Image from jw.org
I have often seen the “cart witnesses” at Oakland Airport (OAK), and so I hoped that they would be present when I disembarked from my recent flight. And yes, there they were, one man and two ladies. We pleasantly chit-chatted about the joys and trials of flying, then I prepared them to go deeper.
I say that I “prepared them,” because I was intentional about this. You should be too, if you don’t want them to shut down on you in less than a minute.
Lately it seems that unless their “householder” or prospect exhibits “worthiness,” (that is, a willingness to blindly drink the Watchtower koolade), they will instinctively cease listening to ANYTHING you are trying to say to them. Their escape from engaging with you is to refer you to their website, JW.org. In the past (even as recently as a year ago) there was more of a willingness on their part to dialogue, discuss, and even debate. These days, their quick dismissal reminds me of “disaster triage.”
“What’s disaster triage?” Thanks for asking.
My wife and I have attended the disaster preparedness training known as CERT, or Community Emergency Response Training, a program developed soon after 911 to prepare citizens for self-sufficiency in the event of a major disaster. One of the sections of that CERT training was how to search damaged buildings for survivors. Because of the limited time and resources involved during an intense disaster, we were trained to employ a quick method of triage. Upon encountering an unresponsive victim, you check for vital signs (pulse and breathing), and if you find none, you move on. You do not attempt CPR or any other first aid.
That seems harsh. And admittedly it is. But in disaster mode, it’s the only reasonable, effective, and efficient way to help those you truly can help. In a disaster, you don’t have hours to attempt CPR on all the unresponsive victims. You keep moving, helping those you can, and (harshly) leaving the rest for dead.
All of that to say that it seems that the JW’s are in “disaster triage” mode. Their practice seems to be: If the prospect doesn’t seem receptive to the message, give up on them. Don’t engage them in discussions. Refer them to the website and move on.
It’s harsh. And in their case, they don’t have a legitimate disaster with which to justify their harsh practice. I might understand if they were under the gun of a new prediction of the end of the world as we know it (#TEOTWAWKI). But it looks like they have (wisely) given up on the predicting game, at least for now. I think their motivation is now avoidance of conflict, and just plain laziness. It seems to me that the rank-and-file are thinking, “Oh good, there’s a website now, where the organization has done all the work for us. When we’re stumped, we can just refer the prospect (or opposer) to that site, and be done with it. I don’t have to actually research or know anything for myself anymore.” And the governing bully has given them tacit permission to do this, with their repeated warnings to avoid conversations of any kind with “opposers.”
On the one hand, it sucks. I am personally experiencing less willingness on the part of my JW acquaintances to engage in dialogue. They are recently more quick to ask, “Why are you asking that question?” or “What’s your motivation in asking that?”, turning the table from a defensive position to an offensive one, questioning the inquirer’s motives. Or they say “I’m not going to argue with you,” essentially saying “I’m done talking with you.” It’s even more frustrating to talk with them than ever before. “You can find all the answers you need at JW.org” is now their conversation ender (perhaps their mantra).
But on the other hand, it can be a good thing. Let’s take it as an opportunity; an opportunity to be more genuine with them. Here’s what I mean: Until recently, I could get more conversational mileage using my “undercover” tactics, posing as an interested Bible student to get them to begin to question the Watchtower teachings. But now they’re quicker to identify those tactics. (They’re on to us.) So now, I’m finding it more effective to be more transparent with them from the beginning. We can still engage in long and deep conversations, but we have to prepare them first. As an example, here’s what I did with my JW friends I met at the airport:
After our chitchat, I told them that I have been meeting with two JW friends off-and-on for Bible study, and that I have been attending mid-week meetings at my local Kingdom Hall about once a month. Then I relayed to them my excitement about the verses in scripture about Jesus being our mediator, and quoted First Timothy 2:5, where Jesus is described as the mediator between God and mankind (be sure to use that precise term).
Smiles and nods from my 3 new JW friends.
Then I asked what they thought the mediator thing was all about. One sister (Sister #1) essentially described Jesus as our ransom, but not very well, so I helped to clarify.
Smiles and nods still.
I mentioned the aspect of prayer as part of Jesus’ mediatorial role. Sister #1 disagreed, saying that we pray directly to Jehovah, and that “the mediator does not include that.” I told her that all my other JW friends had shown me in the publications and at jw.org that praying “in Jesus’ name” meant that we are to pray to Jehovah, through Jesus. “Do you have a different opinion from the Watchtower?” I asked.
Sister #2 and Brother nearly sprained their necks to look to her for her response.
“Oh, no!” she said. So I established with them that Jesus’ mediatorial role included his being our ransom, as well as his role in our prayer life.
Smiles and nods again.
Then I said something like, “So, I have a problem that’s really bothering me. I’m hoping to get your opinion, to help clarify the issue.”
Notice that I admitted that I had a problem with the JW doctrine. Not that they have a problem. And I called upon them for their help. They looked genuinely concerned and eager to listen. So I went on.
“Imagine my shock and surprise when I found out that the Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed 144,000, and not for the rest of the “great crowd” believers. I find that very disturbing.”
Sister #1: “What’s that now?”
I literally had to say it three more times before they could even begin to dialogue about it. “Watchtower teaches that Jesus is the mediator for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and not for the great crowd believers.”
The brother said “Oh, no, that can’t be true.”
Sister #2 (finally chiming in): “You got some wrong information from somewhere.”
That’s when I explained that when I have asked all my JW friends and acquaintances about it, they ALL referred me to JW.org, where I found the Insight article on the subject of “Mediator,” which I then printed to take on the plane with me for reading material. Then I showed them the printout.
Sister #1 read the paragraph that I had highlighted, then tried to say the article was saying something other than what it was obviously saying. So I said to her, “Well, I hope you’re right. I hope that I’m misunderstanding something, because if it’s true that they teach that, then I’m heartbroken and burdened for you. Please look at the paragraph again for me, would you? I hope that you’re right, that I’m missing something.” She looked at the article again, and then said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to research it more when I look it up, over there,” pointing to where (I think) they take their breaks. “Would you please?” I replied, “Because if it’s true, then I’m really concerned about this, and it would break my heart to think that you don’t have Jesus as your mediator. I want that for everybody, don’t you?”
Nods and smiles again. I ended by thanking them for listening, and for their time, and for their smiles here where people get off a long plane ride.
So my new strategy of preparing JW’s to listen to me, rather than dismissing me, includes the following:
- Admitting up front that I’m not about to become a baptized JW, and that I have some disturbing questions that need an adequate answer.
- Beating them to the punch of referring me to the website, jw.org, quoting from it myself.
- Asking them to clarify their understanding of Watchtower doctrine.
- Showing them my broken heart for them, rather than gloating about my ability to stump them.
By using this approach (I’m no longer referring to my methods as tactics), the result of my conversation was keeping them as friends, rather than seeing them shut down. And hopefully, Sister #1 and the others will research the issue more.
Lord Jesus, please make the seeds that were sown sprout and grow in their hearts and minds.