It was a Monday morning in the middle of July, and I was baking cookies. I don't think I had a particular reason to bake them, except that I wanted to have cookies around. And I was baking them in the morning because it was one of the hottest weeks of the year, and to have the oven on in the afternoon would be more uncomfortable than the cookies would be delicious.
I was still wearing my pajamas, and Elise was acting up, because she's a baby, and babies act up. And the oven was going off and she was complaining and I was raising my voice and out of nowhere, the doorbell rang. Oh, and those pajamas I mentioned 2 sentences ago? Summer pajamas. Okay for your family to see, not really okay for anybody else to see.
So I scurried to the other side of the house to dig out my robe; all the while, Elise continued to cry. The doorbell rang again. "I'm coming!" I shouted in frustration. I hastily threw on my robe, observed my unkempt hair and tired face in the mirror, and opened the front door to see two smiling, nicely-dressed women, who wanted to share "God's message" with me.
Needless to say, our first encounter didn't last long. I took their pamphlets, bid them well, shut the door, and paged through the material, observing all the heretical and nonsensical teachings therein. It figures! I thought. Tired, hot, undressed, frustrated, and who comes a-knockin'? A couple Jehovah's Witnesses!
At that time, I knew very little about the JW's (I'll refer to them that way for brevity's sake), except that they weren't actually Christian (they deny Jesus is God), they don't celebrate birthdays or holidays, and they don't accept blood transfusions.
They came back every month or so, or rather, one of the women did (Peggy); she always brought a different "sister" along. After going through the motions of a minute or two of small talk and then chucking the pamphlets in the trash after they left a few times, I decided to start reading up on them, in the hopes that I might understand how better to reach them myself. I reasoned that these are well-intentioned, earnest people who love God and want to do His will, yet they have fallen in with a cult that has brainwashed them into believing doctrines that are entirely pernicious and unChristian. Why should they do all the talking? I believe with my entire heart and soul that true Christianity teaches the divinity of Christ (and the Holy Spirit), the immortality of the soul, the bodily Resurrection, the hope of living eternal life in union with God Himself...I could go on and on. I realized that these women would not have been on my doorstep if God had not willed it to be so. The opportunity to share my faith was literally knocking on my door.
So I read. I learned about the history of the Watchtower organization, their false prophecies, their twisted interpretations of Scripture and their controlling structure. To my frustration, each time Peggy came by, there was one reason or another I couldn't talk with her -- one time, I was in the middle of cooking Elise's lunch; a couple months ago, I was spending a very rare afternoon shopping while Colin watched Elise. The week before Easter, I came home from an outing to find an invitation to the annual "Commemoration of Jesus' Death" held at the local Kingdom Hall. Blast, I thought, I've missed her again!
Then, last Tuesday, I was hanging out with Elise during the morning, piddling around doing this chore and that, wearing my jammies and robe. A few minutes before ten, the doorbell rang. I wasn't expecting any UPS packages or visitors. So I prayed to the Holy Spirit and answered the door with a smile. (I don't include that detail to sound holier-than-thou. We all need the Holy Spirit to have any hope of evangelizing; I'm just thankful that my poor bum self actually remembered to ask for help this time.) Of course, it was Peggy -- alone this time.
She handed me the typical monthly publications ("The Watchtower," which focuses on JW's teachings of faith, and the mostly-innocuous "Awake!", which contains articles on how to live your daily life). She asked me if I had any questions. So I asked if the JW's believe in the Resurrection.
Peggy told me they do, which is technically false, since they deny the bodily Resurrection. But she warned me that Easter is a holiday with "pagan origins," pointing out the etymology of Easter is related to the pagan fertility goddess "Ishtar" (which it's not). I couldn't remember all the details of why this isn't true, but I remembered enough to remind her that in many other languages, the name for the Easter feast is related to Passover (like "Pasqua" in Italian). She seemed surprised by the answer.
By then, I realized that not only was Peggy on my doorstep, but my landlords were milling around the yard, looking at the trees they'd planted a few years ago, and my still-pajama'd daughter was playing outside with a stick she'd found on the stoop. Meanwhile, I was in pajamas and a ratty old robe, I had not run a brush through my hair (my very thick hair gets some impressive bed-head), and I had no makeup on. I was a mess. But I honestly didn't even care (which I totally attribute to God's help, because typically I would have been beyond mortified and irritated).
I pressed on. "Do you believe Jesus is God?" I asked, already knowing the answer. "No," she replied with a smile. "We believe He is God's Son." (So do we: Trinity, yo!) But then she went on to say that Jesus was God's first creation, which I emphatically denied. She showed me a few Scriptural passages in an effort to back up her claims. I asked her if she'd like to come in and talk about them. She said she didn't have time then, but she offered to come back. We decided to meet again on Thursday to discuss the Trinity specifically.
She did come back. We had an almost two-hour discussion last Thursday, and this past Thursday, she came back for almost two more hours. Behind the scenes, I spent a possibly embarrassing number of hours reading even more about the teachings of the Watchtower Society, the proof-texts Witnesses are taught to use when attacking true Christian teachings (which, of course, they consider false), and Scriptural passages and explanations to use when evangelizing to the Witnesses. I had many pages of notes.
Are you breathlessly awaiting the outcome of our meetings? Well, so am I, and frankly, I'll probably never know. We went back and forth the whole time for both sessions; she ceded no ground, even when confronted with Scriptural passages which were obviously contrary to JW beliefs. The Watchtower Organization works as a cult: Witnesses are never allowed to question, and risk being shunned ("disfellowshiped") by family and friends if they do. So I'm not surprised that Peggy didn't suddenly abandon her beliefs -- even someone who hasn't been brainwashed is unlikely to do that!
But I do believe the Holy Spirit planted a seed, and I believe the time I invested in learning about the JW's and praying for guidance was worthwhile. I'm going to start a series of posts highlighting some of the best resources I've found and some of the specific lines of questioning that I thought were most fruitful. I hope that these posts are helpful to anyone who feels called to provide an authentic Christian witness to the Witnesses.