When I walked into the restaurant, my Pioneer friend was already seated with his wife. It has been awhile since I’ve seen her. I wasn’t feeling very well because of a headache and almost cancelled our meeting. I didn’t sleep well the night before as we had a pretty good lighting storm that woke me up and then kept me up for most of the night. The three of us sat there and talked for nearly an hour before we started our formal study. It was good to just sit, talk and catch up. Plus, since I didn’t feel very well, it was nice to relax a bit before I knew I had to at least attempt to be sharp.
Before we jumped back into the Teach book, my Pioneer friend wanted to talk a little bit about last week’s conversation. I could tell that he was bothered by it and wanted to get back on track. He was uncomfortable with whatever he was going to say next so I decided to lightened things up a bit.
JW1: I wanted to back up to our discussion last week. I have a bad habit…
KW: Is this something I want to know about?
Both Witnesses laughed.
JW1: When someone asks me a question about spiritual things, I love answering it, but if I am not careful, the conversation gets way, way off subject and we end up going a long way, but not really getting anywhere.
Oh, no. I disagree. We most certainly got somewhere last week. He was just uncomfortable where we ended up.
JW1: Maybe you noticed it, but it kind of happened last week. If we look at paragraphs 23 and 24 on page 17, the question was, “Why should you continue to ask questions about what you are learning?” The answer was that we continue to learn things and that it is good, but we ended up going into all other kinds of discussion and we didn’t even finish one paragraph even though we were here for two hours.
The reason I am mentioning it is because there may be times in our conversation where I’ll tell you that you have an excellent question and we’ll get there, but for now, let’s try to stay focused on the point. I’m telling you this so that you don’t feel like I’m dodging a question. That is really not what I’m trying to do, but if we don’t keep it focused, then we are going to be all over the map.
KW: I understand that. I talked to my wife about it when I got home and I thought that what was happening was what happens so often when we find something that we don’t agree on. We tend to want to defend our beliefs instead of first understanding what the other person is saying. When I was trying to explain to you what I learned in Israel about Abraham and the sacrifice, I thought that you were trying to refute me before you understood me.
SMACK! There was that wet-sock-in-the-face look again. He was embarrassed and immediately went into damage control.
JW1: That isn’t what I was trying to do, but… I think that is what I was doing.
KW: I never really got to make my point. I’m not saying that I want to now, that isn’t why I am bringing it up, but I think it is much more important that we understand each other first. Because I can’t even agree with you unless I first understand you. If I can’t even do that when we really do agree, then I certainly can’t even disagree with you unless I understand you. I might be disagreeing with something that I think you are saying, but it really isn’t what you are actually saying.
KW: That is my primary focus. I want to understand you. Some of my questions might come across like they are out of left or field even antagonistic. That is not my intent. I want to understand you.
JW1: And I know that… a lot of it is my personality.
We both laughed. This was refreshing in a weird sort of way that he was actually owning up the mistakes he made in our last conversation. I think it was helpful that his wife was there during this topic, because I know all married couples have the same kinds of communication problems. It would be extremely difficult for him to deny any of this when his wife is sitting right next to him.
Both he and his wife mentioned that they had recently attended a meeting in their Kingdom Hall and the topic was communication and how to effectively use questions to really understand what the other person is trying to say. I decided to use this to my advantage.
KW: Sometimes questions can betray what someone is thinking. If I ever ask a question and you are confused as to why I would ask the question, then ask me what it is I am saying or why I believe whatever it is I am talking about. I will not take that as an attack. I’m going to take that as you trying to understand what I believe and not necessarily so you can refute it, but so that you can understand it. Later on if you want to hash it out with me and figure out why I believe certain things, then that is fine. I find that a lot of times when people disagree, they haven’t really heard each other.
My Pioneer friend agreed and his wife started laughing like she recognized a problem. Yep, I nailed it. I addressed her and asked;
KW: Is this a marriage thing?
JW1: It is.
KW: Am I doing marriage counseling right now?
His wife continued to laugh and they explained that they have had this very conversation with each other many times. They said that every time they have had an argument, it is because they aren’t listening to each other.
KW: So I am doing marriage counseling.
They laughed again and we talked more about the whole process of not listening to refute, but instead listening to learn. The reasons why I said what I said about questions betraying thoughts is because I want him to learn how to ask me questions without the intention of refuting me.
