The City of Melbourne
enjoyed suffered experienced an invasion of some 70,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses this past weekend, all there for their international convention. Graeme Hammond used to be one of them — door-to-door haranguing and all — and explains what drives the Witnesses to keep going in the face of understandable exasperation, even hostility.
[The] leaders require that all Witnesses, from children to the frail-aged, devote their lives to proselytizing in the hope of gathering millions more into their fold before the divine hammer blow of Armageddon. But the command is not only to “preach” (usually a forlorn offer of a magazine or leaflet); they must also hand in monthly reports detailing the hours they spent “in the field” and how many calls they made. The message at their meetings is relentless and laden with guilt and fear: keep on preaching or you, too, will die at Armageddon.
Back then when my heart was in it, my Saturday mornings were often all about perfecting the soft knock, half-hoping no one would hear me. And I was not alone. For most of those I paired up with on Saturdays, an unopened door was a good door. When it did swing open, revealing a clearly irritated resident, I felt like saying, “Hey, I hate this as much as you do!”
We were instructed to call at every home and return later if they were out. If they weren’t warned about the coming cataclysm, their blood would be on our hands… I plodded on, did my service to God and man. Everything was about counting hours. Not the hours to the Apocalypse, but the hours I wrote on my monthly report. Clever JWs would “do a door” on the way to the meetings where witnessing territory was assigned, just to start the clock and take them closer to their quota… We’d linger at doors when there was clearly no one home before dawdling out to the street again.
Hammond’s story has a happy ending, of sorts.
When my family and I finally quit, our eyes opened and feeling foolish about having stayed so long, family and former “friends” cut us off. What the hell. We were just glad to get our lives back.