[Somehow, I was never notified of several comments that were waiting for approval on various blog entries over the past few months. If you made a comment that was not approved until today, I'm sorry!]
I got a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses this morning. They've been around before, and I am usually far too accommodating. I tend to smile and nod and listen for as long as they want to talk. I usually avoid confrontation whenever possible, and I find it difficult simply to say I'm not interested, even though it would save us all a lot of time.
One of the men introduced himself and asked if he could share a short message from the Bible (he emphasized the word "short"). I said sure. He began to read from Matthew about how Jesus had said there would be wars and famines and... yes, even earthquakes as signs of the end times. He specifically said that the recent earthquake in Japan was a fulfillment of these words. I smiled and nodded and failed to mention the many hundreds of earthquakes and other natural disasters that happen each year. Not to mention the countless number throughout the ages since Jesus allegedly spoke those words.
I choose to interpret these constant signs over thousands of years somewhat differently. I believe it is the fulfillment of the laws of physics. These prophecies are not written in the pages of the Bible, but in the very fabric of the universe from the beginning of time. Far from being signs of the end of the world, they are signs that the universe is still doing just fine, thank you very much. With or without Jesus, with or without the kingdom of God... and frankly, with or without humanity. To think that earthquakes are a sign given specifically to humans seems pretty self-centered.
Anyway, he continued talking about how we would be okay as long as we are part of the kingdom of God. At the point where he asked me, "What do you think the kingdom of God is?" the jig was up. I couldn't just smile and nod anymore, so I said, "I don't really know and honestly I'm not interested in spending much time talking about it." He was very polite and thanked me for my time and the opportunity to share their positive view for the future despite the calamities in the world today. I was surprised at how quickly and graciously they left me alone. I think I need to try directness more often.
I'm not sure whether I should be offended that the JWs showed up on my doorstep using such a horrible tragedy to push their religion. I'm not one bit surprised, of course. People have been doing that for all of recorded history. It's hard to fault them too much for actually believing what they're teaching, either. People like to try to make sense of the world, especially the parts that are senseless. For them, a giant earthquake simply confirms what they already believe. Just like every other natural disaster, and just like the great invisible Second Coming of 1914. People see what they want to see.
So I think I'm not offended. But the tactic of capitalizing on others' misfortune to push your own agenda, used consciously or not, still strikes me as poor taste. At least I had the good sense to articulate my disinterest, or I would probably still be standing in my doorway right now.