Thursday, June 15, 2006

wit·ness

1. One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced: a witness to the accident.
2. One who publicly affirms religious faith.


Last Saturday, I spent about 45 minutes with two Jehovah's Witnesses, who came to my house upon my invitation. I had wanted to direct the conversation, since the interest I expressed was solely of an intellectual curiosity of mine - I had never had an extended conversation with a Witness before, and I wanted to know how they came to this specific point in their faith journey. I was also none-too-shy about exploring their unique theological perspective.

It was, however, somewhat difficult to differentiate between being supremely curious and appearing to want - somewhere deep inside - to convert to the Jehovah's Witnesses. This difference was crucial, and something I believe was lost on the two people who sat across from me in my living room.

The woman I met on the street and with whom I struck up a conversation was engaging, especially when she directly asked, "Have you thought of the Kingdom of Heaven?" At this point - reviews of that sorely disappointing film by Ridley Scott notwithstanding - I knew this was no ordinary exchange. I dove into it, however, realizing she was a Witness - and before I knew it, I had made a date for her to meet me a week later.

Luckily, a good friend and fellow LVCer - Julie - was hanging out at Beth Shalom (our LVC house) from the night before, and stayed for the conversation. You see, this woman had brought someone else, and I could not expect to direct any conversation when I was outnumbered 2-1. Even so, after 20 minutes of these people opening themselves up to my somewhat pointed questions, the game eventually ran out of steam. They took control, and began to open up the Bible. And here's when the party started.

In my Intro to Theology class during my freshman year of college, we did an exercise where we had to come up with positives and negatives for each of the following categories of religious people (with respect to other faiths not their own):

[Forgive the less-than-academic definitions - thanks David]

1. Exclusivist (My way is the only way.) *Jehovah's Witnesses
2. Inclusivist (My way is the only way, but deep down it's possible that your way is actually my way.)
3. Dialogue (I'm going my way, you're going yours. Let's talk to each other and learn more.)
4. Relativist (We're all different paths up the same mountain, all going the same way.)

Now, for me, the downsides to exclusivism were easy. But since we had to come up with positives, the one that stood out to me was a single word: passion. You have to hand it to people that are so zealously dedicated to something. You may not agree (and I don't) with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but they are definitely authentic and driven.

But there's the rub, when it comes to fundamental interpretations of religion. These people were looking at me and thinking, "You poor thing." And I was looking right back and thinking, "You poor things..." They weren't going to convince or convert me, but their passion was so fierce that I felt inappropriate saying, "I'm just not interested."

So, there you have it. No shouting matches, no drama. I didn't argue a single theological principle with them. I listened, as they listened to me.

In the end, did I get what I wanted? They opened up to me, exposing a side of themselves I don't think I would have been comfortable doing. Did they get what they wanted? Well, that's the thing. I didn't convert, and I'm pretty sure that's a failure in their book.

What an amazing array of different paths that have been born from a single person and his message of peace!

2 Comments:

At 12:22 PM , Anonymous Danny Haszard said...

Good post,you should know this about Jehovah's Witnesses that their core dogma is that Jesus had his second coming 'invisible' in 1914.

This date has it's origin from the second Adventist movement that in turn was derived from the William Miller apocalyptic movement of 1844.Do a google search and see for yourself.

The 1914 date is a lie,which means that that the 1918 'sealing of the 144,000' is false too so the entire Watchtower doctrinal superstructure comes crashing down like a house of cards.

The Watchtower is a man made cult of falsehoods from the get-go.
---
Tell the truth and don't be afraid--Danny Haszard born 1957 as a 3rd generation JW

 
At 2:48 PM , Anonymous Katie said...

Rumor has it, my father once invited a pair of door-to-door JW missionaries in and sat down and discussed theology with them. Details of the story weren't told but it was mentioned that he pulled out his Bible and started responding to what they were telling him.

We never had another one come to our house.

Mildly less orthodox, a man in our church used to have a chalk outline of a man on his driveway with leaflets strewn about. They didn't visit him either.

 

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