Friday, March 8, 2013

Who's that knocking on my door?

Jehovah Witnesses. If you haven’t had one knocking on your door to ask if you’ve heard the word of Jesus and then try to push the latest copy of their magazine, The Watchtower, on you, then consider yourself blessed by God. He must truly love you to have kept this nuisance away from your home.

I grew up in a suburban cul-de-sac in which every home was inhabited by a Jewish family. We nicknamed ourselves “Little Israel.” Every few months, two Jehovah Witnesses, always young men and usually blond dressed in white shirts, black slacks, and skinny black ties, would roll into the neighborhood on their bicycles and knock on our doors and hand out their literature. The kids on our block got to the point where we would do advance warning to our parents that the witnesses had returned. It was like alerting the tribe of approaching locusts.

My synagogue printed a pamphlet that explained why Jews didn’t believe in Jesus and how we were pretty well off spiritually as Jews thank you very much. The next time a Jehovah Witness knocked on our door, Dad said to him, “I’ll take one of your pamphlets, if you’ll take one of mine.” I think Dad expected the guy to be crushed by his clever religious counter attack, but instead the guy was thrilled. Finally, a debate instead of a door slammed in his face. He thought he had broken a barrier but really he had seen the last attempt by Dad to be civil about their constant intrusions.

In the neighborhood I live in now, the witnesses who come to my door are African American, male and female, and of various ages. Not that it matters, I just wanted to point out that it’s not the same young white men who frequented my childhood home. When they show up, if my wife answers the door, she orders them to leave immediately. There are two groups of people that she doesn’t suffer lightly: fools and religious zealots.

I, on the other hand, used to treat them politely and would indulge them to a degree. I’d take their literature, the trusty Watchtower and occasionally an Awake magazine, but would never give them a voluntary donation for the magazine. I didn’t ask for it, they foisted it on me, so either give it to me free or don’t give it to me at all.

I let them give their religious sales pitch because I was trying to be respectful of their beliefs, even if they weren’t showing the same respect to me. My religion taught me “that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” I couldn’t judge them just because their religion didn’t seem to have the same rule. But as time wore on, their disrespect began to gnaw at me. And it is disrespect and more to the point, it’s religious intolerance.

When they say that I’m going to Hell for not believing in their God, then they are saying my religion is not valid. This sentiment wasn’t unique to Jehovah Witnesses, but most other religions don’t make door to door solicitations.

They may be saying they want to convert me out of “love” and that their God demands that they do their best to “save” me, but really they are trying to destroy all other religions. If they got their wish and everyone in the world was saved and converted to their religion then the other religions would cease to exist. That would make them oh so happy. That also means that they have no tolerance for any other religion than their own. So if I complain about this, I’m not persecuting them, I’m defending my religion.

I wasn’t thinking about defending my religion the day a young African American man came to my front door to hand out the latest edition of the Watchtower. If anything, I could tell from his smile and body language that he was saying yes, we both know the drill. Let’s be as friendly about this as possible. But I wasn’t in the mood to be friendly that day. It dawned on me at that moment that being polite was doing either of us any favors. They were going to keep coming back no matter how I treated them. They were never going to respect my beliefs. Why should I show them the same courtesy?

I stepped out onto the porch with the young man.

“I don’t have time to talk to you now,” I said, “So give me your home address.”

He almost did, but then he caught himself. “Why do you want my home address?” he asked.

“I want to come to your home, preferably at dinner time, with my bible and my literature so that I can explain to you why you should accept my religion and explain in detail with my bible why your religion is wrong and that you’ll go to Hell if you don’t believe in my religion instead of yours,” I explained.

I took a step closer to him and he took a step back.

“How would you like that?” I asked.

“Have a nice day,” he said and then he ran down the front steps and out onto the street.

I haven’t seen him and any of the other witnesses since.

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