Sunday, November 13, 2011

Churchopedia #9 (Church #31): The Gift that Keeps on Knocking

Written November 2010 and November 2011.

There is great hilarity when subjects of a serious nature are reduced to the tiny icon that is a cell phone app. While scrolling through the list of free widgets for my new Android, I noticed these oddities mixed with the fun and pointless, as well as the useful and resourceful. Shake my phone and roll virtual dice: fantastically stupid. Audio step-by-step directions to my next location: ah, so easy I barely have to try. Holy Bible with Apocrypha: hold up, really? Is a text that is several thousand years old, has endured years of torturous translation and requires me to lift it with both hands now just a touch-screen away? I’m not sure whether I should be impressed or concerned.

Just when I thought the Good Book, which can also be effortlessly linked to my Kindle, was the epitome of spirituality that can be viewed both horizontally and vertically, I ran across “On the Ministry.” Described as a “new app for Jehovah’s Witnesses field service,” this five-star application takes knocking to a whole new level. Jeanene reviews: “This is a great app!! I would love the ability to keep track of multiple users. My 10 yr old is not as good at keeping records. Thx 4 this!” John writes: “This is a wonderful app that has made pioneering time more manageable and just a little more fun!”

The app keeps track of potential converts information, including any current problems or concerns in their lives. Also, number of brochures handed out, hours spent pounding on doors (they never use the doorbell), and a map to visualize their life’s work. Apps allow for sophisticated accessibility and constant communication, so this is the logical next step in evangelism.

Jehovah’s Witnesses remind me of the game “Duck Hunt.” That was a great game. A plastic box with a trigger, urging you to take out as many ducks as possible. It was easy to play repeatedly because there was always a chance you would get one more duck.

Like the game, Witnesses aren’t picky about their ducks. It doesn’t matter how small, fast or talented the duck. And the greatest thing is, no matter how many ducks you kill, you can keep killing ducks! In fact, I’m pretty sure some of the ducks you already killed come back to life just so you can kill them again.

Before I take this metaphor to a morbid level, let me make it clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not killing potential converts, or ducks, for that matter. But with every knock at the door, they prove their undying need to satisfy an unreachable quantity. Perhaps this app will let them compare stats and eventually, they can start stealing each other’s doors.

I invited the Jehovah’s Witnesses to meet with me rather than attend one of their Kingdom Hall Meetings because I felt like culturally, that is their most defining characteristic. What would a Jehovah’s Witness experience be without that knock? And the next one? And the next one?

When the Witnesses knocked last year, I was in a vulnerable place. I had become jaded and unforgiving, allowing my grudge for CCCUCC to dominate my spiritual quest. I found myself not believing that any church was capable of genuine goodness. I was becoming one of those I-hate-organized-religion people.

The best cure for spiritual helplessness is simple, sensible answers, which they easily provided. I’m feeling lost. Open the bible and look at that, found! I’m feeling sick. Oh, we’ve got the cure for that one, too. I’m feeling lonely (and here is when they had me): I am not, nor have I ever been alone. God, Jesus, but physically, right at that moment, Witnesses. They were there with me. My stomach dropped and I choked back the tears.

After they left I essentially shut down the churchy aspect of my blog. I needed a break. If I was so angry I couldn’t be objective and so sad that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were getting to me, then I needed some serious soul-searching.

Over the last year, I’ve searched that soul, which sometimes seems as bleak and heartless as the church I once loved. I hated abandoning my church-search mid-10, and actually mid-post. But what I hated more was that I was starting to accept that this was it for me. No more early morning Sundays. No more singing hymns on my way to work. No more simultaneously praying and crying myself to sleep.

There have been moments of pause in what I think is a medium to fast jog away from the Christian Church. When my grandpa died, I noticed a little religious yearning to help me connect with his passing and cope with the future. When the start of the school year was so stressful and frustrating that, for the first time since I started teaching, I considered leaving the profession. Each time, though, I dove into my two jobs and my Ph.D. I ate massive amounts of good food. I slept-in on the weekends and watched TV in my free time. I started dancing weekly, sometimes daily, and concentrated on my friendships. All activities proved more helpful and comforting than any church.

But recently, an interaction with a Jehovah’s Witness that is an acquaintance of mine has brought me back to this entry and the vulnerable place I was in over a year ago. Since I had no blog to intellectually sort out my religious ponderings, I started ignoring them. The Witness gave me a tract; I threw it in the trash. She sent me an email with a bible verse when my grandpa died, I deleted the email. She asked me what I was searching for and I told her, “Nothing.” I ignored her knocking, and it felt good. I was never unkind or disrespectful. So, logically, she shunned me. That’s what Christians do when you don’t fit into the proverbial box.

There was a time when I would have never opened myself up to Jehovah’s Witnesses, like I did last year. And I would have never ignored their incessant knocking tactics, like I have done these last few weeks. The same part of me that was not vulnerable to untruth was willing to learn enough from it to fight. Do I not owe it to my friends who have been disowned and hurt by the Witnesses to open that door and give them a run for their money? Is there a drop-down menu on your knocking app. that says, “Potential convert does not put up with religious crap”?

I still believe that I have a lot to learn about the Christian faith. There are 10+ churches in my future that need to be visited. There is good to be found, and bad to be criticized. I don’t necessarily need to be as strong or religious as I once was in order to experience spirituality. It is selfish and unfair of me to throw away all I have learned and let conservative Christianity dominate our culture without comment or blog post.

So, as I grip the handle of my front door, cell phone bible in hand, I encourage the knocking. I’m ready to open-up.


  1. Beautiful post... Opening up must be so difficult... But I love how you captured it. I'd say "blessings on your journey" but I don't want to sound flippant in the blessing... So thank you for sharing your journey...