Meme article; or, not lost yet, thanks much…

Yeah, I know, promised it a week ago – the Friday of the boycott, to be exact. Which I’m sort of peeved RL got real busy just then because that was going to be my fine careless nose-thumbing at the mob. Naturally, it became instead an even more pointless gesture in defiance of a pointless gesture. My only consolation is I probably could never have deliberately come up with irony that perfect.

So. Return with me now, to the mists of…oh, about a week ago…and the following meme post:

Everyone has things they blog about. Everyone has things they don’t blog about. Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don’t blog about, but you’d like to hear about, and I’ll write a post about it. Ask for anything: latest movie watched, last book read, political leanings, etc. Repost in your own journal if you are so inclined.

I must say, I was really excited about the response to this, inasmuch as I got one. Maybe now that I’m an *ahem* published author and everything (and no, the novelty isn’t liable to wear off any time soon) I’ll start attracting more curiosity. So long as it’s not in the form of lawsuits…

Anyhow, response. I admit it’s the one I was kind of expecting when I posted the meme:

The trials of going door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness!

Ye-eah.

Attentive readers will notice I don’t get into a lot of detail re: my faith here. For starters, theological discussion/debate isn’t what I come online for in the first place. More importantly, in the interests of keeping misinformation from spreading – any further than it already has, at any rate – and personal opinion going much further afield than the Bible from which we base our beliefs, the consensus among Witnesses is that the cyber-curious be directed to the official Watchtower Society website, as per my sidebar link. In re: my personal interest, I have found a faith that both strengthens and satisfies my intellectual curiosity and spiritual need, and there the matter will rest.That said, though, I long ago decided that in a world where people can with all seriousness worship Elvis and Google, my best defense against idiocies like ‘You let your children die!’ and ‘You think it’s OK to lie to unbelievers!’ is to simply go about my business…You know, as a rational member of society who happens to belong to a faith that’s inspired comedy fodder for decades now. (Just for the record: most Witnesses think the jokes – at least, the good-humoured ones – are hilarious, too. Our rationale in going door-to-door in the first place is to spread awareness, after all; so fire away, performers with audiences of millions!)

I would like to think that my very presence on this blog helps to explode the myth that Jehovah’s Witnesses – not, nota bene, ‘JWs’ or ‘Jehovahs’ – all march in lockstep with ‘Orwell Was Right’ stamped on their foreheads. Certainly my congregation provides endless examples of just how individualistic we can be, and that’s only eighty-odd people out of seven million. I have friends who are Poli Sci professors and musicians and engineers and computer geniuses and poets and physicists and bank executives and devotees of The Office…and they all put up with me, which tells you all you need to know right there.

We drink (but not smoke), we dance, we power-shop, we go to parties and movies (but not bars), we read People…some of us read a whole lot more than that. We don’t actually swear, unless we happen to have blogs, heh heh heh whoops. (As I explain it to myself, language is fluid, there was a time when ‘darnit!’ was an ugly word, too. Besides, ‘heck’ et al. just sound so…ostentatiously goody-good, y’know? You need a strong word for a strong feeling.)

In a way, being well-read and aware is one of the perks of belonging to a truly worldwide organization; one that spans every culture, and life circumstance therein, that  you can think of. Our Awake! magazine functions as a sort of catchall cross between Newsweek and National Geographic, while The Watchtower tackles the deep theological questions. I highly recommend checking them out anyway.

Also, we spend quite a lot of time hanging ’round your doorstep. I do admit it. An excellent explanation of our rationale for doing so can be found on the official site; it has everything to do with Scriptural command…and nothing whatsoever with bugging you just for the heck of it.

Really, I swear.

Getting back to the initial question: this would be the main trial of life ‘in service’. Trying to figure out what motivates such things as Bill Bryson in The Lost Continent, taking time out from summarising 300+ pages of cross-country adventure to comment “…and I wasn’t approached by a single Jehovah’s Witness.” Uh, yay?

While you’re in there cringing away from the doorbell, twitching the curtain nervously, I’m standing outside, totally bemused. What exactly do you think we’re going to do to you, people? It’s lots of fun to imagine. Will we quick-draw an Uzi and demand you be baptised right there in your water feature? Lay a plague on both your houses (possibly involving the septic tank at the cottage) or in the absence of a second house, doom your firstborn? One of the pair’s going to snatch your rosary off your neck in one fluid motion whilst the other flourishes the forehead stamp?

The really funny part is, we spend literally hours each week being carefully trained in – get ready for it – how not to bother  our householders. One of our weekly services is actually called the Theocratic Ministry School and Service Meeting. The former is basically a public-speaking course; the latter, a practical guide to being as polite, kind, interested yet unobtrusive as is humanly possible without actually becoming the theological equivalent of the Bill Murray character in What About Bob.

