Apostate in the neighborhood

December 17th, 2010

I think the word got out among Jehovah’s Witnesss that there is an “apostate” in my neighborhood. There is someone in my neighborhood that they avoid. They never knock on his door. Nope. Never. I’m sure that God approves of their behavior – because they’ve been told that for them, apostates should be identified – and then ignored.

I live in a very nice, very safe neighborhood in a medium-sized city in central Oregon. For a while, I’d see either JWs or LDS missionaries working this neighborhood at least once a month. During the summer we seemed to get more than our fair share, simply because there is very little traffic on our quiet streets, and the homes are surrounded by tall trees – making the area shady and cool.

During the winter I wouldn’t see any Mormons, but there were frequent JWs knocking on doors. They would often pull up in a big sedan and then work the neighborhood in what seemed to be strange and illogical patterns. I’d watch as they paired off as two sisters or in husband and wife teams.

Shortly after my wife and I moved here four years ago, we were visited by two JW sisters. They appeared to be in their mid-50s, and even though it was midwinter, they were nicely dressed. When they knocked, my wife answered the door. Never a Jehovah’s Witness, she quickly made it clear that she was not interested. Just before shutting the door, however, she suggested that “maybe my husband will talk to you.”

I went to the door and politely listened to their canned presentation, accepted their Watchtower and Awake! magazines, and even gave them a $1 donation. Getting that dollar bill would encourage them to mark me down for an eventual “go-back” or return visit.

As expected, within two weeks one of the sisters and her husband came to the door. I was in my office that looks out over the front lawn, and I watched as they drove up and parked in front of my house. They were driving a large American sedan. For some reason, they sat in the car for nearly twenty minutes. I could tell by the vapor coming out of the tailpipe, that they were sitting there with the engine running. I guessed they were going over their notes and planning their strategy. They finally left their car and walked up to my front door. I knew instinctively that this was the follow-up visit I’d been expecting.

I immediately recognized the sister as being one of the two I’d seen before. Because the outside temperature was in the low 20s(F), I invited them inside. I didn’t want to lose all the heat in the house. My wife was still in bed and I was dressed in my robe and pajamas, so I kept them standing in the foyer while we talked.

It was clear to me that the brother was hoping I’d invite them to sit down, and maybe even offer them a cup of coffee. I also knew that if I did they’d think that they could come back every week or two from then on. Actually, I would have liked to have shown them more hospitality, but on the other hand would a JW ever invite one of us into their homes for tea and crumpets?

So they stood there, dressed in their heavy coats and gloves, and started preaching to me. The brother used the same tired introductions Witnesses have been repeating for fifty years and asking questions to draw me into a conversation. His wife would wait until he’d pause and then interject a very brief supporting comment or rephrase a question – and then she’d be totally silent. I decided to have a little fun with them. But I didn’t want to go overboard or seem more discourteous than I already had been.

He asked me if I had a Bible. I nodded that I did. He asked me if I ever read it. I told him that I had read it cover to cover three times. He then asked me if I knew that it prophesied that God was in the process of “removing this wicked system of things” and “setting up a new world paradise.”

At that point I decided to take over the conversation. I briefly glanced over at his wife, and then back at him – looking directly at his eyes. “So…let me make sure…you are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Right?”

Before he responded, I saw him blink and then swallow hard. “Yes. Yes, we are.”

“That’s fine. You just stated that God will soon destroy all wickedness in the world and establish his Kingdom here on earth. Right?”

“Yes. Yes, that’s right.”

“I read the Watchtower and Awake! magazines from the ladies’ previous visit. It stated that God’s Kingdom was heavenly. So is His kingdom going to be on earth or in heaven?”

“Actually, Jehovah God will create a paradise earth here for us, but rule from heaven.”

“OK. How does that work? Exactly who will rule on the earth? Your magazines stated on one page that Jesus would rule. On another page it said that Jehovah would rule. It also said that 144,000 faithful anointed ones would rule from heaven with Jesus. I guess I’m confused. With all those rulers in heaven, who actually rules on the earth? You know, like mayors and governors? If not the 144,000, and I’m living in paradise, who do I go to if I have a complaint?”

“It’s not that complicated. Jehovah rules Jesus. Jesus and the 144,000 would rule the earth.”

“So those 144,000 in heaven are equally as powerful as Jesus?” I asked.

“No. Jesus Christ would have all the power – but he would delegate some of it to the 144,000.”

“OK. One more time: Who would I go to here on earth if I had a problem?”

“Well, first off, you wouldn’t have a problem because the whole world and everything in it would be perfect – including you and everyone around you. It would be unlikely that you’d ever have a complaint.”

“So…why exactly would we need Jesus AND the 144,000 to rule us? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have them ruling us down here on earth? I mean – what will all those rulers do all day in heaven?”

For just a fleeting moment he gave me a puzzled look. “I’m sure that will all be revealed to us after Armageddon and when paradise is achieved.”

