Today’s meeting with my Jehovah’s Witnesses elder buddy was different than anything we have had thus far. It began in the parking lot of the restaurant. I drove in a little ahead of time and noticed that he was already parked. He was sitting in his vehicle, checking email on his phone. He got out once he noticed me, pointed to my shirt and exclaimed, “We were there Monday night!”
I am a San Antonio Spurs fan and was wearing a black, gray and white tie-dyed, Manu Ginobili t-shirt. If you don’t keep up with NBA basketball, the Spurs made what is now being called the greatest playoff comeback in history. They were down by 16 points with roughly four minutes to play and came back and won the game in double overtime. Manu hit the game winning three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.
The most surprising part about this is that my Witness buddy was at the game. The Watchtower does not encourage sports in any way so for a Witness elder to be interested in basketball enough to go to a playoff game is unexpected. This set the tone for the rest of our two hours together. We talked for nearly an hour about everything except the Bible. I sensed that he was not looking forward to getting into the “Teach” book with me because of how our conversations have been when we were talking about the Trinity. I took that as an opportunity to connect with him on an individual level. He volunteered a great deal about his personal life, and even showed me pictures on his phone, so I felt comfortable asking all kinds of questions. I am getting to know him fairly well.
When we finally started our religious discussion, I wanted to make sure that he was still comfortable. If you remember our discussion from last week, he tried to discontinue our conversations. I didn’t want to challenge him on anything of substance today, but I did want him to know that I had already read the first chapter of the book we are studying through and that I have put some thought into my preparation.
If you have ever studied through a book with a Jehovah’s Witness, you know how remedial it can be. Each paragraph is numbered and there are corresponding questions at the bottom of the page. The questions are designed to get the reader to answer from information found in the paragraph. If you know anything about me personally, you know that I love to ask questions so I find it a bit humorous that the Watchtower has volunteered to provide questions for me. I am not exactly a conformist so the way I answer questions is not how most people answer them.
For example, a portion of paragraph three of the book states, “…many people have given up trying to find the answers. Why? Does the Bible have the answers? Some feel that its answers are too hard to understand. Others worry that asking questions could lead to shame or embarrassment. And some decide that such questions are best left to religious leaders and teachers. What about you?” The question for paragraph three at the bottom of the page asks, “Why do many stop trying to find answers to the questions that matter most?”
When JW asked me that question, I didn’t answer it. I answered the question from the paragraph itself, “What about you?” In other words, why do I think it is important to continue asking questions and not leave the answers to religious leaders and teachers?
I answered. “I’m not a sheeple.”
JW: A what?
KW: A sheeple.
JW: What’s a sheeple?
KW: Part sheep, part people.
(My JW buddy laughed at that and gave me a big smile.)
KW: Have you ever seen Men in Black?
(He had a sheepish grin as he admitted that he had seen the movie.)
KW: There is this one scene where Tommy Lee Jones’ character is talking to Will Smith’s character and he is explaining what it is like to be a MiB and have to keep secrets. Smith’s character asks why they don’t just tell the public about the presence of aliens on Earth because people are smart. Jones says, “A person is smart, but people are dumb.”
(I went on to explain how most people are followers and blindly accept what is given to them, especially if they are in a group. I questions things, even if no one else does.)
Obviously the irony here is that all of the study publications of the Watchtower are designed to get a person to rely on the information provided by them instead of teaching people how to think for themselves. They don’t even want you to ask your own questions! We talked a great deal about why it is important that we make up our own minds and not follow the crowd simply because someone says they are an authority on something. I kept answering questions in this manner and we had some good discussion because of it. Even though we only covered five paragraphs, I think that we laid some important groundwork. There is enough information in these paragraphs to establish the need to ask questions and keep on asking questions.
A lot of what I do when meeting with a Witness or Mormon is prepare for future meetings. Paragraph four on page nine states, “It is good to ask such questions, and it is important that you do not give up until you find satisfying, reliable answers. The famous teacher Jesus Christ said: ‘Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.’—Matthew 7:7.” The fact that my JW buddy and I agree on the importance of asking questions is only going to frustrate him down the road. Only time will tell how much he actually agrees with that last quote.
Our meeting ended on a good note and he even said, ‘I really enjoyed our discussion today.” He had a big smile on his face too.
Editorial note: Since I anticipate that our meetings will continue for quite some time, I will create a new tag titled, “A Conversation With A Jehovah’s Witness Elder.” This way it will be easier for those who come upon these posts later on to follow the chronology of our conversations. Tags are found at the bottom of the posts.