Sunday, December 9, 2007

knockin' on heaven's door...

Margaret and Bob stopped by yesterday. They came to see Steve but he was out. I'd never met them before and Steve has only known them for a couple of months. He met them one Saturday morning when they rang our doorbell. Steve had mistakenly left the front door open with only the storm door to protect us from the outside world. Since it was obvious that we were home, Steve answered the door. We are generally polite people so Steve listened to the sales pitch and accepted the pamphlet. Margaret and Bob left after a few minutes and Steve vowed never to leave the front door open again. They visited again a few weeks later, catching Steve outside with no escape. Again, he patiently listened and they left after a few minutes.

So yesterday, just before noon, I had just got home from kick boxing and was making my lunch. I had the stereo turned up loud enough that it could be heard outside, so when the doorbell rang, I had no choice but to open it. I knew at an instant that it was them. Margaret asked for Steve by name, Bob stayed a couple of feet back, not speaking, only nodding in my direction. After I told them that Steve wasn't home (which he wasn't, otherwise I would have made him answer the door), Margaret went on to read a passage of scripture and ask me how I felt about the bible. Not wanting to get into it with them I replied that it was a really big question. Margaret than babbled on for it a bit while I impatiently held the door open to the freezing cold air streaming inside my toasty warm house. She did say something about how back in the day there was a bible in every house and how advances in science and technology have made us into sceptics. She than handed me a pamphlet entitled "Can You Trust the Bible?" Apparently, this was a special issue that "would not be reprinted", according to Margaret. I think this was supposed to make me feel special for receiving it. I can assure you, it did not. She opened the pamphlet and drew my attention to it's "selling features", which included:

"Reasons to Trust the Bible
Historical Soundness
Candor and Honesty
Internal Harmony
Scientific Accuracy
Fulfilled Prophecy"

and then a section that reads:
"You may wonder, 'Is there any source of guidance that is worthy of our trust?'"

and another that reads:
"After reading the articles that follow, you can decide for yourself whether the Bible merits your trust."

I had just about had enough at this point. I was raised Catholic and currently consider myself agnostic. I don't know what I believe but religion is not currently a part of my life. I do know how I feel about the bible. When we were kids, my brother received a gift from our parish priest. It was a thick, beautifully bound book called "Beautiful Bible Stories". It was full of passages from the bible in large print accompanied by beautifully painted pictures. Obviously it was meant to be an introduction to the bible for young children. But what struck me then and what sticks with me now is the title. These are stories. Whether you believe that they are true or not, they are simply stories. And these stories are interpreted differently by each religion who claims this book as their own. So who's right? If I had my way, we would all agree to disagree. If everyone could accept that their are several interpretations of this text and no one is more correct than the other, wouldn't the world be a happier place?

Margaret and Bob left me with the pamphlet and were on their way. They were very efficient. The visit wasn't more than five minutes, although it felt like a lifetime to me. And not once did they mention that they were Jehovah's Witnesses, although the tiny print on the back of the pamphlet confirmed it. But the most interesting thing happened after they left. No, I didn't magically become a believer. I watched Margaret and Bob walk to their car, parked in the court across from our house. They sat in their car for a few minutes, presumably taking notes and then drove away. Clearly they were not visiting anyone else in our neighbourhood that day. Either the rest of our neighbours had successfully brushed them off or they think that Steve and I really need saving. Oh we need saving all right. But not in the way they think.


Anonymous said...

One thing that persons born into both the JW and Catholic faith both share is the mistaken belief that in order to have a relationship with GOD a person must join a church and abide by all its beliefs etc.

If you ever become serious about having your own personal relationship with GOD, the avenue is simple.

YOU have to genuinely desire such, and you have to act on that desire.

Commit to reading the "New Testament" start to finish over a period of 60-90 days. Never miss a day. Pray for GOD's help to understand what you are reading.

If nothing happens, take a month's break, and repeat. If and when GOD reads your heart as genuine, He WILL let you know.

toshiharu said...

Hello, my name is Toshiharu. I'm one of the neighbours of you on Blogger. And I'm a Japanese studying English. Nice to meet you.
Also In Japan, there're many "Jehovah's Witnesses". They visit every house with great patience and enthusiasm. They left their pamphlet to our house also.
I think they're great at that point(not devoting themselves to god, but their diligence), but I don't have any other emotions about them and their god and moreover I think they are a bother sometimes. I had read the Bible, but as a story. That's all. Certainly I'm a Japanese. But I'm a agnostic like you than a diligent Buddhist. I sympathized with you very much.
If you have a spare time, please visit my blog and point out my mistakes. Thanks.

Pel said...

"I think this was supposed to make me feel special for receiving it. I can assure you, it did not."


"Reasons to Trust the Bible
Historical Soundness
Candor and Honesty
Internal Harmony
Scientific Accuracy
Fulfilled Prophecy"


I think you handled the entire thing with grace and poise. It's not fun having someone attempt to convert you. My reactions tend to to err on the side of laughter or becoming very argumentative.

I was brought up a Catholic too! But now I'm lapsed.

My mum has people come round on a daily basis to help with bits and pieces around the house. One of the people is a J'sW and they left her a book to read. It irritated me a little at first. Well a lot to be honest. Cornering someone in their own home isn't nice at all, motivation aside.

Then I read the book. I don't think a book has ever made me laugh quite as loudly as that. The poorly constructed arguements...the double standards, and the general glossing over of anything that contradicted the thrust of it all. J's W might well be a great religion but if so then that book was put together by either the greatest comedians to grace the earth or a complete set of idiots.

I completely agree with you about the Story aspect. It's about interpretation not literal adherence. Which in a way explains why I'm not a fan of organised religion. I had a discussion with someone by the University Union about it. They were asking people about their beliefs for a 'survery' for the Christian Union. Nice guy but we soon started to disagree. We could talk though. He pointed out the stories in the Bible and the relationship with God needs to be taken at a personal level. So I said why have an organised religion? My personal relationship and interpretation is likely to be different but just a special. If I subsribed to what thousands of other people beleived wouldn't it be likely that I was subverting my personal experince for the masses?

He didn't like that.

vivian said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to reply.

Anonynmous, I completely agree! Too often, personal faith and belief is tied to a specific religion or church. I think that's what turns people off. It certainly did for me. I just can't get on board with everything that the Catholic Church tells me I should believe. It's clear that Catholicism is just not for me. Maybe I need to look elsewhere.

I have read the New and Old Testaments in their entirety. At the moment, I can't find a place for God or the Bible in my life, but I'm not ruling it out. Things change and maybe I just need more time away before I can go down that road again. Thanks very much for your comment.

Toshiharu, thank you for your comment as well. The diligence of the Jehovah's Witnesses is certainly commendable, even though it is a bit of a nuisance. It is interesting, however, to meet people who are so devoted to one thing.

Pel, I'm with you on the organized religion argument. It really should be about one's personal feelings and relationship with whatever god they believe in. And if everyone could accept that each individual's relationship was unique and no one was more right than the other, we would get along a hell of a lot better than we do know.