A sister placed magazines with a college kid, conversed a while, and he said she could call back. His father, however, would not likely be welcoming, he said.
She gave the call to me. I made it. He was not home. His father was, and the son had been right. The father was not welcoming. Neither did he tell me to get lost. Well – he did, but it was not in the ordering sort of tone, and I said I had not been looking for him anyway, but his son. He was the family head, and I told him I would not try to sneak around him, but did he mind if I called again on his son? The kid was smart, I told the old man, and that must mean his parents are smart. He said his son was his own person, and if he wanted to speak with me again, that was up to him.
I called again. The son, of course, was not home. The unwelcoming dad was. He was in a wheelchair, as he had been the first time. One bumper sticker on the family car read “Born right the first time.” The other said: “There are death squads in America; they’re called insurance companies.” I think we overdo our advice to take cues from bumper stickers, but this time the Ten Commandments could not have told me more. All that remains is to fill in a few blanks.
Sometimes I open with Job 34:10 – “it is unthinkable for the true God to act wickedly.” I like the verse, I told him, because some people think he does act wickedly. And some see all the nasty things going down and say: “I don’t think there is a true God.” It plays into the theme of why there is suffering, I told the fellow.
He wasn’t nice. I made clear that the instant he told me to go away, I would. We were conversing through the storm door, which added a measure of challenge. I almost reached to open it, for it was awkward for him to do so, but I decided it would be a bit much. He laughed derisively at my Bible verse. “You’re here because you want to tell me about suffering?” he shot back from his wheelchair. I answered: “No. I want you to tell me. I don’t have to talk at all. I want you to invite me in and tell me.”
I said: “Look – everyone has a story, but no one wants to hear it. So I will,. I've got the time.” He’ll never see me again anyway – what does he have to lose? I told him. He answered sarcastically that he could never get over the Christians’ “need” to “save” people. Look, he said, he was one of the 5% who are atheist. “Yeah – I’m here to change that,” I answered. This is far more blunt than I would ever be ordinarily, but I decided I would answer him in kind. It was not even true, really, or at least it was not a goal I realistically held. I also told him that he was right – we are Christian, and it is a bit much that we should appear out of thin air, but that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in a league of their own.
He responded by saying his number one man from his working days had been a Witness, and that he had been the nicest, most reliable fellow in the world. “Yeah, we’re all nice,” I said. “You think I’m nice? Wait to you get a load of Clyde,” I motioned to the brother behind me, who could barely make out through the door what the man was saying. His praise for the brother he once supervised at work didn’t yield me as much ground as might be expected. After two or three more minutes maneuvering, I told him that while I would like to know more, one can only go far, and we would take our leave. He didn’t cry over the prospect, but had never taken the bait of saying I should go.
I am not sure what to do. I will let it go, probably. One more call in a few months to see if anything has moved, and then I am done. Maybe before, but I have no plans at the present. Any advice?