Working in the ministry with a 75-year old who just became a Witness, he makes a better impression than me (who can be accused of having been around so long as to know every spiel.) But not him. With him, it is pure conviction and sincerity. ‘I had never read the Bible,’ he said, despite his long church affiliation. ‘When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.’
It was at a home where no one had answered at first, and you wonder whether that is on purpose or not; sometimes people don’t answer. But upon returning, there she was, an older woman, puttering around in the garage. We crossed the street to speak with her.
She was guarded about my invitation to read a scripture, get her thought, and then be on our way, observing that she was Roman Catholic. ‘Fortunately, we’re not recruiting,’ I told her. ‘It’s just a scripture from a book you know as well as us.’ She then added that there were some Witnesses in her extended family—with the air that ‘They keep me informed so you don’t have to?’ Dunno. Could be, but dunno.
I offered a ‘deal’ which was—sometimes when there are Witnesses in the family, you wonder why they do this or that, you have some views of them which may be good or bad, usually some of both, but you would not just come out and say it to them because—well, they’re family. You don’t want to mess with the chemistry. ‘But us you’ll never see again,’ I told her, ‘so anything you wonder about them we can tell you about.’
All this either loosens a person up or shuts them down. If it shuts them down, then off we go. In this case, it loosened her up. Family members had responded differently to her Witness relatives, she mentioned, but as for her, she is open-minded. It was plain that she was open-minded when we finally did read that scripture—in this case it was Matthew 6:9-10, the ‘Our Father’ prayer; I prefaced it by saying, ‘This is where Jesus tells his disciples how to pray,’ upon which she interjected, ‘Supposedly.’
‘She doesn’t really believe it,’ Keith observed to me as we were discussing the call later. Just like he hadn’t really believed church things either during his nominal time as a member. That’s not to say he disbelieved them—only, that he had formed no decisive opinion—they might be so or they might not be.
Keith had come into his own during this short call. I had gradually yielded to him. They had some things in common, such as having recently lost a spouse. One never knows how someone will respond to the Bible until you run a few verses past them and they get to put it in context.
Strange how some, like Keith, say that once they started reading the Bible, they ‘couldn’t put it down.’ Even I was able to put it down, if he’s speaking of reading it straight through. But once a person is given a few keys to it—then one is not able to ‘put it down’; then they are forever flipping back and forth to see that this portion really does explain that portion. They are just drawn to that basic Witness approach to understanding the scriptures: for any given passage in question, gather together all other passages on that same topic and on that basis decide what the scripture means. In the process of doing so, one sees through and jettisons a truckload of religious doctrines that serves to impede understanding.
But others will read the Bible and see a lot a nasty doings chronicled. ‘If it’s there, it must be A-okay God,’ they figure. What is wrong with people to think that way? It’s just history. It’s history of what people did when they knew of Jehovah, when they didn’t know of Jehovah, and when they knew but were oblivious to his requirements. Obviously, he has requirements. The creator of humanity—we are going to have requirements of him or he or us? That doesn’t mean people pay any attention to them. Sometimes comeuppance for such straying is prompt and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all and is one of those things for which we must stay tuned.
And here I am, on another occasion, with a fellow long-time Witness. Keith, meanwhile, is working in the field service with someone else new—in this case, someone who ran a local youth agency until he retired. He and Keith are chatting up a storm at one door. No one had given my fellow and me the time of day.
****** The bookstore