying to deprogram someone yet.

    I’d like to be.

  10. I have little to no confidence in “deprogramming.” Sometimes “deprogrammers” a cure that’s worse than the disease (to employ an already-overused metaphor). It may be a good first step if an intervention seems necessary, but then the person is spiritually battered, and becomes a slave to the new ideology. It’s just a replacement authority, doing nothing to break the foundation of the bad habits of thinking and being, doing nothing – really – to heal or empower.

    Anyway, the idea of brainwashing (although not inaccurate) doesn’t really capture the total control of members by the Watchtower, even over their families and friends. It’s not just a matter of beliefs and ideas.

    I also find that people have associations with the word “brainwashing” itself that work to make it less than precise for describing the set of 360-degree control mechanisms that operate and reinforce one another for JWs.

    No-one changes direction except from their own mind, heart, and spirit. It has to come from within. I believe in individual freedom – the human aspiration to free will, so long as it harm none.

    I have always liked the image of “planting a seed” – give someone a little thing to remember on some other occasion. Let them decide what to do with the information – even if “nothing” is the answer. If I can give someone even a memory, a bit of information, a different perspective, even just a phrase – that’s enough for me. That’s a gift, rather than an assault. That’s what I want to do.

    Ultimately, I’m a teacher, not a preacher. Sometimes I get tied up in wanting to be right or to win an argument (we all have scar tissue). I could have handled that interaction better, but you can only do what is possible at the time. It is still difficult for me, sometimes, to see them at the door. I just do the best I can.

  11. >>>Anyway, the idea of brainwashing (although not inaccurate) doesn’t really capture the total control of members by the Watchtower, even over their families and friends. It’s not just a matter of beliefs and ideas.

    I also find that people have associations with the word “brainwashing” itself that work to make it less than precise for describing the set of 360-degree control mechanisms that operate and reinforce one another for JWs.

  12. I would like to say that when I submitted that last comment, there was MORE TO IT! I have no idea what internet abyss it flew off into but I swear it was there when I hit submit.

    I was hoping you could elaborate a bit on the 360-degree control mechanisms because I have such a tough time elaborating in an understandable manner when I try to talk about this *programming* issue. Now I feel like a total dork because I couldn’t even submit the comment correctly! hehe

  13. I expanded on this a bit more in the other post you were commenting on. Take a look at the “homework” essays. I defer to the expertise of social analysts of different kinds on the mechanisms of totalitarian groups like the JWs, but if you read almost any analysis of authoritarian or totalitarian groups you will see elements that you recognize – demonization of outsiders, control by fear, shunning, social surveillance and reporting, even the changing internal language…

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