Apostate in the neighborhood
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.