One Thousand Words on Door to Door Religion

Yesterday morning there was a knock on my front door.

I wouldn’t say that this is rare… actually, that’s not true. It’s very rare. I don’t live in a “drop by anytime” type of home.

It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome friends in if they just did drop by. I certainly wouldn’t ask them to leave. We just tend to make plans or call ahead.

So the knock on the door was a little startling.

I answered it in my sweatpants, which is my usual wardrobe on weekend mornings. Decent enough to go out and get the paper off the walkway without embarrassing myself, but comfortable enough to feel like I’m lounging around the house.

Standing on the front porch were two young women, probably in their very early twenties, each clutching a bible and a few issues of The Watchtower.

Yep, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They were pleasant. They said they were volunteering to spread the word, or some such thing.

Since I’m sure that they meet some mean people who slam the door in their faces while out spreading said word, and because they were polite, I was polite back.

I simply thanked them and said I wasn’t interested. They wished me a nice day. I wished them a nice day too and they moved on to my neighbor’s house.

Afterwards, I had two observations about the young women, one kind and other not so much.

First the unkind observation:

If you are going door to door trying to recruit people to your religion, it’s probably better if you don’t dress like a homeless witch.

They were both dressed entirely in black and their clothes were shabby and wrinkled.

I understand not having money for new clothes. And maybe their attire was supposed to reflect their devotion in some way, like the Jehovah’s Witness version of a nun, but they just looked unkempt.

That’s the one thing I think the Mormon’s got right. You’re much more likely to listen to clean cut, well dressed missionary than one that looks like she just spent the night in a Goth club.

It was a beautiful spring day, why look so severe? Try a pastel for crying out loud. It might help your cause.

Now the kind observation:

If you are going door to door selling religion, Sunday morning is the perfect time to do it.

Think about it. All the people who have already been sold on Christian religions are in church. You don’t risk being told you’re going to hell by the Catholics or having the Evangelicals trying to save your soul.

All those people are safely tucked away at their own church.

So what you got left are the people who believe in religions that have a different holy day — the Jews, Muslims and the like, which, let’s face it, are few and far between in Northern New England.

And the people you really want to reach. The atheists, agnostics and heathens, like me.

It’s really quite brilliant.

Although I find that I’m quite cynical of all religions, opium of the people and all that, I’m particularly skeptical of door to door religions. Is that really a viable way to spread God’s word?

My mother said that my great-grandmother enjoyed having Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on her door. She was a widow for over twenty years and probably a little lonely. She just liked talking to them for the company. She never had any intention on converting.

A conversation with her was a big waste of time for the unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witness.

I was in the laudromat washing a comforter that was too big for my home washer a few months ago and saw the same thing.

A young man came in trying to hand out copies of The Watchtower.

Most people said no thank you or just ignored him. But one guy started talking to him about being a Jehovah’s Witness, asking him about specific beliefs.

They talked the entire time my comforter was in the washing machine. Finally the young man asked the guy if he wanted to come to a bible study, or talk to their religious leader.

The guys replied, “Nah. I’m a Baptist. I was just shooting the shit with you.”

It was a completely wasted effort for the poor kid. And I’d be willing to bet that nine and a half times out of ten they don’t end up with a new member.

After all, if this were a viable recruitment tactic, all the religions would be doing it. We’d be overrun with door to door Methodists and Congregationalists. And you know the Unitarians would be all over it.

Instead, it’s a practice of the more fringe religions.

I’m not judging these religions (except on their methods of conscription), but many people do view both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Latter Day Saints are cults instead of religions.

The website www.catholic.com has a whole page about Jehovah’s Witnesses. It ends with this condescending paragraph:

“No matter how peculiar their doctrines, they deserve to be complimented on their determination and single-minded zeal. However, as Paul might have said concerning them, “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Rom. 10:2, NIV).”

Personally I think there’s a fine line between cult and all religion. What makes the congregational recitation of the Lord’s Prayer any different from the chants of the Hari Krishnas?

But religions that turn their followers into door to door salesmen do feel a bit closer to that line.

It’s intriguing that recruitment and missionary work is expected just like a Catholic is expected to go to confession and Baptists are expected to, well, be baptized.

If I had been the friendly sort, I would’ve asked the two women inside and talked them about this. Ask them what they thought of having to go door to door for their God.

But I had no intention of joining and didn’t want to waste their time.

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