Spiritual Walkers

Looking quickly through the bedroom blinds, I thought it was someone else. The bell had such a friendly sounding ring to it. But by the time I got into the hallway, it was too late. There was no tu

May 30, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Looking quickly through the bedroom blinds, I thought it was someone else. The bell had such a friendly sounding ring to it.

But by the time I got into the hallway, it was too late. There was no turning back. They'd already seen me, so I had to answer the door. Something like dread engulfed me.

"Jehovah's Witnesses," I whispered to myself. "Aaah, maaan."

I don't know what made me think this particular Saturday should be different from any other. After taking a more careful peak through the blinds, I'd previously either ignored the J Dubs or narrowly missed them by being out of the house on weekend errands.

Picking eye boogers from my eyes, I wiped a hand over my oily face and smoothed my T-shirt, pulling it down past the fly of my boxer shorts.

My breath was atrocious.

"Good morning," the dark-skinned woman said.

"Hello." Interrupted dreams fell from my mouth.

She said something about God's kingdom and spreading the good news. She wanted to leave a Watchtower magazine. She stumbled through her memorized script. She perked up when I said I'm familiar with Watchtower. Or maybe she was relieved I wasn't slamming the door in her face.

"Oh! You know it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

The older black woman interjected: "She's new. What we'd like to do is leave you a pamphlet and ask if we might leave them every two weeks. And maybe later you'd like to have a personal Bible study."

I took a Watchtower and never took the Bible study bait, instead leaving it open but remembering to dodge the J Dubs sure to come on future Saturdays.

The exchange was pleasant, painless and quick. I never moved my body from the front door and left them on the porch lest they think I'd be open to that much God-talk before noon on a holiday weekend.

We've been socialized to demonize Jehovah's Witnesses. And why?

You can't honestly say they're anything like the red-faced zealots — using God, the Bible and scripture as foundation and/or reasoning — who bomb and protest abortion clinics and other destinations of women's reproductive rights. They don't murder people with dissenting viewpoints and practices.

The J Dubs are nearly passive. They're miles from the insanely conservative right who preach God's way but who really mean their way and to hell — literally — with anyone who doesn't quack quite like them.

That's really so many apples and oranges.

What I'm saying is that in religion we compartmentalize that realm just like we do every other nook of our lives. So the J Dubs have somehow warranted farm team/sweathog status.

We mainly hate 'em 'cause they come to us and knock on our doors. How dare they interrupt our self-medication/escapism/idiot box daydreaming/child neglect/domestic violence/bliss? It's like the home version of Guess Who's Coming to Sinner each and every time. Damn them!

But give them their props, too. In the work that is clearly God's and in a city dotted on every other corner with churches, the J Dubs walking the streets of my neighborhood are consistent, visible and tenacious foot soldiers.

I've never encountered people from the countless neighborhood churches where I live now. And when I lived in Walnut Hills — Land of the Lord — the only time I saw parishioners from surrounding churches was when they were littering my doors with car wash leaflets or blocking my driveway on Sunday mornings.

We fear what we don't understand.

I literally grew up in black Baptist churches. I'm no biblical scholar, but I've got a working knowledge of scripture and a shoddy prayer life. Whatever the agenda of whatever religious leaning, I can see through it and to it enough that I'm not easily swayed or sidetracked.

Divergent religious practices and beliefs don't bother me. Hell, maybe I'm spiritually vulnerable — and we all know that many religions count and feed on vulnerability to thicken their plots and pots.

The J Dubs probably will be back. Now that I've engaged them, they'll work the room. Oh well. It's probably karma boomeranging around to bite me in the ass for all the jokes in my repertoire with the Jehovah's Witnesses starring as punchlines.

Sometimes I tell friends I ignored them at the door because I thought they were J Dubs, or next time they come I'll act like they're J Dubs and turn off the lights and hide until they leave.

I know, I know. This isn't a free advertisement, and it lacks damnation.

Relax yourself. I'm not converting, just elevating. Because, really, what would Jesus do?

He'd knock on doors, get them slammed squarely in His face and keep walking.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.