Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sol Visits a Kingdom Hall, and Finds the Door Locked

It's a lovely warm evening this evening.  A gentle breeze from the south wafts into my car window.  I sit here with it about an inch and a half down as I wait quietly for some sign of life from the windowless brick building.

With square footage a little larger than my house, the building has real stone under brick arches in the shape of windows.  But like I said, there are no windows, an eccentricity brought about by who knows what, I've heard reasons like vandalism, cost, construction time, and that natural light during spiritual focus encourages lewd behavior.  I'm suspicious of that last one.  Looking in the door, it appears to have perhaps 50 chairs.  There are no truly large Kingdom Halls, no mega-churches in the Jehovah's Witness world.  This one would fit within half of the gymnasium my ecclesia (church) meets in.  But we have 2000 members or so.  In this Kingdom Hall, two congregations meet.

I have already checked the door a couple times.  I know two congregations meet here because their meeting times are posted on the wall next to the door.  But nothing posted about why nobody is here now.  Usually when one passes out flyers advertising a location and a time for an event, one shows up to the event, however, if despite the profuse and wasteful use of such methods, one never seems to expect anyone to show up for one's events, one may neglect to be vigilant if one's plans change.

I have heard of congregation consolidation previously, loss of members and reduction of costs leading to two and even three congregations meeting in the same Hall.  I had not seen it however, so I was excited to have something confirmed.  I am expecting to have quite a few things confirmed this evening, because if we go through the study I have been given in preparation for this evening's meeting (which I have already dutifully browsed) I already have material with which to work.

You see, Jehovah's Witnesses are constantly fed both the questions and the answers to anything they could possibly be inquisitive about and an infinite number of subjects they will never need to be inquisitive about because all the answers are provided.  But it's strange because these are questions I'd expect to see in Sunday School, asked of children who would then dutifully answer from the material already given.  But these people have studied "the Bible" (actually the Watchtower with the Bible as a reference) for years!  Why such simple closed ended questions?

The answer lies in the mind control.  Keep the mind from delving deeper.  Hide the extraneous information.  Instill an automatic program in the congregant's mind which says "here are all the answers, I don't need to go anywhere else."  Pretty quickly one trusts automatically and implicitly.  Any divergent material is automatically screened because the brain becomes unaccustomed to searching for answers and thinking up new questions.  Every question has an answer, and it must be in this material somewhere.  jw.org makes this even easier because you can search and you get the pre-approved answer.  No need to think on your own.  Not only are you expected to have read all the materials and answered all the elementary school level questions before you show up, but you're going to do it again once you get here, out loud and in the group.  Group dynamics are very important.  The simple presence of another person automatically quiets dissent in a controlled environment.

It's about 7:25 now.  I was told to be here at 7:15.  I was excited to come, to experience this new thing, but it has worn off.  A couple cars have driven into the parking lot and out the other side.  They both saw I was here, and they seem to know why no one else is.  They're not telling me though, and in this easily recognizable car that they'd know wasn't one normally seen in the parking lot.

An older Chevy pickup pulls in the parking lot and parks next to one of the two empty cars in the lot.  They're both Honda sedans.  What's that?  That guy's smoking a cigarette.  Either he's not a Witness or he's hiding it.  Nope, he's not dressed like a witness either.  No self-respecting undercover smoker would risk getting caught at the Kingdom Hall.  Smoking, oddly enough, is a disfellowshippable offense.  There's a whole bunch of stuff for which you'll "strong counsel" from an elder, but if you refuse to quit smoking, you're out.  He just threw the butt on the ground in front of the building.  There's no way he's a JW.

I get out and go ask him if the door is still locked.  On the way I offer up a prayer that whatever this man's need is, for God to provide it.  It is still locked.  He's got a hell of a cough.  I've heard worse, but in the morning.  This guy's coughing pretty regularly.  Lung cancer?  Is he here because he doesn't have long and he's looking for something?