“Your magazines stated that those who survived Armageddon would ‘live forever.’ Just how does that work? Do you get a brand new body every fifty years? I mean…what happens if you fall off a cliff – or get hit by lightning? Do you get repaired? Or are you like Superman and can never be damaged – no matter what you do?”

I could see that he was getting suspicious and wondering what I was up to. “That…uh, we don’t really don’t know. Everything like that will be revealed to us after we enter paradise.”

“I’m curious. If you do live forever, what do you do for fun after 10,000 years? Will there be a lot of new movies? Will there be places like Disneyland? Will people be having lots of sex?”

“Again, we don’t know for sure how all of those things will be accomplished. But none of us want to die – ever. So I’m sure that in a perfect world we will all find plenty of things to do that will bring us joy. You certainly seem to have a lot of interesting questions.”

I decided I’d try one more question to let him know that I wasn’t going to play “Mr. Householder” to his “Brother Prepared Publisher” – like they do during Theocratic Ministry School meetings and in skits at assemblies and conventions.

I glanced at his wife for a brief second, and then turned back to him. “Let’s assume that God created a paradise on earth, called Eden.”

“That he did,” was his automatic response.

“And then God put a perfect man and woman there to manage the garden and also to multiply and fill the earth with more people. Then why didn’t He just leave things alone and let humanity continue to live in that perfect state? Why did He have to ‘test’ them with the ‘forbidden fruit’? Why would He stand back and let them be tempted by Satan? Why set them up for failure and then punish them – AND all of their innocent descendants – to lives of pain, misery, and death? And then why would he continue to do this to humanity for the next six to seven thousand years? That simply doesn’t make sense to me. Is that what a loving god would do? I know that I’m not perfect, but I certainly wouldn’t do that to my own children.”

With that he closed his Bible and handed it to his wife. As he put his gloves on, he looked at me as if I was the Devil himself. “Well, it’s been interesting speaking to you this morning,” he said in an unconvincing, almost sarcastic manner. “Thank you for inviting us in. I hope we’ve answered some of your questions. It’s been an interesting conversation. Maybe we can visit again in the future at a more convenient time.”

I could tell that they were anxious to make a quick exit. While they had to be very warm in their coats and gloves, I could see that wasn’t why he was clearly uncomfortable being there. There was a look in his eyes that told me that he suspected I was playing with him – even though I’d been careful not to ridicule, or be sarcastic, while speaking to them.

That couple has never returned. A couple pairs of young JW boys and girls in their early teens rang our bell the following year, and I even accepted their magazines. But no adult Witnesses have ever come to my door since then. In the past two years we’ve not had a single visit. I’ve seen them in the neighborhood from time to time, but they always walk by my home. I know they are bypassing my house on purpose. I’m sure that I’m on their “Do Not Call” list.

So I now know that there’s an “apostate” in my neighborhood. He would be me.

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  1. tom anan

    God allowed the testing of humans not because cruel as you imply but to not be a dictator in not permitting the issue of His being right to be settled; however He also arranged that ultimately the suffering that humans and Satan caused would be wiped away and replaced with happiness.

  2. Tessa

    Hi apostate in the neighbourhood,

    I am curious about what YOU actually do believe. You obviously have some belief since you have read the bible from cover to cover no less than 3 times. (or was that just research purely for arguments sake?)

    I am not a witness, so feel free to let your guard down.

    One thing I am finding very interesting about many (not all) ex witnesses is that they seem to abandon ALL of their prior beliefs. Ie Trinity to One God then back to Trinity again??? This really baffles me. Didn’t they look into ANY of this stuff before becoming witnesses.

    Of course I DON’T include people born into the religion who have come to their own understandings and left.

    Back to your comment about not being rude or cynical while you were speaking to them. Personally I found a lot of what you said quite cynical. You bombarded them with questions. Obviously you knew they wouldn’t be prepared for any of that, and I don’t know too many human beings that can stand up to that kind of assault. So really in effect the way you treated them was unkind. If you really wanted to show them the errors of their ways. Wouldn’t you have taken it more slowly and discussed each matter fully.

    Maybe, just maybe if you REALLY cared about THEIR well being you WOULD have invited them in for a cup of tea or asked them to come back at a better time for you. But they would be the actions of a person who was actually trying to help someone else.

    You question about whether they would invite you in for a cup of tea. Well I guess you’ll never know that unless you go knocking on their door and want to discuss the bible with them.

    I really feel that all you wanted to achieve was one up man ship and showing off. Even the way you have written this article seems to be bragging how you got one over on them. I suppose you could argue that you never asked them to come knocking at your door. But YOU did ask them in. And there is never an excuse for treating people like that, no matter what religious beliefs they hold. No matter what you think of their religion or beliefs. The people that came knocking at your door cared about you and wanted to help. Whether this is misguided or not is not the issue. Take a look at your own behaviour.

