Well, that was fun. And by fun, I mean excruciatingly sad. I just got into it with a Jehovah's Witness. This is the first time this has happened since I left. The first and last time. For the record, she started it.
I went to the library to pick up some holds. Another lady reaches there at the same time and we both lament the fact that the library is closed and doesn't open until the afternoon. I get ready to turn and go and she says, "Well, I've got something you can read in the meantime." She unfurls a stack of Watchtower magazines and brings my attention to the cover article, "What Will Happen to Bad People?" or something to that effect. Ya know, nice uplifting stuff about how Jehovah's Witnesses can't wait until the end of the world comes so all the "bad people" (aka you and me) will be destroyed and they can live eternally ever after. Ya, you can see this is going to go well.
Now, I've been approached a number of times by JW's since leaving their flock five years ago and each time I walk away. I was prepared to do this here too, but she wasn't willing to let me go so easily. I put my hand up, say, "I'm not interested," and turn to walk away.
She calls to my back, "What? You're not interested in the Bible?"
Wrong move, lady. Wrong move.
"No, actually I'm not interested in cults," I reply.
And that was the beginning of the end. Right there in that moment, her back went up and the emotions flared.
"We're not a cult!!!" she screams. "Cults have a man as their leader. We don't have a man."
"You have a group of old men in Brooklyn who run the show. It's no different. Listen, we're not going to be able to have a decent discussion here. You're not even aware of your own history."
"I know my history."
"No, you know the history the Watchtower organization has fed you in that green Proclaimer's book. It's white-washed and inaccurate. If you want to know your real history, you should read Apocalypse Delayed."
"That's an apostate book!" Now, that surprised me. She obviously knew the book well enough to know it was written by someone who'd been excommunicated by the JW's.
I looked at her and smiled. The word apostate makes me particularly happy. Because I'm one. Well, from her standpoint I'd be one, but she doesn't know that. Secretly it delights me that she's carrying on a conversation with me when she wouldn't if she knew who I really was.
"Can you please define apostate for me?" I ask her.
"An apostate is someone who speaks against the organization."
"So, you mean to tell me that you're part of an organization that would kick out someone who publishes an accurate history of the Jehovah's Witnesses just because it differs from what they'd like you to know?"
"It's not accurate. It's lies." She's really getting heated up now.
"Have you read it? How would you know?" I ask.
She avoids answering that and jumps into why JW's shun apostates and attempts to back it with scriptures from the Bible. The conversation goes on for another five minutes or so. Honestly, it's not even worth getting into what we discussed. Suffice it to say, we bantered back and forth, her becoming more and more angry and I becoming more and more calm.
She then accuses me of not listening to her. "You have two ears and one mouth. That means you should keep quiet and listen more!"
I laugh. "I'm happy to listen. But you aren't answering my questions."
"I am answering them! But you're a know-it-all! You think you know everything! I bet your whole life is a mess because you think you know everything about everything."
I smile. And wait. I know what's coming next...wait for it...wait for it..."Jesus said that in the "last days" there would be people like you who would mock the faith. You're a MOCKER!!! That's what you are! A MOCKER!!! I'm not talking to you anymore!"
And there it is.
Granted, I'm sure I did a lousy job of using logic to make my points. (Didn't I say the other day that you can't use logic to persuade someone out of a belief that they didn't use logic to get into?) And I meandered into too many topics. There was part of me that wanted to gush out every single lie I'd ever been told by the Watchtower organization. And I know that that overwhelmed her. My bad.
And I'm sure I wasn't listening as intently as I could have been, mostly because I knew what she was going to say before she said it; because, of course, I was her. She gave me the same tired arguments I used to make as a JW when someone questioned me on my faith. The only difference between how she handled things and how I would have handled them as a JW is that I would've remained calm and not started throwing out insults. When I was a JW, I didn't see the purpose in hailing down 'fire and brimstone' on anyone. Make no mistake, I was an arrogant and self-assured JW, and assumed that if you treated me with mockery you were vulture-fodder come Armageddon, but I kept that to myself; no point in pissing people off if you were of the hope that maybe at some point in the future they might change their mind and see the "error of their ways" and come looking for the truth you were selling.
It's interesting to stand and talk to someone and feel like you're talking to yourself. I knew she was another separate person, but it felt very much like I was talking to myself from six years ago, when I was still a devout, unquestioning Jehovah's Witness. I felt like I was arguing with the bits of myself from that point in my history. It was odd. By the end, I just wanted to hug her and tell her, "I'm so sorry. I wish you could see this for what it is. But you won't. And it will hurt you."
Well, lesson learned. I have no intention of ever having that conversation with any active JW again. The saddest thing is that she'll go home tonight, and rather than pause and think about the things I said, she'll say a prayer to Jehovah about how thankful she is that he gave her the opportunity today to "bear witness". And she'll wake up tomorrow with a renewed sense of zeal that she was able to bear up against such a blatant assault on "The Truth", and she'll feel vindicated because she was able to face being persecuted "for the faith".
How do I know she'll feel this way? Because I would've felt the same way.