Jehovah at the Park
"(T)he second you take control of a conversation to steer it towards a desired result, you're not a person anymore - you're a salesman - and it's no longer a conversation - it's a pitch." Phil Cooper (Danny deVito) in The Big Kahuna
A while back, I wrote a post on dishonesty and religious proselytizing. I referenced the movie quoted above and was reminded very recently of why it annoys me so much.
I was at the park in the morning with my son. He's one and a half years old, so he was happily playing on the equipment while I watched. It was early so we were the only ones at the park, all covered in dew. It was really nice.
I noticed a guy approach us; he had that purposeful stride that meant he was going to talk to me and I saw the bible in his right hand. I thought, "Dammit..." I'm sure he saw the look on my face, but, like the professional salesman he was, he plowed ahead. He started a conversation about what a nice morning it was, asked how old my son was, commented on what a great thing it was that I had time to spend with him on a weekday. All I was doing was waiting for the go-to.
The "go-to" is where they present the material. He did, fairly quickly, go to his give-away copy of Awake!; a special issue titled, "How to Raise Responsible Children". An interesting aside: inside that pamphlet was another, hidden one, The WatchTower. It had as its main article, "Five Lies About God, Exposed!" Slightly more aggressive than the parenting one, but not really once you read them both. ...but I digress....
I thought, do I tell this guy to fuck off? Do I refuse his material? Do I accept it because that's the fastest way to get him to go away? Because of the situation (i.e. my kid was there), I opted to just take his crap and let him leave, but it really bothered me.
It took a bit of thinking on my part, but finally the realization that bubbled up was that it bothered me because of the blatant dishonesty he displayed. He had no interest in me or my kid. He could have cared less about how old my son was, whether or not I was a nice or interesting person, or what my beliefs were - all he wanted was to get his stupid pamphlet into my hand. He was a salesman, and a shitty, dishonest one at that.
I've thought about what the best response would be if he or any other JW approaches me again. I thought that maybe I could say, "Tell you what: if you can tell me why we can sometime see the moon in the daytime, I'll take your information and read it." Of course, we could replace that question with any basic science question, but I didn't like that option in the end because, what if he is a scientist? He might know all about that - then what? You're in for a potentially long conversation when that was exactly what you were trying to avoid.
The rude-route is always an option, but then I'm an asshole too. I don't like that. Contrary to my blog presence, I try to be a nice guy in the real world. The conclusion I came to was to just be honest about how I feel when approached by a person like that. I think saying something like, "Listen, I really feel like you're a salesman right now and that you're not being genuine. All you seem to want is to get promotional material in my hands, and I'm not interested in that. I'm very comfortable in my view of the world, and that view does not include any god or gods."
We'll see how that works out.