Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, and the end of my dialog with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What started with a typical JW doorway visit last August became a series of ninety-minute sessions that went on for twenty-three Wednesday mornings. I came into this adventure thinking that any God-seeking person could not resist the truth of the Catholic Church once they heard it. In the end, I am still Catholic and they are still Witnesses.
I know what you are probably thinking. Man, this guy must be a really lousy Catholic apologist. Believe me, the experience was humbling. I came in armed with plenty of Catholic ammunition, material from Jason Evert and Trent Horn, tracts from Catholic Answers, and more. I knew what the Witnesses were going to say before they said it. Yet, they were so convinced of their own interpretation of Scripture that no amount of Catholic logic seemed to sway them.
Before you ask if I explained Apostolic Succession, teaching authority, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the canon of Scripture, and the problems with their New World Translation? The answer is yes. We covered it all. Many times! They were not accepting any of it. They were here to instruct us, not vice versa, even though they claimed otherwise. How did it go on so long? The discussions were interesting and lively. I think both sides enjoyed the conversation.
Our meetings were always friendly over donuts and coffee. Oh, there were occasional spikes in blood pressure, but voices were never raised. Despite prayers to the Holy Spirit for guidance, I never found the right words to open their eyes. I came to realize my shortcomings as an apologist for our faith. There were many times I wished a Trent Horn or Jason Evert would suddenly appear at my door to speak with them.
Some of the biggest stumbling blocks involved their distorted view of church history and the just war theory. The fact that Catholics are willing to take a life in war is proof to them that we are not following Christ’s command to love thy neighbor. The Witnesses insisted on picking out certain scripture verses and applying their own interpretation while explaining away any other verses that might run counter to their beliefs.
In the end, we reached an impasse. While I was willing to go on indefinitely, the Witnesses claimed they had to return to their door-to-door ministry. Did I fail? Yes, I failed. At best, perhaps a seed was planted that will take root someday. Now it is up to the Holy Spirit. Did I learn anything? Not only did I learn how another faith justifies their misguided beliefs, I learned much about my Catholic faith during preparation for their weekly visits. I also made some new friends, and will likely see them again in the future.
I learned something else too. While we Catholics have great confidence in our Church that Christ Himself established, there are non-Catholics who are also confident in their faith, skewed as it may be. In fact, many of them live the Christian life to a greater extent than some Catholics do. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are out there, going door-to-door, sharing their faith despite rude rejection many times. That takes guts. I admire that. We should be so courageous. They are doing what they perceive to be the will of Jehovah. Their ultimate destiny may not be exactly as they foresee it, but I believe a merciful God will reward them. If they are surprised someday to find themselves seeing the beatific vision in heaven, I pray they put in a good word for me.