In our previous installment of “Fun With Proselytizers,” I promised to tell you a story involving an arrest. I shan’t keep you waiting:
Our neighborhood in Page had a rather strict “No Soliciters” law, which always amused me to no end, considering that if we were going by British definitions, that would mean a whole subset of lawyers wouldn’t be able to set foot in the place. My dad took the definition even beyond that.
One day, he was summoned to the door by two Mormon missionaries, who always come in pairs and never seem to give up. My dad was in one of his Moods. “You know we have a law against solicitation,” he informed them.
“We’re not solicitors,” the missionaries said, displaying the sin of Pride. They proceeded to lecture my father on their rights.
When Dad’s in a Mood, you don’t push the issue. He went to the phone, called the police, and said, “I have a couple of solicitors here who won’t leave, and I want them arrested.”
Sergeant R. promptly showed up and bunged the severely surprised missionaries into the back of his patrol car. He then asked my dad if he’d like to press charges. Dad would. Sergeant R went back to his car for the proper paperwork, and in the course of digging that out and informing the poor young men that they faced charges, discovered what exactly it was he had in the car.
He came back to the door sheet white and shaking. “Brent, I can’t arrest them! They’re missionaries.”
My dad replied with perfect, unruffled calm, “Yep. And they were selling religion. I want them arrested.”
Sergeant R spent a frantic half-hour on the phone with his superiors, looking for a loophole, visions of impending annihilation from the very powerful Mormon church dancing in his head, while the missionaries got a rest in the back of the patrol car. No loopholes were found. The situation would have been very black indeed if Dad hadn’t relented after he figured the lesson had sunk in.
His house, strangely enough, was never visited again. He became something of a neighborhood celebrity, though. Even our devout Mormon neighbors thought it was funny, if scandulous.
I don’t think they were quite as offended as Christchurch George was the day he met Jesus.
The story comes to me by way of my friend John from New Zealand. John used to live in Christchurch, Australia, with an interesting bloke named Toby. Every Sunday morning, regular as clockwork, George would come over after church in the valliant but vain attempt to convert these two heathen college students to the Lord. They’d always invite him in for coffee and have a spirited discussion about the salvation of souls, but George always left disappointed.
One day, after a hard Saturday night, John was lying abed when he heard the bell go. It’s only George, he thought, and rolled over to go back to sleep, in too delicate a state for God talk. He’d let Toby entertain alone today.
Until he heard Toby’s hearty voice announce, “George, I have great news for ya! Jesus is in our home!”
“Halleluja!” George shouted.
What the fuck? John thought. Memories of the night before weren’t so fuzzy that he would’ve forgotten something like converting to Christianity. And yet here was Toby, proclaiming Jesus was in their home, and George beside himself with glee. John decided further investigation was warranted, and scrambled for a pair of pants.
He reached the living room just as Toby was saying, “Yeah, he’s in the kitchen. I’ll go get him.”
George registered confusion, but he was too happy to question that odd statement. Toby vanished. George pressed John for more details. “I don’t have any idea,” John said, mystified.
Toby emerged from the kitchen carrying a kitten they’d acquired the night before and hadn’t yet named. “George,” he said proudly, “meet Jesus.”
George glared at the kitten, glared at Toby, and glared at John, who was falling down the wall laughing. “Blasphemers!” he spat, and huffed out, never to return.
Enough to bring tears to your eyes, isn’t it? I’ll never be able to top it. Although it is fun to whip out an argument no Christian has ever been able to refute: God told me to become an atheist.
A while back, when I was living in Flagstaff, a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door. I usually give them pretty short shrift – I figure neither of us needs to waste our time – but this was an Asian gentleman, and I have to admit I was fascinated. I’d never met an Asian Jehovah’s Witness before. I advised up front in kindly terms that I’m an atheist.
“I can understand that,” he said. “I’m a physicist.”
What the fuck is a physicist doing doorknocking for the Witnesses? I wondered, but immediately on the heels of this was the thought: Dana, this is an opportunity. So I invited him in. Look – the bugger showed up at my house wanting to convert, the least he could do was answer some tough physics questions I had for my worldbuilding.
Alas, either I wasn’t able to explain what I needed, or he was a piss-poor physicist. In light of the evidence, I plump for the latter: he was useless, and of course had an annoying way of turning every bit of physics conversation back to God, which drove me nuts. I decided to bludgeon him with Zen Master Seung Sahn’s cup-and-rainbow argument, but that only works for Zen Masters faced with Christian missionaries – the only answer I could get to “who made the cup? Who made the rainbow?” was “God.” That was his stock answer for everything, and as for philosophical judo, it was like trying to wrestle a limbless man.
After a couple of visits, I finally decided we were done. He brought up the need for me to turn to God once again, and I said, “Why would I do that when it was God who wanted me to become an atheist?”
I always get spectacular results with that one. He got the hit-by-a-hockey-puck look. His mouth opened. It closed. He finally said, “What do you mean?”
“When I made the decision to walk away from religion, I prayed about it,” I told him. “I told God that I felt He was nudging me to do this, and that I was going to do it, but if it was the wrong thing to do, all I needed was a sign from Him letting me know. Since that day, my life has done nothing but improve. If God exists, it seems I’m doing what He wanted me to do, so how can I defy Him? If He doesn’t exist, why would I come back to a religion that made me miserable?”
The poor JW couldn’t think of a single thing to say. He made a brief, lame and quickly aborted attempt to come back with the “could it be Satan?” counter-argument, but he’d lost, and he knew it. He left me to my happy godlessness.
Those are just some of my many stories about encounters with evangelists. I hope they’ve kept you entertained. I’m sure you’ve got plenty more. Please do feel free to share them!