Last Sunday, there was a knock on the door around 11:00 in the morning. It can't be the mail, because it's Sunday, and we weren't expecting anyone. I opened the door to see two familiar faces - two Jehovah's Witnesses who had been at my house about a month back and left me with copies of The Watchtower and Awake. I didn't look at them too much, but flipped through.
They're not pushy at all, they're very friendly, and they just told me they wanted to drop off the new issues. I thanked them and took the materials. I used to hide from them. When I saw them walking up my sidewalk in their suits and ties, with pamphlets in hand, I would duck away, go downstairs or into another room. Often times if they hadn't seen me, I would ignore the knocks and wait for them to go on their way. Somehow, now that I have my own faith, that I understand the feeling of believing that we are not alone, and wanting to share that, I don't get annoyed like I used to. I opened the shades to let the sun in, and flipped through the magazines, reading a couple of the articles as Spongebob played in the background.
I don't know if you've ever taken the time to sit down and read the publications the Jehovah's Witnesses leave, but they're not bad. They have interesting subjects, and as a Christian myself, there's nothing offensive or that I don't agree with in them usually. They seem like a good resource for people, and share some really good bible knowledge. So I got to thinking...
Do you know what Jehovah's Witnesses believe? Perhaps, like me, all you really know is that they didn't stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance in Elementary School, and they didn't participate in the birthday celebrations at school or have birthday parties. And they knock on your door in suits and give you little magazines, which you promptly drop into your recycling bin.
I decided that if I was going to decide that they weren't worth considering, I should do a little research, so I started reading up on what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe. I'll tell you, Wikipedia? Amazing. It's just incredible and wonderful that you can go online and get basic information about anything you want - it makes it so easy to educate yourself and get more information when you're curious.
I read a couple of articles, and was a little surprised to find that there is not a ton of stuff I object to. They are Christians, and believe in God, and Jesus Christ as the son of God. They believe in the Bible, in fact, their religion is heavily based on it, and Bible study is a main tenet of their beliefs. Which, in a way, is cool. It's the reason they're able to publish these things and have discussions where they can use the Bible to give you references and background.
The main things I objected to? The first is that they believe that theirs is the one true religion. Watch Tower Society publications teach that Jehovah's Witnesses alone represent true Christianity and for that reason they refuse all ecumenical relations with other religious denominations (from Wikipedia). I know that a lot of denominations or faiths believe that they are correct, but I don't believe in being intolerant of other religions, and I think that the more we get together, the better. We can accomplish so much on our own, but working together the possibilities are endless. I believe that God can present himself in many ways to many people. Every religion has fundamentalists, but I think that for the most part, people who are truly faithful do not foster intolerance.
There is also the fact that they don't believe in higher education. "Jehovah's Witnesses are instructed to make their preaching work the top priority in their life. Higher education is discouraged because of the futility of planning secular advancement in a world they believe faces imminent destruction, as well as fears about succumbing to "worldly thinking" and concerns that advanced educated might lead to a lack of humility." I believe in living in the world we're in, in educating ourselves, and in leading fulfilling lives. If this is fulfilling for them, that is great, but for me personally, I want to learn, expand my horizons, and support myself and my family. I believe that God put us in this life for something more than preaching about what he is going to do for us. Helping others is extremely fulfilling, but it's hard to continue doing it if you are preoccupied with being unfulfilled in other parts of your life.
The there's the "the man is in charge of the household and gets the final say", which just isn't how I live.
All in all though, I wasn't hugely put off by much that they were saying. Despite the fact that they might not believe in joining together under the umbrella of Christianity, my faith allows me to respect other faiths. I think that people find their light and faith in different places, and that the underlying goodness that comes from many denominations is what really matters. I believe that the value of Jesus lies largely in striving to be like him, to respect ourselves and each other, and to support each other in all ways we can. I know that they visit because they care about what they're saying and the words they are sharing.
So, despite the fact that I know I can't join them, I'll continue to smile and greet them at the door, to take their literature and read through it, and to learn something new when I do.