The Analgesic Bible

I confess to avoiding evangelizers.

Not long ago, as my wife and I arrived home, we noticed a roving evangelizer—at least that was our assumption, as the individual was casually greeting our neighbor two doors down (who is always out taking care of his lawn) and handing him a flier. Once we were inside, a few minutes later our doorbell rang. Shyly, we pretended we weren’t home.

One might think that, given the nature of this blog, I would be wont to open up the door and begin arguing with this interlocutor about the Bible, its historical veracities, and its consistencies (or inconsistencies). Not so. I also consider myself pragmatic, and I know that attempting to argue with an individual who has literally devoted his life to spreading a faith is a vain attempt: nobody’s mind is going to be changed. And, of course, attempting to argue is a vain (in a different sense) act itself, as one would be presuming you actually knew more about the Bible than the itinerant. No, I let the doorbell ring.

The flier that was left in our door (we later found) indicated he was a Jehovah’s Witness, announcing a “talk” at the nearest sports center. I must say, I am intrigued by the flier, although not for the reason it is intending. It sets forth a very modern promises: “Would you like to wake up every morning,” it asks, “with happy, positive thoughts?” Who wouldn’t? “That’s exactly what the Bible promises us for the future.” It does?

The flier cites Isaiah 65:17 for this claim, which upon further reflection seems a bit dubious.* More importantly, though, is the angle the flier is searching for: it’s right out of the self-help section of the bookstore. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, at least with this particular call, are not pushing the divinity of Jesus or the nature of Truth or anything like that; instead, they are claiming that the Bible promises it will make you feel better. The Bible is presented here, essentially, as an analgesic.

As it turns out, the”talk” (read: recruiting event) the flier is advertising is entitled just that: “the Former Things Will Not…Come Up Into the Heart.” My guess: this is probably what actually works in recruiting new members.

The flier also advertises a freely obtainable book, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” Indeed, what does it teach? Certainly not, at least, that you should follow its words simply because it will make you feel better.

*This verse says: “Here I am creating new heavens and a new earth,” God says, “and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into heart.” I think that’s a bit of a stretch to indicate this passage actually refers to some sort of existential well-being—but maybe you have different thoughts. It’s not surprising that the Book of Isaiah would be quoted here, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses take their name from a passage in that book.

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