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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Preaching To The Prosthyletizers: Jehovah's Witnesses

Not my Seventh Day Adventists, these are in Bolivia
So, I tried a new approach to the Jehovah's Witnesses who come to our door, hoping to convert me to Jehovah's Witnessing. 

I'm always kind to people who come to share the "good news" with me, especially when their "good news" is that I'm going to burn in hell if I don't accept their version of religion.

Branch Davidians
But I'm not going to say that to your face and I'm not going to be anything but warm and kind when I talk to you. This is not necessarily based on any great wisdom on my part. It's pure practicality: I have a journalist friend who wrote a great deal about cults and the biggest thing she learned is that any kind of attack or criticism only calcifies the belief system. 
Followers of Sun Myung Moon mass wedding--last year!
So, usually, I invite people in or offer them food, while I tell them that they're wasting their time here, "I love my relationship with God and the Great Unknown and if even my best friends can't "save" me, you, as a stranger, are not likely to have much success either." 

But this time, I don't know, I had slept well, I felt really good, so I decided to be honest. The man opposite me on the front steps was handsome, about my height, with warm brown skin and a pleasant smile. Beyond him, on the sidewalk, I saw the well-dressed women in their conservative suits and  nice hats. All of them were people of color. 

(I've taken those tests and learned that I have bias *towards* people of color--I tend to 
assume that they are kind and wise and that I will like them. Probably because of this bias, I often do.) 

At any rate, I opened the screen door and offered him food and drink. I wanted to try to explain what I see as the dichotomies of our world view. With enthusiasm, I explained: "You see, I'm a Jew. 
And that means that the central metaphors of my faith are the Exodus from Egypt and the fact that we were once strangers in a strange land. That means that, as a Jew, whenever I see someone yoked in slavery, that someone is me. Not a person I need to empathize with, but me, because *I* was a slave in Egypt."

He opened his mouth, but I kept going. "Plus, we were strangers in a strange land, so every stranger is someone we should welcome, and not impose upon. Not try to suggest how they should worship or what they should believe." I smiled at him. "And you are a Christian, and because you are going door to door, I assume that the keystone of your faith is that Jesus died for your sins and you need to spread the good word."

"No," he said. "The keystone of my faith is the love of Jesus. And I want to share that." 

I beamed at him. "Yes, that's what I mean. You believe it's so important to persuade other people what you believe, and I believe it's so important to respect what others believe and that ever person's relationship to God is intensely personal and none of my business. It's an important and central difference in our world views. You see what I mean?"

"But," he said, "Your relationship with God is a relationship with Jesus, right?"

"Nope," I said. "Remember, I'm Jewish." 

"But--" he interrupted. "Jews believe in the Messiah. And Jesus is the Messiah. It says that in throughout the Old Testament."  

"Ah," I said with delight. "Yes, Jews believe that the messiah will come when *we* have healed the earth. When we have made the world ready for the messiah. When it is all healed. When we have fixed it up so that we're ready for the Messiah to come. And since it's not ready, we don't believe that the Messiah has already come." 

He frowned. "But--" he said. "You think that humans are going to fix the world? You think that's going to happen? All the evil of the world? With this contentious political climate? Don't you see Satan at work in the world?" 

What lovely, thoughtful words he was using. I settled in for the long haul. This was fun. 

In layers--Job and family,
Angels, including Satan

"Ah," I said again. "In the Jewish testament, the Old testament, in the Book of Job, Satan is one of God's messengers, not a separate and equal evil force. God gives Satan permission to test Job. Otherwise, Satan couldn't do anything.

"And," I added. "Jews believe that God gave each of us both a good and an evil inclination, and God did that for a reason, because there is good in the evil inclination and evil in the good, and because each choice that we make, each choice, every minute of the day--like the way that 
I'm talking to you, the stranger who came to my door--each choice," and I put up my hands, palms down, level--"Changes the balance of good and evil in the world." I shifted one hand down and the other up. "Every single choice throughout the day." 

"But the world is so full of evil," he said. "How can simple humans fix all that evil without the help of Jesus?" 

Isn't this fabulous? Super Moses!
"Well," I said, "I believe that, as a Jew, it is my job to look at what can be done and do it. I can't say it's too much, and I can't say I can't do it all. I have to do what I see, and do what I can do. I have to heal the world. You see--"

He interrupted me. "Ah, I think I have to get going now. Thank you." And he joined his partners down the street. 

So, I preached the prosthelytizer into leaving me alone. I walked back into the house giggling to myself. 

P.S. Jews never say the tetragrammaton--the four vowel word, "Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay," that is one of the names for God. And we certainly don't call it "Jehovah."

P.P.S. Jehovah's witnesses were subject to fairly intense Nazi persecution, including being put in concentration camps, although they were among the best -treated prisoners there. 
P.P.P.S. I identify cults along a continuum, and by various characteristics: 1) you must strictly abide by the organization's rules. 2) one person is the source of all wisdom and judgement. 3) those who leave are shunned. 4) There is a hierarchy of treatment within the organization, with, say, movie stars being treated one way and the riffraff being treated another, or the better families being able to live in their own houses while the hoi-poloi must live communally in an old building. 

P.P.P.P.S. Jehovah's Witnesses shun those who leave and often refuse any medical treatment. 
P.P.P.P.P.S. This news just in from England: 

 Jehovah’s Witness charity loses appeal against Commission inquiry

Jehovah’s Witness charity loses appeal against Commission inquiry

Governance | David Ainsworth | 15 Mar 2016
The UK’s leading Jehovah’s Witness charity has lost an appeal for a judicial review of a Charity Commission inquiry into its safeguarding procedures, but won a review of a Commission order to produce documents.

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain sought a judicial review of a decision in 2014 to open a statutory inquiry into its safeguarding policies for children and adults at risk. The inquiry was opened followed allegations that a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses had allowed a paedophile to question his victims as a “disfellowship” meeting.

The charity also sought a review of a Commission order requiring it to produce, among other things, “All documents created on or after 1 June 2011 setting out or recording an instance or allegation of, or complaint about, abuse of or by a person who is or has been a member of the charity or a congregation charity”.

The case was heard in February in the Court of Appeal by Lord John Dyson, the Master of the Rolls – the second most senior judge in England and Wales – sitting with Lord Justice Richard McCombe and Lord Justice David Richards.

The three judges unanimously ruled against the appeal in the case of the statutory inquiry, saying that the Charity Tribunal was the proper place to hear a challenge.

However they allowed a review of the production order, because the wording of the Charities Act 2011 limits the tribunals’ ability to hear such challenges.

Charity Commission spokesman said: “The Commission is pleased that the court unanimously dismissed Watch Tower’s challenge to the Commission’s decision to open an inquiry. This is a significant decision allowing the Commission’s inquiry to continue to progress. The challenge was dismissed because the court accepted the Commission’s argument that the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) was the correct place to hear Watch Tower’s challenge to the inquiry opened by the Commission. The Commission believes that the specialist Tribunal is the right venue for such cases and is pleased that the Court of Appeal has confirmed this.
“The Commission is disappointed that the Court of Appeal found in favour of Watch Tower in one respect, deciding that the challenge to the Commission’s order seeking documents from the charity should be heard by the Administrative Court rather than the Tribunal. This decision was reached because of the specific wording of section 320 of the Charities Act 2011, which limits the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear challenges to such orders.”

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