I’ve taken to de-evangelising evangelists. Look, I realise this may seem reductive – a bit like being director of the Institute of Directors – but in these difficult times (which some believe, as per scripture, may be the End of Days), it surely behoves those of us who wish to consider ourselves – so to speak – the “adults in the room”, to do something about the children playing truant.
Which is how I’m inclined to view the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who line up in a row, on the scabrous pavement outside Liverpool Station; and who I pass on a regular basis, en route for a very secular medical appointment. Is it that they deny their own children the lifesaving blood transfusions that on occasions this year have, um, saved my own that makes me feel this way? No, not altogether – such flat-earther views in and of themselves don’t render their possessors infantile.
Nor is it that they regard salvation as preordained – and not just in the normally, ambiguously Calvinist way, whereby no quotas have actually been set, so, while paradise may not be for the buying, or asking, there remains everything to play for in this sense at least: your lucky cosmic number may come up.
With the Witnesses, your odds become considerably longer, since they do have a quota: 144,000. Moreover, if you are one of these elect, you don’t actually get anything that paradisal – no sherbet or virgins – but rather, are obliged to become sort of angelic bureaucrats-cum-teachers, charged with re-educating the rest of us, who will have been resurrected at Armageddon.
Christ’s Second Coming, for the Witnesses, thus coincides with a second period (or perhaps “session”), during which all of human being is revealed as a weird real-time morality game (RMG as against RPG), indulged in by an entity that, on this evidence alone, must be at once an omnipotent super-being, and a callow and rather sadistic adolescent. And yes, it’s this that really – to employ an apt modern idiom – fucks with my head.
Perhaps it’s because they believe the whole miserable go-round is just that, that I find their proselytising quite so nauseating, making of all conceivable consciousness, as it does, a sort of cosmic commute. Anyway, time was that they came to you – and you used to have to employ stratagems to get rid of them. “I’m a vampire” always worked just fine. But nowadays they seem to think all they need to do is stand in a row, in their belted macs, with their little display racks, holding copies of the Watchtower and their other publications, and chat among themselves, waiting for some benighted soul to…
Well, what? Simply topple into the net of these fishers of men-and-women? Seems pretty unlikely. Anyway, meanwhile, not feet away from such shining beacons of Our Saviour, any day of the week, or hour of that day, you will see a homeless person either begging, or lying full length on the aforementioned scabrous pavement.
To begin with I confined myself to snarling at them as I passed: “Why don’t you look after that woman lying there, and pointing at the suffering one concerned, but me being me, I soon enough graduated to giving little extempore kerbside sermons, pointing out them the errors of their ways. In this, I suppose I’ve been re- rather than de-evangelising; I mean to say, what gets my goat is the screaming hypocrisy of people who claim to love those in need, yet stand there flagrantly ignoring them, even as they do so.
I see it as my task to reintroduce them to their own credo – conceived of not as a set of empirical facts about the world (which is how humanists patronisingly view religious beliefs), but a way of being in that world. This is why I’ve begun publishing the Willtower, subtitled: an occasional publication, bringing the word of God back to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My first edition features an article by, um, me, on the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which I expatiate on Simone Weil’s homily: “God is present when the eyes of those who give and those who receive meet”.
Obviously, given Witnesses are forbidden from even having so-called “private ideas”, responses to the copies of the Willtower I’ve handed out thus far have been, um, muted – but then I’ve only printed one edition, in a run of six copies. Anyway, who knows, if it goes OK with the Witnesses, I may take on more successful and larger religions, such as Islam…