WALL-E and the Gulf Oil Spill
Bea's Law

One Fine Day in the Ministry

“Oh, you are NOT going to tell me that Jehovah's Witnesses aren't fundamentalists. Please don't tell me that.” But I did tell him that, right between the eyes. We're not fundamentalists. Alright, so we have some attributes in common with fundamentalists, but we also have attributes in common with the liberal churches, and some with the science rationalist types. We're all over the board and not easy to pigeonhole.
My daughter - I was working with her that day, which is a rare occurrence since we attend different congregations - she would have said 'yes,' she told me, she thought we fit the fundamentalist tag. But now I have my hands on the Aug 2010 Awake magazine, just released, and the Awake says no, we don't:
Page 5, an FAQ page: “Are Jehovah's Witnesses Protestants, Fundamentalists, or a sect?”
“Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians, but they are not Protestants for the same reason that they are not Catholics – they recognize certain teachings of those religions as unscriptural. For example, the Bible does not teach that God – the very personification of love – tortures people forever in a fiery hell. Nor does it teach that humans have an immortal soul or that Christians should meddle in politics. (Ezek 18:4, John 15:19; 17:14, Romans 6:23).......Some Fundamentalist organizations “have adopted social and political positions based on a literal use of biblical texts. [I swear there are people to whom you'll say “stop beating around the bush” and they'll start looking for the bush.] That definition does not fit Jehovah's Witnesses.”

The chief lesson to be learned here is that Papa's always right. Always. Even if he has to stretch the point nearly to snapping, well...one does whatever it takes. Conversations I've had with Mrs. Sheepandgoats, for instance:
“Have I ever let you down?” I ask rhetorically. “Yes!” she answers immediately. (So much for rhetorical questions)
“No,” she admits. “All right, then!” I crow.
Men are an interesting species, don't you know.  Every bit as interesting, in their own way, as women.
But we've strayed from our householder - a lapsed Catholic, he told me.  I fear it won't be the last time we stray from him.
This fellow lives in a territory I used to work all the time. Southeast Rochester. It's an eclectic area. At one door you find a Buddhist. At the next a nudist. One stately, well-off, single family home - the next house just as stately but carved into four or five apartments. Lots of gays in the neighborhood, too, and you gotta admit, where there are gays there are usually the arts, music, bistros, restored homes, gardens, and so forth. (why is that?) They can be somewhat hostile if you approach them in the wrong way, and almost any way is the wrong way, since they're apt to assume you'll be intolerant, and they like tolerance, but I sometimes can converse with them by telling them about my gay roommate in college. I didn't know he was gay, of course, he hadn't yet 'come out,' but I got along with him well. He was an organ major, as I recall, and he scored some minor film project I made. Now....you know how they say most gays are outwardly just like anyone else and you can never spot them by appearance alone? Well, this fellow you could; he filled every stereotype to a tee, but I just never pay attention to those things (though passing years have made me more observant). Anyhow, after summer recess one year, he says he has some big announcement to make, and we meet at the local snack joint. He's gay, he tells me, he always has been, and now he's come out of the closet, and how does that affect the way I'm going to look at him? Um....well....hmmm....I don't really know why it should make any difference, and so forth....he's still the same person, after all – all this happened long before I became a Witness. But whatever the lukewarm answer I might have given, he was conscious of a new status between us, and gradually withdrew. In time, I didn't see him anymore.

But, once again, returning to our householder:

He was using a weedwhacker or something in his side yard, whacking weeds. Now, I used to hate when people were whacking weeds or doing anything outdoors, because it was painfully obvious you were interrupting them. Most Witnesses prefer people to be behind their doors where they belong. But over time I began to realize that they're doing things indoors as well, only you don't see it, so you assume they're just sitting on their hands. In fact, they may be doing things more sacred to them than any activity outside, such as watching TV.  So it really doesn't matter to me anymore whether they're inside or out, although, it must be admitted, groups of people outside remain a challenge, and usually the game is lost before you begin. They see you coming afar off, and even if this or that one might be up to conversing one-on-one, fat chance they'll want to do so in front of their peers. Best to say something a little outrageous, like “you look like guys that want to talk about the Bible.“ Sometimes that buys you a little space you can cling to with your fingernails, but even if not, it generally leaves everyone in reasonably good humor.
The all-time awkward situation I encountered was when working with Andy Laguna, the Circuit Overseer. We were working a city residential territory and there was a bar on the corner, so he walks right in and starts witnessing to the bartender amidst a few half-tanked patrons. Andy's friendly and persistent, unafraid and non-threatening, and it went well for a time, but eventually conversation veered south – some of the patrons got a little surly (this was many years ago). “I dunno why you're telling this to us! (Andy had been speaking of good government, integrity, honesty, etc, with a view towards 'we need the Kingdom') What you should do is go into city hall and tell all those dirty rotten politicians – yeah, tell them – they're the ones who need to hear it!”  one fellow blurted out, getting worked up. “Oh, we do...we do,” Andy replied placidly. “And you know what they tell us? That we should go into the saloons!”
But back to the lapsed Catholic whacking weeds, as I approached him, hesitatingly, I said: “I wonder if I can get away with interrupting you for a couple minutes.” “Try,” he responded encouragingly, so I did. I was working with that Habakkuk presentation, made appropriate remarks about not staying forever, and so forth. But he brought up a few things - he was an educated man. I liked the fellow. "Well - I said I was just going to stay a couple of minutes, but now you've brought up a whole new topic. If we go there, it's on your dime, not mine" We may have visited twenty minutes or so. It's well to end your remarks with something gracious: "I appreciate your time. We come without appointment; people are doing things. You certainly have no obligation to speak with us, yet you did anyway. Thanks for your time. Take care, now."
Oh – and by the way, I think it was from Andy that I learned a not-bad way of handling aggressive evangelicals. It doesn't happen too often, but every once in a while, you'll find one of them eagerly awaiting us, with a stack of anti-JW literature and non-stop rhetoric to match. But it was Andy who said “look, if I came to visit you, it must be because I felt I had something to offer. Now, I might entertain what you want to tell me, but it would have to be at a time when you drop by my place.” “Where do you live...where do you live...where do you live?” the other would rapid-fire reply.  “No, no,” Andy would respond, “you'll just run into me eventually in the course of your normal door to door ministry.”
Oh, and back to the lapsed Catholic....um...you know, I kind of forget what else we spoke about. But we had a pleasant conversation, I remember that....it was a fine day in the ministry, low 60's, and the sun was out.


Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'



My wife would think that you have ADD with that one. :-) It sounds like many stories I have told....Somewhere there is a point, but I never seem to quite find the caboose. As Grandpa Simpson liked to say, "one way we broke up strikes is to tell them stories that don't go anywhere..."

lol. I enjoyed your story.

tom sheepandgoats

Well....they accumulate, those stories do, and one has to dispose of them somehow. They don't quite merit a post of their own. Best to wrap them all up in one package,


I've often found it amazing how the Jehovah's Witnesses AND the Mormons here in Chicago always seem to know when I'm busiest in the apartment. I almost always stop for a few minutes on the street if they ask me to, but, seriously, I'm almost getting paranoid about it. Whether it's putting in a new toilet or installing a shower door, somehow that's always the moment the buzzer rings. I can forgive interrupting me cooking, as if I'm home at night, I'm probably doing something in the kitchen, but it seems that every time I undertake a household renovation project, everyone in the neighborhood knows it.

Are you sure you guys don't have a sixth sense about that?

tom sheepandgoats

We have a lot of people who work at Home Depot. They clue in JW headquarters whenever someone makes a large purchase. This, combined with our "procrastination index," a proprietary database developed by Witness scientists, allows for predictions as to when any given person will be at his/her busiest, to within 3% accuracy.
I'm not sure just what the Mormons use.


Spy Satellites. :)

tom sheepandgoats

Wow! That's a great idea! Why didn't we think of that? Alas, I suppose that, too, is proprietary.

Romulus Crowe

The JW's have nothing on the post office. Wait in all day for a package and you know they won't arrive until you a) go into the bathroom, b) step into the shower or c) give up and go to the shops. They wait around the corner, I think.

I've never considered JWs as fundamentalists. The ones who visited today, as they have often before, never do any Bible-thumping or threats. We discuss the Bible and modern life, they give me Watchtower and Awake, I give them New Scientist (one is interested in astronomy articles) and that's it.

The latest issue of Awake has many tips on how to live on less money if unemployment strikes. Very practical advice. Largely irrelevant to both me and the JW who gave it to me as we are both self-employed and earn as much as we are willing to work for rather than depend on the largess of an employer, but sound advice nonetheless.

Then again, I'm in the north of Scotland where not spending money is a religion on its own. A fundamentalist one, in many cases.

tom sheepandgoats


Being a frustrated Post Office patron as well as New Scientist reader, you may appreciate this recent finding, which hasn't yet made the press:

Scientists have found that it is possible to take a man and put him in a state of suspended animation.....very gradually, by placing him in controlled conditions and lowering his body temperature 2 degrees per hour. Having induced this artificial hibernation, they can keep him in this state for up to 30 years........and that man will still not lose his job at the Post Office.

(Actually, this is a joke. I worked at the Post Office once, carrying mail on a temporary basis. They work very hard. Of course, that's not to say that the system works as a whole, only the individuals do, or at least the ones I observed.)

A science post coming up next.


I'm hear you about how hard it is to preach to gay people, since they presume us to be "fundamentalists" and thus ready to beat them to death with their own garden posts, buuut....

...buddists are the nicest, politest and most tolerant people to call on - and a lot of gay people are buddists so I find a gay buddist (the new age western buddists, not the traditional monks in tight robes that the Watchtower spoke of the other day) are fine.

No tension at all.

tom sheepandgoats

I hadn't thought of that before, but it makes sense. It's a combination I'll be looking for.

Karen G.

Thankyou for sharing your day in the ministry. I loved it....I will be smiling, as usual, the next time I'm out....it would be nice if it would be in the 60's, but I fear it will be in the 80's and very humid.....still, another beautiful day in the ministry. :)


(hehehe) I just cannot stop smiling ... thank you, Tom for making me laugh again today!

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