It’s been some time since I’ve read about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are so many religions that I need to refresh my study on them periodically. So it was that I received a mailing from the local Kingdom Hall. You see, the very last people at my front door before the pandemic was declared were bearing the Watchtower and telling me the end is nigh. We knew about Covid-19 at that point and were being urged to keep social distance, although the authorities were still dithering about masks. They knocked nevertheless and we stood several feet apart on the porch as they tried in vain to convince me of their truth. So now, a year later, they’ve reached out by mail.
You’ve got to have a soft spot for a religion that has its origins in Pittsburgh. Well, maybe that’s the case for those who grew up where it was the nearest big city. And I do admire that pioneering spirit that says “established religions just aren’t doing it for me.” The great swath of NRM—New Religious Movements—shows that you shouldn’t feel lonely if this applies to you. Even today’s Christianities bear little resemblance to the teachings of the carpenter of Nazareth. He who said even to look upon a woman lustfully was to commit adultery, but whose followers support a president who recommends grabbing them by the, well, where the originator said not to look…. Religions evolve. The literalism many associate with Christian belief is really only about a century old. We have no business castigating religions just because they’re recent.
My mailing from the Witnesses included a personalized (somewhat) letter inviting me to a virtual commemoration of Jesus’ death. Due to the pandemic it’ll be held on Zoom, of course. The expected flyer with its Anglo-Jesus contains the details. I did attend a Witness service back when I was in college. Those days of heady explorations never really ended for me. You have to settle into a tradition to get to know people, of course, but there’s a world full of ways of looking at our spiritual side and there’s more being propagated just about every year—even Jehovah’s Witnesses have splinter groups. I suppose missionaries are something we’ll always have to put up with as long as people are convinced that their way is The Only Way. Trust that others have perhaps quietly, perhaps deliberately, perhaps with a great deal of thought and reflection, have found their own way seems never to be good enough. Still, an invitation is an invitation and those have been rare during a pandemic.