THE DUB AT MY DOOR
I’d rather have a root canal than agree to a sit down with an active Jehovah’s Witness.
I’m an EX-JW. For good reason. Been there, done that! Fool me once....
I’m an Activist and an author of a book or two exposing and vilifying the destructive JW cult Organization.
Yet I agreed. I invited the Dub at my door for a return visit.
Impulse. I liked him. He has pizazz and a warm personality. He has “heart.”
Heck--I wanted to see if I could reach him and wake him up!
That’s stupid. I’ll readily admit it. I may as well buy a Lottery ticket, right?
Once before this kind of thing happened.
Two years ago, I got up out of my chair at a Starbucks and walked over to a young JW who was debating with a workmate about “apostates”. It was an “out of body” experience--almost supernatural :) I couldn’t help myself. I crashed the conversation--as an intervention. I said, “Excuse me. Forgive me for interrupting. I couldn’t help but overhear you discussing me. I am an Apostate and thought I’d do you a courtesy and set the record straight.”
That turned out to be a fantastically rewarding move. I woke the young man up and we are really close friends. It has been such a fulfilling feeling--I suppose I’m ready to press my luck beyond the safety zone.
That’s the set-up. Now the new story begins…
I’ll call him Cheerful Earl.
He arrived punctually in a coat and tie. He was equipped for every good work. He brought a book bag, Silver Sword (Bible) and lots of good nature.
I invited him into the kitchen and we sat at a tall table and made small talk for about a minute.
I had already decided I had to drive a wedge between Cheerful Earl and his indoctrination immediately.
Earl made a smooth segue into the “business at hand”...
“Terry, why don’t we get started with a prayer and ask God to----”
I cut him short.
“Wait wait wait--hold on--not so fast, Earl. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I don’t know you and you don’t know me. We are STRANGERS. If a stranger knocked on your door and handed you a glass with a sparkling liquid and said, “Drink this!” are you telling me you would trust him and drink it?”
Earl was a wee bit shocked.
Mildly stunned--half-smiling as the gears in his JW persona were recalibrating like a GPS at a missed exit. The Left turn has been ignored and a sudden adjustment was underway.
The process was fun to watch.
As a Jehovah’s Witness, he has spent hours rehearsing a routine procedure, a methodology. It is his dance. I had just refused to dance. I had not even let him turn on the music.
The internal JW GPS would now recalibrate how to get back to the main highway---IF I LET IT HAPPEN. I planned to not let it happen.
I smiled in the friendliest way possible and loosely grabbed his arm like a father would with a son who wanted to drive the family car.
“You knocked on my door on Monday. Now you want me suddenly to share in a very intimate communion between you and your deity? That’s like having sex on the first date! Right?”
I was in my “Let’s keep it real” mode. He was startled and possibly embarrassed.
He “got it” right way. Earl gave a nervous chuckle.
“Aw right. Aw right. No sex on the first date. NO SEX AT ALL--I HOPE!”
There was a teeny bit of homophobia around the edges on that one--I surmised.
“Naw, Earl. I’m a Dad with 7 kids. I’m just making a point worth making. No intimate rituals right at the get-go, please. Can’t we sit here like two human beings for a little while and set the Rules of Engagement?”
I waited a few seconds for him to regain his mental balance.
I could see in his eyes this was one of those “Bit off more than I can chew” episodes in life.
Cheerful Earl was still cheerful but--significantly, he had placed his Bible aside instead of clamping on to it like a dealer holds a deck at a Las Vegas gambling Casino.
“Let’s have a friendly chat, Earl. Okay?
I had to keep him talking so he couldn’t be plotting.
“Are you a Superstitious man, Earl? I ask because I’m not Superstitious at all. Are you?”
The question made him pause. It wasn’t a typical question he’d have a ready answer for.
He tried to pivot.
“I trust in the Bible as God’s word and the source of a higher wisdom…” I interrupted before the pivot was completed.
“So--you ARE Superstitious, then! The dictionary defines Superstition as “excessively credulous belief in and reverence for supernatural beings.” If you base everything on writings authorized by a supernatural being--your particular God, for instance--that qualifies as Superstition. Right?”
Cheerful Earl changed to just “Earl”.
The cheer dropped away.
“Well--no. No--not at all. I’m NOT Superstitious! I trust in God and His Word the Bible and I---”
I had to cut him off before he could find his “slot car track” for that JW brain to lock and load the bullshit.
“You disagree with the Dictionary definition of Superstition? Earl, how do YOU define Superstition?”
So far so good.
I wanted him to THINK and REASON his way through our conversation. No auto-pilot.
“Well--hold on--I don’t have any problem with the Dictionary--I just don’t consider Christian Faith to be Superstition, ya understand?” His half-smile wasn’t convincing.
I switched. I invited his agreement.
“If Earl and Terry had been born in China, we’d believe in Communism. If we were born in Arabia, we’d believe in Islam. Our accident of birth inclines Earl and Terry toward Christianity and the problem in Christianity is Superstition--the same as anyplace else. Why believe in Mao’s Little Red Book or Mohammed's Koran, or Christianity’s Bible in the first place?”
We had only been sitting there maybe five minutes or so. Earl would soon show his true colors. I had to intercept the routine of his indoctrination and keep it spontaneous.
“Earl, would you convict a man without evidence in a court trial just based on hearsay?”
(This is called “leading the witness” and I was doing just that, leading the Jehovah’s Witness.)
