HAVANA TIMES — Every so often, early on a Sunday, two Jehovah’s Witnesses – the kind who, certain of their noble mission of saving souls, go from door to door confront all manner of reactions – knock at my door.
My daily home routine tends to be rather complex, and I am always interrupted by something while talking to them (by a cat that runs out of the house, something burning in the kitchen, my son calling me from his room, etc.). I’ve noticed that, despite these disturbances, they persist in their chat.
Putting on my best face, I tell them that I believe in god but that I already chose my path (nearly twenty years ago). Some excuse themselves and offer me a brochure, which I gratefully accept.
I’ve tried to share some of my faith with them, but they reject such offers. Some look at me with pity and quote the biblical passage about the false prophets Christ warned about. Most of the time, they simply give up, convinced that I am a hopeless case.
It may be because my vision of Jesus is entirely different from that of the common Christian (be them Catholic or Protestant), but I can’t help but wonder how these religions degenerated to the point of relying on persuasive strategies that are invasive and prompt more rejection than sympathy.
When my son was still a child, he asked me if he could go to the “Christian classes” that were being offered in our building. I gave him permission to go, but he soon became disillusioned, for several reasons.
He’d been highly intuitive since the time he was a little kid and, because he claimed to truly believe in god, the teacher asked him to read the prayers out loud. They would praise him so much he’d get upset. He thought that praying with sincerity was something natural and that one’s relationship with god shouldn’t encourage any feelings of vanity.
He also noticed he was not allowed to express his own ideas if these didn’t agree with those he was being taught. When he finally stopped going to these classes, the friend who had taken him there stopped seeing him altogether.
When he asked him what was going on, the kid replied: “I can’t play with you because you’ve taken the devil’s side.” That had been the official explanation for his absences.
In high school, a Christian classmate would harass him so much, telling him he had to go to church and accept Christ as his savoir, that he had no choice but to threaten to punch him to get him to leave him alone.
Near one of the markets I often go to, there is a church that has been improvised out of a locale in the neighborhood. On Sunday mornings, it is alive with singing and sometimes impassioned speeches that are so loud they bother the neighbors.
Their tone is similar to that of a demagogic political discourse. Once, I heard something rather chilling: “What those disbelievers who scorn us so much don’t know is that the time has come for us to establish god’s kingdom by force!” The cheering that followed made the place feel like a heated rally.
Intolerance towards other faiths or atheism, material incentives, the use of coercion to increase attendance to religious gatherings, all of these are clear indicators that these communities are not sincere in their efforts and that they offer no true freedom.
It’s a shame, for the true, profound meaning of Christianity is lost and, as I tell the more insistent preachers who knock at my door the occasional Sunday, god gave us the free will to look for him down any of his infinite number of paths, to ignore him and even deny him.
Some years ago, I read a phrase I’ve never forgotten: “Behold how simple is the Truth that constantly passes before our eyes, not caring whether we notice it or not.”