His name is Fred.  He lives in South Fayetteville.  He seems nice enough, says he was impressed by the guys who visited him a couple times.  He keeps calling them "services" and this building a "church" though I've already explained to him that they call them "meetings" and "Kingdom Halls" respectively.  He says he's looking for a small church, and hasn't been in years.  He wanted to come on a Tuesday night because he wanted there to be less of a crowd.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that there's probably just as many people to the evening meeting as there is to the Sunday morning meeting.  And I've never heard of a "crowd" at a Kingdom Hall.

I offer to talk with him about God, but he's not interested in talking, he just wants to listen.  He says if they ask him to get up and talk, he won't do it.  He obviously has no idea what JWs are about.  He thinks they are just another church, and the culture says he needs to go to church, and he wants a small one, so this is his church.  It's more like a 7-11 than where he worships.

Before long, I have figured out that there is no meeting tonight because there is an Assembly on Saturday.  How that makes sense, I'll never know, but my ex-JayDub friend says if I was IN I would.  I guess if meeting attendance is required to be in good standing with God, you're happy to get a day off occasionally.  But they are required, at least to have a good standing in the congregation and by extension, with Jehovah.  It's another little mind control trick, using rewards and punishments for expected behavior.  You only get promoted if you put in the time.  If you don't put in the time, you get a talking to by a higher-up.

Well, I told him why I'm here, but curiously he doesn't ask why I might be learning about them if I don't intend to be one.  He really knows nothing about them.  I don't want to use the C word, that would be indelicate.  But he's not curious at all, not even when I say that I have been debating with my cousin for eight years or so.

We talk a while longer as he lights up another cigarette, he tells me he is on disability now but used to be in construction.  He's 67, but looks a bit more weathered than that.  His cough is disconcerting.  That's a nasty cough.  His kids are 10-15 years my senior.  He started younger than my dad did obviously.  No mention of a wife.  Just dogs.  This guy is lonely but doesn't seem much into talking.  He really only wants to listen.  If I had to venture a guess, I'd say TV takes up a lot of his time.  Just wants to listen to something interesting, no engagement, loneliness lulled to sleep by the constant hum of the tube.

The Holy Spirit prompts me to ask to pray for him, but I don't.  I'm wicked and I know it.  I have no redeeming qualities.  I know Jesus is going to be the only way I am Justified.  My feeble works are worthless, and I get plenty of opportunities to remind myself of it.  But I don't feel condemned.  God loves me and for some reason, this divine appointment happened.  This guy showed up to see Jehovah's Witnesses and somehow ended up with me.  However, this man has no interest in knowing pros and cons of the Watchtower Organization.  He's not inquisitive at all.  I find that disappointing.  If I'm investigating something new, I want the upsides AND the downsides.  But I'm a thinking person, an intellectual, educated and learn more every day.

He's getting ready to go, I've told him that no one is here after confirming it with the guy on the phone.  We shake hands, twice and he walks to his truck.

Oh well, I'm not mad.  Cousin Bill has been giving me the runaround for years.  It's frustrating, but I have come to believe he's a true believer.  He has made peace with it.  He's doing enough in his mind and he's justified himself before God.  His mind is not open to new information.  He's well and truly programmed.

Where do I go from here?  Home.  I could have been at home with my family.  My days are numbered on this earth and I have spent far too many of them trying to talk to this Bill and getting little real engagement.  There's no relationship here.  He just wants me to hear what he has to say.  But he won't listen to what I say.  I am not saved by intake of knowledge.  I am not saved by belonging to an organization.  I am not saved works or preaching.  I am saved by Jesus.  As much of a jackass as I am, only Jesus saves.  But Jehovah's Witnesses treat Jesus like Jehovah's red-headed step-son.

Have a good evening.  I wish this evening would have been more fruitful, but all I have gotten are confirmations.  If I decide to go to a Kingdom Hall again, it won't be for Cousin Bill.  It will be for Fred.  Someone needs to warn him about what he's getting into.  And he wasn't getting my hints tonight.

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