Sunday, 12 October 2008


I don't generally feel the need to answer the door if the doorbell goes. The chances are it will be someone conducting a survey or trying to sell me something. Or, at this time of year, kids doing Halloween stuff. I don't answer the door in the evening in October. And gone are the days when people just wander round to their friend's place and knock on the door like my friends and I did when we were children. Such behaviour now is seen as slightly desperate, even a little bit deviant.

Now I look back on it I find it unusual that I decided to answer the door at 10.45 yesterday morning, a Saturday. I was greeted by a man wearing a three quarter length wool coat and a Fedora who introduced himself as Bob. He looked to be in his mid to late forties and was accompanied by his son, who was smartly dressed in black. I observed these details after I realised that I was being doorstepped by Jehovah's Witnesses. You just know, don't you? They come in all shapes and sizes, and probably colours, but you always know instantly. Except for my Grandmother, who once kept a couple of poor unsuspecting Witnesses in tea and biscuits for a couple of hours whilst they talked to her about Jehovah. I wonder how long it took them to realise they were dealing with an Alzheimer's case and how long they would have remained had the home care not turned up!

When confronted by Jehovah's Witnesses one's instinct is to formulate a plan of escape. For some this comes easy. My dad has a stock response: "The only saving I'm interested in is the saves the Spurs goalie makes on a Saturday!". I believe he thinks it's witty. Others probably have no problem in closing the door in their face. I can't do this. My mum brought me up to show other people more respect than I show myself. So I let them speak and hope that an opportunity for me to end the conversation politely presents itself.

Bob began by asking me whether I was worried about the future of our planet. I replied that I was, or rather that I was concerned for the future of mankind. The planet will always be here whereas we are but dust. Bob liked this. He proceeded to read from the Book of Isaiah, telling me of Isaiah's prophecies. Isaiah got loads of stuff right, apparently, so we should listen when he says that "The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered". Unless, of course, we turn to God.

Bob kept asking me questions. By now I was quite enjoying our conversation. Bob seemed like a nice guy but, more importantly, he was teaching me about the Bible. I don't care what anyone says, it's an interesting book for more reasons than I have the time and inclination to go into here. I mean to read it but keep getting waylaid by other books and TV and the internet. Anyway, each answer I gave to Bob's questions prompted him to dig out another section of the Bible. It was uncanny. Bob was able to relate everything I said to the Bible. We went back to Genesis and talked about the creation and Adam and Eve. Then he related Adam and Eve's temptation to Christ's death. I found it all very interesting. I knew the stories but had never before had the symbolism explained to me. I was enjoying myself and had completely forgotten that I was supposed to make something up to explain why I had to shoo Bob and his son from my door.

I should contextualise all this - I've been quite depressed lately. It's not related to any particular event or prompted by trauma but rather that I've been questioning just about everything. Nothing seems to make much sense to me right now, especially when I seek to justify my own place on this earth. I fall woefully short of justifying my place. Someone else could do a much better job of being me than I do. I'm in quite a vulnerable place right now.

Also, I've long believed that there is a fundamentalist in me just dying to get out (I should point out that I don't believe Jehovah's Witnesses to be religious fundamentalists. Well, maybe only a little bit). I'd love to just belong to something and have that something give me guidance. I just can't take organised religion seriously due to what I perceive as over-reliance upon a book. I can't do blind faith. It is this that will always prevent me from following a religion. I like science and evidence too much.

So, Bob and I are getting on famously. I'm pleased that someone is teaching me something and Bob pleased that I haven't told him to get lost. But then Bob ruins it. He had to because he's an evangelist. But I'd started losing interest when he began talking talking about the the day of judgement being near. I'm not interested in that. I just wanted to hear Bible stories and have their significance explained to me. I told him that I had to get to the bank before it closed, which was true, and said goodbye after thanking him for an interesting chat and wishing him a good day. By the time I got to shut the door he'd shaken my hand three times and given me his mobile number. I think he was genuinely happy. I hadn't told him where to go and was interested in what he had to say. Not interested enough to become one of the 144000 souls who will be saved on Judgement Day but interested nonetheless.


Pam Tolliver said...

Hey, Ian. I enjoyed your blog entry. You were quite nice to be kind to Bob. I'm curious to know why you might not care for the idea of living on earth forever in paradise conditions, with never-fading youth, no illnesses, your dream house, the time and energy to do everything you love doing....I find it very appealing. Just wondering.

Pam Tolliver
Springfield, MA, USA

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ian...

What a nice person you seem to be! Just one comment: Jehovah's Witnesses don't teach that 144,000 souls will be saved on Judgement Day. Please ask Bob about that next time he visits. You'll love the answer!

Ian said...

Thanks for your comments, both of you. Pam - I simply don't believe in Paradise. And many thanks, anon, for pointing out my elementary mistake. I have since done a bit of research and am now just a little bit wiser!