The Book of Job: Do the Birds Fret About What They Must Have Done Wrong?
Job’s Anecdotal Evidence: A Court Summons to God

The Catholic at the Door

The man answered the door and said he was Catholic. He also said he very much respected Jehovah’s Witnesses and the work they did. But he was Catholic, 4th generation Catholic, very involved, and so there was no way he would ever change. “Fortunately for you,” I said, “we’re not recruiting. It’s just conversation.” Whereupon, he added that he was also busy.

I thought of Dave McClure, the circuit overseer from ages ago, who had said how you could “pre-empty” certain objections by anticipating them up front. “We’re calling on busy people today” he would say to illustrate. What are they going to say—they’re busy? You could even do two. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion, and . . .. ” But there was a limit. You really couldn’t do three. “We’re calling on busy people who have their own religion and who aren’t interested, and . . . ” No. It doesn’t fly.

This man really was busy. He and his wife were soon to depart for a medical appointment. But apparently not that soon, for he then went on to say some nice things and even asked a few questions. When they do this, it means that, while yes, they are somewhat busy, they also have learned their lesson from when Oscar Oxgoad called on them a few years back, saying he would be brief. To their dismay, they discovered that ‘brief’ to Oxgoad meant he’ll stay there all day if he possibly can!

When you make it clear that you really do intend to be brief, miracles can happen. This you do by saying something like, ‘The world’s crazy. We think the Bible helps—telling why it is that way, what can we expect for the future, and how to live in the meantime. I want to read you a verse, you tell me what you think, and then we’re on our way. Good idea?” It is not as though someone is going to tell you to get to the point. This man agreed to it.

For him, the verse selected was one he would surely recognize, the Our Father segment of Matthew 6:9 which goes, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, God’s will is done in heaven; surely he has his act together up there. But it sure isn’t done on earth; at least, it does not predominate—and it will not, says the prayer, until “thy kingdom comes”—so just what is that kingdom?

You can go so many ways upon reading this verse. After explaining why you selected it, as above, invite the householder to participate if he likes, or not if he doesn’t like, or not if the time is not right. This is the point where this man said he was Catholic and busy, but then engaged us with a few observations of his own.

These days, Jehovah’s Witnesses are departing from those clunky silhouette presentations once offered up at meetings for a more conversational approach. Of course, there isn’t there isn’t that much difference. They always strived to be conversational. But there is a limit. If you call on someone formally, you cannot just say, “Anything you want to talk about?” You have to provide a reason for your call, and that was the whole idea behind the silhouette suggestions. Alas, any such offering can be committed to memory, after which it comes across as ‘canned.’ Just be conversational, is the new guidance that is not really new.

It is a very challenging task undertaken. Take persons who are just as “uneducated and ordinary” as were the first-century apostles and send them to people who, in some cases, are educated and are not ordinary—some of whom take much pride in those circumstances. Some will be hospitable, but some will look down their noses at the disparity; it is just the way people are. The congregation doesn’t really “send them”—their own understanding of the Bible does. “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come,” says the Word. Who’s going to preach it—those who don’t believe it? So the congregation does not send them, but they do support and coordinate them.

Though not suddenly becoming unbusy, the man was growing more comfortable and somewhere along the line mentioned that his aunt had died in the Holocaust. “Was your aunt of the Jewish faith?” my companion asked. Jehovah’s Witnesses will almost always do this, and why not?—there is nothing like bonding over a horrific experience jointly suffered. Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their stand of neutrality, were among the very first concentration camp inmates, even preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. Sometimes you can even point out that Jehovah’s Witnesses were more than victims in the Holocaust; they were martyrs, for they alone had power to write their tickets out. All they had to do was renounce their faith and agree to work with the Nazi regime.  

The aunt, it turned out, was not Jewish. She was Catholic. She had resisted Hitler’s policies and was incarcerated. 

Talk about what they want, not what you want. As Dale Carnegie said, ‘Who cares what you want?’ Once in a while you may luck out the way that geeky reporter did, with Bruce Wayne telling Alfred to write him a grant just because he asked for one. For the most part, though, you’d better build a bridge and you always start with a genuine—not contrived—interest in the other person. Talk what they want to talk about.

The Catholic Church has a long tradition, I offered him, and they’ve done a lot of good. They have problems, some quite serious, but they have done a lot of good. I even told him about the Pope who arguably saved the word. I thought the man would not know about it because nobody does. It is all but the most closely guarded secret of our time. I only blundered upon it myself by sheer accident. During a time when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, respective heads of the two superpowers, struck up a friendship. It was a friendship not without strain, mostly because both were surrounded by warmongers who were sure the two were daftly naive, even traitorous. But, though the world teetered on the brink in the days before, during, and after the Cuban Missile crisis, the two managed to pull it back. And the man who served as catalyst, bringing the two together: Pope John XXIII. Who would have thought?

It’s purely a function of a determination to fix the world as opposed to being no part of it. But in this case, it bought the ‘ol globe some time under its present rulership.

******  The bookstore

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'


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