“I would not. I would---” (I had to interrupt to maintain control.)
“I know you wouldn’t. So, tell me Earl--how is quoting the Bible and basing everything you do on what the Bible says any different from convicting a man without evidence and only on hearsay?”
I shut up and waited. Which would it be: cult controlled script or spontaneous reasoning.
“Wow, Terry. I have to say, I didn’t come here expecting a conversation like this!”
(Refreshing honesty. A good sign.)
I smiled and nodded but kept silent. The ball is in his side of the court.
“What I hear you asking is whether or not the Bible is any different from hearsay…”
(Thinking out loud. A good sign.)
“Of course it has been through Bible study I have convinced myself of the beauty and love and caring of Almighty God, Jehovah…”
(Now he’s veering toward rhetoric--time to jump in.)
“Earl--let me be specific in what I’m saying, okay? Back in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation interrupted 2,000 years of Catholic Christianity with an outrageous new idea. That idea was this: what would happen if Christians denounced the infallible Pope and Protestant leaders asked: ‘What would happen if each Christian read their Bible and prayed to God for Holy Spirit to guide them--without the Pope? History demonstrates exactly what happened. Protestants and Catholics started the 30 Years War and Christianity split into 40,000 denominations! That was an experiment--a test--it had a provable result.
That ancient Bible was no help at all by itself or with prayer or with Holy Spirit.
On the other hand--
In 4th Century B.C. a Greek fellow named Euclid compiled a book called THE ELEMENTS with all that was known about Geometry. Two thousand years later, schools and colleges around the globe can still take that ancient book down off the shelf, translate it into every language, and teach kids in every country in the world the same Axioms and corollaries and EVERY ONE OF THEM gets the EXACT SAME result. There are no 40 thousand denominations of Geometry! There are no priests for Geometry. There is not Faith required to find if triangles are congruent. Facts are easily demonstrated without Superstition. Mathematics is just Math--there is no Chinese version or French version or special priesthood. Data and facts require no Faith because reality trumps Superstition. FACTS ARE THE SAME EVERYWHERE.
Enough to make me wary of starting our conversation with a prayer to an ancient Deity with Earl--a cheerful stranger at my door, offering me a drink he will say is “The Truth. Well, I remember Jim Jones' drink at Jonestown. No thank you!”
What reaction do you think this prompted.
To his credit, Cheerful Earl appeared. He was nodding to himself. Thoughtfully he pursed his lips and cocked his head--like running it back in his mind. A review. An inspection internal and sincere.
At last, he spoke.
“I get what you're saying, Terry. I can’t blame you. Can I ask you something personal?”
“Sure. Go ahead. Ask away.”
“Where did you come up with all that--college?”
“No. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather read lots of books and marked in them and researched and then gifted me with the book when he was through. We’d discuss all of it later. He was searching for the True Religion.”
“Did he ever find it?”
“I can tell you what he told me before he died, at age 91. Wanna hear it?”
“My grandfather said it was just like looking for the prettiest woman in the world--each man finds his own.”
“Heh heh heh. Say what?”
“Each man finds the prettiest girl in the world and no two men agree but that doesn’t make any one man a liar or a fool. It makes them happy.”
He was grinning until he stopped and frowned. It really looked like a person who had been told a joke the day before who suddenly started laughing. Except--Earl wasn’t laughing. He was THINKING!
I had to decide which way to proceed while Earl was stalled inside original thinking processes! Which way was the best way to go?
“I have a Bible question for you, Earl. Where are all the original manuscripts kept and maintained--the documents we translate the Bible from--a museum or church or what?”
“Oh, I don’t think they’re all in any one museum. There are complete rolls in one spot, some fragments in another. Why do you ask?”
“To be honest, it wasn’t all that long ago I found out something very shocking. I was secretly testing you, Earl to see if you knew what I found out…”
I watched and waited as I baited the hook.
“Uh huh, what’s that? Lay it on me. Shock me!”
“In the whole wide world--there are zero original manuscripts. None exist. No place no how.”
Earl’s face was an amused mask of skepticism and “I know better than to believe that” expression.
“Naw, Man--that ain’t so. It ain’t right. How do you think we’d even have a Bible if that was so?”
“We only have copies of copies of copies and no way to check any of them against originals.”
“Naw, Man--who told you that? I’m sorry, whoever told you that was ignorant.”
I smiled. He took the bait. Now I had to jerk the line and get the hook in real deep.
“What would it mean if it really were true, Earl--I mean--in your opinion?”
He shook his head like I’d asked him would he like to gargle camel piss.
“Unthinkable and impossible.”
“Humor me, Earl. What if I could prove there are no originals and never have been?”
“You can’t, Brother cause it ain’t so.”
“Humor me, Earl--what if I COULD PROVE IT--or better still--what if YOU could prove it to yourself?”
“Naw, Man--I don’t play that speculation game.”
“Okay. Let’s do it this way. Let’s end our conversation on religion and the Bible at this point and I’ll simply ask you to discover WHERE the original manuscripts are kept and come back and tell me. If you can do that for me--I’ll pray with you and even study your religious ideas. Fair enough?”
A broad smile broke out. Now he had me! I could see it clearly.
I had him and he had me--except one of us would end up really stunned when it was done!
We chatted a bit longer. Nothing of consequence. Small talk. He picked up his NEVER-ONCE-CITED-Silver Sword and he departed with pep in his step.
Will I ever hear back from Cheerful Earl?
Place your bets Ladies and Gentlemen!