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Missed Them

Yesterday morning I was woken up by a tap tap tapping at my chamber door. Well the door of the house that I am now living in. At first in my sleepy groggy state I didn’t understand what the noise was, I thought it was the little goblin who hasn’t figured out door knobs yet. As I stumbled out into the hallway I looked out the window to see a nicely dressed young woman and man walking away from the house toward a small car with two other people sitting in the backseat. The man was wearing a blue button down shirt and black tie, the woman a dress. I knew I had missed them: the JWs.

Several years ago, I had a conversation with them that was interrupted by my older daughter. They were pitching some kind of environmental angle which I was keen on hearing because it was new, still they went a little overboard with their religious references. Then I was interrupted by my curious child who wanted to know who the people at the door were. I didn’t really have the chance to get into it, that was what I wanted. I wasn’t looking for a fight but a serious conversation with a group that I know from research into their curious views on medicine and their penchant for forcing adherents to go door to door to spread the word.

What’s extremely curious about their visit this time around was that it took place at 7:30am. Who is going to be ready to talk to them this early? Admittedly the kids have been doing a great job sleeping until nine (or at least not making a lot of noise until nine), and my sleep schedule revolves around that. So I could have been up. That’s my house. Everyone else would have been getting ready for work. Even if they wanted to those people would not have had the time to talk. I just moved to this location so I’m not sure what the demographics are on my road but they could literally only have been patrolling for elderly people. This is a strange tactic since it’s very doubtful someone at that stage of their life is going to convert.

They sped off and I thought of all the questions I was going to ask them. “Still a no on those blood transfusions?” “Are you guys young earthers?” “Do you get paid or is this volunteer work?” “It it’s volunteer work, what happens if you don’t volunteer?” “Can you leave the religion and still maintain contact with your families?”

I get that they have to do it. It’s part of their religion that they appeal to the masses to join. The atheist in me wants to scream about how stupid this is, but the philosopher in me understands that if you truly believe you have the truth that will save a person from eternal damnation then you have an ethical obligation to spread that word around. I’m not rude about it, I never am until the other person gets pushy. Typically they aren’t there by choice. I mean, sure it’s a choice they can not do it but the price that they pay for it is losing contact with everyone that they ever knew as well as overcoming the psychological guilt associated with abandoning what they’ve been told is their duty to god. As a former Catholic, I’ve been forced into “volunteer” work as well, but never was I forced to annoy, bother, or inconvenience people. All they made me do was work a charity dinner and then I had to teach a religion class to a bunch of kids that didn’t want to be there. I guess I annoyed them, but if it wasn’t me it would have been someone else.

Instead of feeling annoyed I have a different feeling. I feel empathy, if they don’t leave they are going to be walking the pioneering path for their entire lives. If they are men they may be able to get into the hierarchy but I’ve read reports of people who say that the entire religion is full of nepotism so, if true, it’s unlikely. If they leave they are ill prepared for the outside world. The watchtower dissuades higher learning, recommending that the JW children are never educated beyond “the public school limit” which I guess means they don’t go to highschool. Essentially these people are prisoners.

What’s truly insidious though is the exercise of control over the kids themselves. They are offered no protection from abuse and are essentially hidden from the outside world. The shunning can occur for even the small crime of having friends that are not JW. Perhaps then, this door to door work is a relief. They at least get to go outside (any kind of competitive sport is banned by the religion). Essentially, the kids are stripped of their identity of being kids.

Missionaries are annoying, that’s to be sure. Every time I go to a hockey game there’s always some fool shouting bible quotes at the crowd even though that violates Jesus’ ban on standing on street corners (Matthew 6:5). I’ve been approached many times while sitting outside at cafes, one time while reading “God is not Great” so that was fun. I’ve been handed leaflets and most of the time it’s just a minor inconvenience. I’ve heard of aggressive street preachers but only second hand and unlike them, I understand that they are a minority.

I might have been an interesting conversation, admittedly I was probably too tired to have it. Yet they did leave me a present: a leaflet advertising a gathering in the city that I just moved out of. On Saturday they were going to be discussing the book of Job. I wonder if they would conclude with the end of the book, where the moral seems to be: don’t trust Jehova.

 

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