JW's at the door!
Recently, my friend Lorna told me about a neighbor of hers who was receiving constant visits from some particularly aggressive Jehovah's Witnesses. One day Lorna's doorbell rang and she opened it to find that the same JW's had come to her. They asked about her interest in the things of God and when she told them brightly "Oh yes, I'm a Quaker!", they were dumbstruck. They apparently had no arrows in their quiver against Quakerism and so bade her a friendly farewell and haven't returned.
I'm currently having a quasi-vacation in Denver and staying at my Mom's house. This morning the doorbell rang and I answered it to find two JW's at the door. I had a pleasant chat with them on the doorstep and then explained that I am a Quaker. They seemed quite curious to know more, so I invited them in. The ensuing conversation revolved primarily around me explaining Quakerism to them. They were intrigued and found resonance with such Quaker distinctives as the peace testimony and (traditionally) the lack of a paid clergy class. These are distinctives which the JW's share.
They asked what I thought about Jehovah's Witnesses and I told them, as gently as I could, that I had two primary issues:
1. That Russell, Rutherford and the other JW founders/leaders placed great emphasis on the study of the Bible while lacking in-depth knowledge of Koine Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean, as well as ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman culture. If you're going to base your beliefs, much less an entire religious organization, on the study of scripture, you'd better be equipped with the tools to correctly exegete scripture. By the way, this criticism does not apply solely to JW's.
2. That the JW's put an organization, the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, in place as a mediator between God and man. I explained that Quakers believe that we have direct access to God and that Christ has come to teach His people Himself (as John said, "You need no other teacher..."). We don't need to put a priest or pastor or organization in the place that Christ Himself should occupy. I urged them to consider that they don't need the Watchtower.
I told them a little of my story of how I became a follower of Jesus apart from any church and about the many times I have heard the voice of God directly.
They seemed genuinely interested in all of this. As our conversation came to a close I commended them for following their convictions by going door-to-door even though it meant experiencing a great deal of rejection.
They asked me who some Quaker authors were that they might read. I made a few recommendations, particularly the Journal of George Fox.
I understand that many folks would rather not deal with JW's at the door. I've felt that way too sometimes, particularly when one feels unprepared to argue with them. But I've come to view them not as spiritual opponents but as fellow seekers. They are earnestly trying to follow Jesus. I think they've been given some bad theology, but that doesn't make them the enemy. I quite enjoyed our friendly visit.