The – er – heck of it is, it’s all just that sincere. I know, I know; it freaked me out when I first started attending meetings too, but there you are. We’re just awfully, awfully nice people, most of us at any rate; we never claimed to be perfect, just to be striving upwards as best we can. Our main goal is to live peacefully with ourselves and our neighbors in anticipation of the new beginning we believe God has promised for mankind; meanwhile conducting ourselves as worthy of, thus grateful for, this wholly undeserved kindness.

Meaning no, we do not head back to base at the end of the day to pick up our cheque. (Not sure how widespread this is, but it’s too funny to leave out here: a co-worker once asked me if we get paid extra for the ‘really tough ones’. Er…well, it’d be nice.) This is a strictly voluntary service. We’re not, save a lucky minority, any more comfy chatting up random strangers than the average; but it’s a necessary thing. Think of it this way: If you were convinced you had wonderful news of the future to share, wouldn’t you want to tell everyone you knew plus as much of the surrounding neighborhood as you could reach? Precisely.

Perhaps all this might explain my frustration at being slammed at, spat at, smirked at, yelled at and cursed at. I have never been shot at, myself, although I have heard stories from reliable sources. I have however been personally warned off by a Jewish – I don’t know the term exactly, forgive me; I believe it’s the Hasidic equivalent of ‘rector’ – who lunged across his lawn pointing and intoning “Get away from here!” with such a wonderfully theatrical flair that to this day I recall the incident with some admiration.

In short, I am routinely treated as something less than a human being because I happen to be carrying a Bible. Which is, I think we can all agree, just sort of…weird. Now, I do realise that in decent measure this comes with the territory of any organisation whose job it is to get into peoples’ faces; however, it’s hard to imagine an encyclopedia salesman being told he’s been damned to a fiery place and must needs be prayed over, RIGHT NOW. I appreciate the thought, but…

Or, on the flipside, any intelligent, articulate, well-dressed man or woman getting a patronising lecture on how silly they’re being, standing there babbling about God. As if belief in a Higher Being were impossible without every single little logical dilemma being not only resolved but proven to some sort of Clever Human’s Tribunal. I have never figured out where exactly it is that these people meet to review the bylaws, but they all seem to have the same arsenal of ‘gotcha’ questions. Hint: we’re trained in how to avoid people using us for personal amusement, too. (Although yours truly is guilty of occasionally engaging the debate, just to see what happens.)

Look, it’s really very simple. We come to your door; we offer knowledge of God, as expressed via the Bible. If you’re interested, we pursue the matter, at whatever pace you like, from merely dropping off the magazines each month all the way up to a Bible study if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, you say ‘thanks, not interested’, gently but firmly, assuming goodwill the same way you would of the nice young laddie who comes calling with a box of chocolate bars. Then…we go away. A few months later, another one of us comes ’round. Repeat as desired.

There. Was that so hard?

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rj_anderson
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 08:09:56

    Did I ever tell you the story about the time in my teens I was doing street ministry with a group in downtown Ottawa? It’s a keeper. Approaching total strangers in a friendly but not pushy way, and being able to explain to them coherently something you feel deeply about, is a rare and special gift — and apparently I do not have it.

  2. solo_1
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 20:27:52

    Hee…gotta say I totally loved this. Although I am not a Witness myself, I do have family members in the UK who are and have lived closely with them over the years. I was even a bridesmaid at one of their weddings.

    I really do not understand what makes people so negative when Witnesses knock on the door – I have found them far less annoying that people who want to sell you windows!.

    I now live in the countryside and the nearest town to me is about 18kms away – guess who are the only people are who knock on my door unexpectedly? (apart from the dog tag lady) Yup, Witnesses… They are always very nice and we enjoy a little chat.

  3. shoebox2
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 22:19:41

    Heh…you’d have a sympathetic audience. This is where I do admit to feeling a bit sorry for the householders…the times I get to the door and promptly forget my presentation altogether, thus am forced to wing it. Once, that involved reading a particularly lurid passage from a magazine article on AIDS…I can still see the look on the poor kid’s face.

  4. shoebox2
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 22:26:03

    Exactly! Much obliged for the endorsement. We’re always happy to chat…in fact, some places it’s pretty well a requirement. Down East, for instance, the routine goes something like this:

    1. Householder yells fron upper-story window “Comin’ down in a minute! Gotta get the wash!”

    2. Upon face-to-face meeting, Witness enquires after every single family member householder has, and listens in turn to lengthy, involved descriptions of Gramma’s gallstones and the youngest cousin’s baby’s unfortunate tendency to eat rocks out of the garden.

    3. An hour later, mention God in passing. Householder agrees fervently (“Amen!”) and then informs Witness that her pastor’s just so good like that, y’know, he tells them all about the Bible.

    4. Repeat, possibly for the next twenty years.

    …OK, OK, I’m exaggerating. But it is true that one of our elders down there held the same territory just outside Saint John for twenty full years. The householders used to invite him in for dinner and everything.

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