    So since I found your article sarcastic and I wasn’t even there, maybe they did too. And maybe they had to put up a bit of a protective guard. Wouldn’t you?

    Tessa

  3. Editor

    Tessa,

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, admittedly I was less welcoming on this particular visit to my home than I have been in the past. And I described that in my own article, not trying to hide that fact. But I understood why they were there and it wasn’t to sit down and have a back and forth discussion with me. They were there to preach to me, read pre-selected scriptures to me, and then try to shame me into starting a Bible study with them. I knew all of that before. It was relatively early in the morning, my wife was still in bed and I wasn’t fully dressed, we hadn’t had our breakfast yet, and they just showed up without an appointment, because that is what JWs do. But I did invite them into my house out of the cold; I could have just cracked the door and let them stand on my porch and try to preach to me in sub-freezing temperatures. But I did let them in.

    The questions I asked them were those that I had formulated over time and thought that they would make for good discussion. So, instead of just letting them present their canned presentation to me (a la Ministry School demos), I actually asked them questions that would make them have to think. Clearly they were not in the mood to answer my questions – they wanted me to answer theirs.

    So yes, I shamefully admit that I may have been less than my usual cordial self that morning. But when I look back and put it in context of the time of day, the weather outside, and the purpose for their visit, I think I treated them fairly well.

    In any case, I’m not going to lose any sleep over how that visit went – nor the fact that I’ve been added to the local JW “Do Not Visit” list.

    Oh, and one last thing, Tessa: If you are (or were) a Jehovah’s Witness, how would you have answered my questions? Yes, I agree that I blindsided them with those questions – and yet were they not valid? How should Jehovah’s Witnesses answer any of those questions?. I was trying to illustrate that even someone as proficient and competent as this brother and sister were, they never think past the blanket statements given to them by the Watchtower. They never think in terms of “what if,” “how will that work,” and “why would Jehovah do that instead of something more logical.” That was my purpose in asking the questions – not to try to embarrass them.

  4. Tessa

    Hi again apostate in the neighbourhood,

    I would like to answer your questions. There are a lot, and frankly I am no expert on the bible. So once I have gathered my thoughts together and gone through what you have asked I will attempt to reply.

    One question I can answer for you now, and thought I had already established in my letter is that I am not a JW, nor have I been one.

    In the meantime, perhaps you would be able to answer the question I asked you. What do you believe? Do you believe in God? Or, are you an atheist? Some of the questions you have asked and I quote below, make me wonder weather you are asking these questions of JW’s or of God.

    “And then God put a perfect man and woman there to manage the garden and also to multiply and fill the earth with more people. Then why didn’t He just leave things alone and let humanity continue to live in that perfect state? Why did He have to ‘test’ them with the ‘forbidden fruit’? Why would He stand back and let them be tempted by Satan? Why set them up for failure and then punish them – AND all of their innocent descendants – to lives of pain, misery, and death? And then why would he continue to do this to humanity for the next six to seven thousand years? That simply doesn’t make sense to me. Is that what a loving god would do? I know that I’m not perfect, but I certainly wouldn’t do that to my own children.”

    If you are in fact an atheist then that is your choice and I completely respect that. But I’m not sure that explaining my understanding would serve any purpose..

    To be honest what I believe is still evolving which is why I am so interested in looking at websites like yours. I like to get a balanced view of things and make up my own mind. I am very much aware that what I may think or believe today can be altered by something I find out tomorrow. To me this is the joy of loving God and his son. It helps to feed my passion. And to search for God. Clearly God knows what is best for me. And for me personally, this has given joy and meaning to my life. God definitely knows how to make me happy. I feel that if it was all laid out on a platter for us we would probably become complacent. Then how would we be drawing close to God? For myself, and I can only speak for myself, this is one of his greatest gifts.

    But fundamentally, I believe that God created the heavens the earth and mankind and sent his son to save us because he loves us. I believe the bible is inspired by God and that he warns us to question everything to make sure it is true. Often when I come across new ideas or thoughts, I notice in myself a lot of resistance. But I have discovered this is how I learn. These are usually the things that have the greatest impact on my life.

    Overall I very much enjoy the articles on your website, anything that makes me look and question is a blessing. Just as in the same way when I talk to any JW, I see this as a blessing. I have some fascinating conversations that also make me look and question. Thankfully I have a wonderful partner who helps to bring balance to my thoughts, because I can quite often feel overwhelmed by conflicting ideas. Again, he is another blessing from God.

    In a way I am sure you did have some positive impact on those Witnesses that knocked on your door. Maybe it wasn’t what you planned it to be though. It is possible that something you asked them made them go away and think or question. You never know, maybe God sent them to your door that day for a reason other than theirs or yours.

    Because of your passion, and I can see you clearly have one, other wise you wouldn’t have this website in the first place. Maybe you are also a blessing.

    Tessa

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