Cults like the Watchtower do not allow members to learn from other religions. They are not allowed to attend any other kind of religious services, listen to preachers of other faiths, read religious literature other than their own or even give the slightest amount of consideration to another religion. By teaching my friend how to ask questions for learning and clarification, and that it is perfectly normal and natural to do so in conversation, he will begin to think critically about what he has been taught. This was confirmed by how he answered my next question.
KW: Hey, I’m just curious. What did the guy from last week think about our conversation?
JW1: On the way home he said it was a really interesting conversation and that he can understand where you are coming from. He has had some of the same concerns you have.
Excellent! That is what I was hoping for. My Pioneer friend’s wife then spoke up.
JW2: It is really, really refreshing to have an interchange and discussion that means something with someone who has a thought, has a clue and has questions and their own beliefs. It is refreshing. It is nice, very nice to visit with you. This is great. There are a lot of people who just want to argue, but you have shown your sincerity.
She was very complimentary and not at all in a fake, flattering way. She kept repeating the word “refreshing” and was sincerely pleased that I engage them at the level that I do. This was nice to hear and I took it as a compliment.
Our conversation shifted between new books that recently appeared on the JW Library app to materials which are disappearing. My Witness friend cannot find a “Divine Name” booklet to save his life. He can’t order them, find them at the Kingdom Hall or the web site. Both Witnesses were surprised that the booklet wasn’t on the Watchtower’s web site and spent some time at our table looking for it.
We finally got into the Teach book and started chapter two on page 18. My Pioneer friend acknowledged that this chapter should be review for me since it is about the Bible, how we can trust it and various other facts about the Bible’s history and basic message. For the most part, these facts are things we agree on so in times like these, I like to establish more of a foundation on what I believe and show that I have reasons for it. I remembered a quote I had read recently and told them about it.
KW: I recently read a quote where someone said, “When people stop believing in God, it isn’t that they believe in nothing. It is that they will believe in anything.”
Both of my Witness friends agreed with the quote and liked it. I thought it was pertinent to our discussion because I see what I like to refer to as “willful ignorance” among many atheists and agnostics. Obviously that is who my friends thought I was talking about, but it also refers to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Especially Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would rather not be informed or flat out ignore unflattering facts about the Watchtower and their religion. By pointing out that flaw in other people, sometimes you can help them to innocently make that connection for themselves down the road.
We flew through the first three paragraphs of chapter two and then talked about how Jesus taught and treated people. We talked about children and how they often look at things from a completely different perspective. I again mentioned something I have repeated to my Pioneer friend numerous times so that his wife could hear it. I have a friend who asks people to read the Gospel of John “through the eyes of a child.” His wife liked that. I then decided to risk something.
KW: I know this is totally off-topic, but this reminds me of something I once heard about a children’s CHRISTmas play. The kids are up on stage and Joseph and Mary are looking for a place to stay, Jesus is about to be born, but of course, there is no room in the inn. One of the kids totally screws up his line and says, “You can have my bed!” I was hoping that my Witness friends were not going to be distracted by the idea that I was talking about CHRISTmas and understand my point. I knew it was successful when JW2 said;
She said it in that special way where you know they think what was just said is cute.
JW1: Oh, wow. That’s really beautiful.
Somehow as we were wrapping up, we got on to the topic of TV preachers. He made some negative blanket statements about “95% of the Churches out there.”
I clarified and said;
KW: I would say that about TV preachers, but not Churches. There are some good ones on TV, but they are few and far between.
JW1: Just because you say Jesus’ name… if you teach in direct opposition to the fundamental things He taught, then you are not a Christian. A Christian means you are following and living the teachings of Jesus Christ. People don’t understand that. They say things like, “I believe in the Lord!”
KW: Which one?
JW1: Exactly! Thank you!
Here is the main problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like the Mormons, they think that being a Christian is about living a certain lifestyle. Measuring up to what Jesus has done. In other words, Jesus becomes their example and not their Savior. Christianity is not based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is based on the historical fact that Jesus of Nazareth got up out of His tomb and lives again. If He wasn’t raised from the dead, then the teachings of Jesus will not accomplish anything for us eternally.
Speaking of the reason why Jesus came to earth, Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” How do we know whose people are Jesus’? They are the ones who are saved from their sins. If you think you need to live a certain way in order to be forgiven, you are not one of Jesus’ people. I hope to be able to make that point to him one day.
Our conversation ended well and was very laid back. I no longer had a headache, but I was pretty tired. I went home and took a nap. Although we didn’t cover anything really serious, I was happy with how this conversation ended particularly because of how intense the last conversation was. It was good to calm things down.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friend and his family.