Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Whoof...last published December 16. Bad bad bad creative person.

A few weeks ago, as I was getting home from running some errand or another, I noticed there was a young man and a young woman at my front door talking to my wife. Judging from their age and the clipboard in the woman's hand, I assumed they were activists -- MPIRG, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Writers' Guild of America -- until I heard one of them ask Neenie "if there was anything she'd like them to pray with her about" before they left. Aha...young people spreading the Word. The clipboard tripped me up.

There's always a temptation in those situations to pretend to be a much more horrible person than you are. I could have pretended to be an abusive spouse, or a Satan worshipper, or a child molester, or a combination of all three, but why ruin their day? They'd just had a polite conversation with somebody -- not a nibble at their answer to Life's Tough Questions to be sure, but at least they didn't get a door slammed in their face or the old let's-pretend-we're-not-home ruse. They probably saw their conversation with my wife as a positive exchange. No need to harsh their buzz.

Also, having spent a good chunk of my adolescence in the United Pentecostal Church, I've gone "door-knocking" a few times myself. I try not to be mean to proselytizers, because I understand that they see me as a drowning man and themselves as the ones with the life preserver. Personally, I think I am in the same kiddie pool as anyone else, but I spent too much time as a child watching the cars pass by while thinking to myself, "all of those people are going to Hell," to begrudge them their feeling of obligation.

Anyway, once they had moved on to my neighbor's door (there was no answer, but I don't know whether she was home), I asked Neenie where they were from. She had no idea. Once I saw the literature, however, I knew exactly who they were: Jehovah's Witnesses.

Not that the literature said anything about being from the Jehovah's Witnesses -- it never does. The JW's have a real knack for hiding their light under a bushel. Hell, they don't even bring copies of Watchtower or Awake! any more, because people have come to realize that those "magazines" are from them. Still, you can always tell JW literature, the same way you can recognize Target ads or Ramones songs. There is a definite "house style" to the illustrations, for one thing; most of their stuff looks like the cover of a children's version of Call of the Wild from 1982. Plus, the articles have a weird way of sounding perfectly reasonable (How Do You Measure Success? Peace on Earth -- A Mere Dream? Do I Have an Eating Disorder?), until you realize that it's all about the Invisible Man in the Sky.

They "got in the door" (or at least got the door to stay open for longer than 30 seconds) by saying they were taking a survey. Neenie is always happy to help, so she said yes. If this was a real survey, they make Republican push-pollsters look like, well, real pollsters. When the questions shifted from "to what do you attribute the rise in child abuse?" to "do you sometimes feel as though there is no hope?" all the way to "do you believe we are living in the end times?," it became clear to my wife that these were not starry-eyed idealistic college students. That's not stars, honey. That's glaze.

I just don't understand this approach. What testimony are they hoping their new members will offer?

NEW JW: I'm just so happy! I really believe I've found peace in my life.

FRIEND: That's great! To what do you owe this improvement?

NEW JW: Bait-and-switch!

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