You don’t have to look hard to find lots of stories on the web about people trying to scare Jehovah’s Witnesses away so the Witnesses won’t come knocking again. One classic example is the guy who greets them dressed as a Satanist. Another is the guy carrying a scary animal that’s supposed to freak out visiting Witnesses. Kyria Abrahams described such an experience in her book, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales of a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. Note that in Kyria’s book, the Witness who knocked on the snake owner’s door didn’t run away. She merely asked if she could pet the snake and make nice with it, much to the householder’s disappointment.
Tricks like these usually don’t work. Aside from the fact that they’re really obvious attempts to scare Jehovah’s Witnesses away, they also present Witnesses with a challenge to their faith that must be accepted and conquered. If the Witness fails to meet the challenge, then he is putting his fear ahead of his faith, which just won’t cut it in his world. Like many evangelists, most Witnesses relish the thought of proving their loyalty to God and will do so with gusto if given the chance. That’s exactly what stunts like these help them do.
Many people – including many former Jehovah’s Witnesses – think that all you have to do is tell a Witness you’re an apostate and the Witness will magically vanish in a puff of smoke and tears. I have met a few Witnesses who are paranoid enough to simply run away at the words, “I’m an apostate,” but in many cases, it won’t be that simple. Darn it all. In fact, you’re just as likely to get a visit from the elders as you are to run them away for good if you try that one.
Most congregations won’t let you get away with the old “put me on your Do Not Call List” line, either. You can try it (it’s on the list below) but many congregations won’t let you off the hook that easily.
So what can you do? Here are a few things you can try that might stop them from knocking on your door forever…or at least for a little while.
1. Be A Scary Apostate
For our purposes, an apostate is someone who wants to ruin a Witness’ chances of everlasting life by filling his head with poisonous lies. By lies, I mean anything that Watchtower leaders disagree with. This is probably the most difficult route to take, but in many cases, it can yield the best results if you play your cards right.
A good apostate – the kind that should be avoided instead of helped to see the error of his ways – is kind of a know it all. He’s proud, assertive, and even a little offensive. The ideal apostate is also intellectually intimidating because he knows the Bible as well as any Jehovah’s Witness and can debate circles around them. For most Witnesses, saving him from his evil ways is pointless because his heart has hardened itself to “the truth” (the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses) so he cannot be saved. Since Witnesses have nothing to gain by arguing with him and have everything to lose if he sews the seed of doubt in their hearts, the scary apostate should be avoided.
If you decide to go this route, then you must be defiant and impossible to reason with, but you must not appear to be a laughable buffoon, either. An idiot-apostate is just entertainment for most Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the other hand, an apostate determined to prove how right he is will only frustrate and confound them. If you succeed in being a good apostate, rumors will spread that your home should be avoided by other Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall. If you’re very successful, their elders may even declare your home off limits. Achievement unlocked!
You should, of course, know a thing or two about the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses if you really want to pull this one off. My articles at Atheist Geek News will be of some help. You might want to do some reading here and here for other articles I’ve written at Michigan Skeptics. Please note that you should not actually refer to yourself as an apostate when talking to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That would be too obvious. It will also lead to other questions or inquiries you’ll never be able to answer unless you really are a former Jehovah’s Witness. Like me! So unless you have it on good authority that local Witnesses really will avoid you if you simply declare yourself to be an apostate, don’t go there.
2. Make Them Feel Unbearably Awkward
If you don’t have what it takes to be a good apostate, you can try going on the offensive by making them feel so uncomfortable that they don’t ever want to come back. Remember the real point of this one is to challenge their claim that they have the one, true religion that everyone should want to join. They may try to dismiss these topics, but you must make it clear that they matter a great deal to you. The fact that you’re asking them to defend their organization against perfectly valid complaints will matter to them as well.
Here are some uncomfortable topics to bring up when conversing with Jehovah’s Witnesses at your front door:
- Evolution. More on that here, and here. (Check the comments, too!) If evolution isn’t your strong suit, you can also use other topics that the Society has written about and gotten very, very wrong.
- Charges of pedophilia by elders, or other Witnesses, that were not reported to authorities by congregation elders. More here.
- Their many failed predictions about the end of the world. Don’t let them off the hook when they tell you that these predictions didn’t happen or that the lives of many Jehovah’s Witnesses weren’t devastated when the predictions failed.
- The obvious manipulation of the parents (and the video’s creators) in the infamous Sparlock video. It was so bad that many Witnesses thought the video was a fake when it first came out, too.
- The plight of ex-Witnesses who have been shunned by their own families, as shown in testimonies across the web and the Truth be Told documentary.
- What some see as the cult-like behavior of the Watchtower Society and it’s leaders.
- Their low retention rate, both for those converted and those “born in” (raised to be Jehovah’s Witnesses by their parents). Ask them why their retention rates are so low if God is really on their side or ask them why people keep leaving if life as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is really an improvement over your life as it is now.
- The rationale for refusing blood transfusions and the fate of those who have refused necessary transfusions due to this teaching, including children with Witness parents.
NOTE: If you have the Web of Trust plugin on your computer, it may red flag a couple of the links above. This is not because they contain harmful software. Jehovah’s Witnesses can vote at Web of Trust the same as you and I. Many have understandably chosen to vote these sites down to stop people from visiting them. These sites will not harm your computer in any way, however.
If you play your cards right, they’ll go ahead and label you an evil opposer for giving them a hard time and add you to their Do Not Call List.
3. Come Right Out And Ask Them To Stop Visiting You
Let me tell you the problem with this one right away: in most cases, it will only keep them at bay for about six months. That’s the policy as I understand it, and even then, many Kingdom Halls don’t follow it. Some have congregations have an entirely different policy of their own. Still, if you live in a neighborhood where Jehovah’s Witnesses visit so often that it borders on harassment (yes, such places do exist) then this sure beats having them drop by every morning.
When asking Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop calling on you, try being forceful but respectful. Be prepared with an answer when they ask you why you don’t want them to bother you anymore. They will probably try to talk you out of it, but be sure to stick to your guns and stay on topic. Note that confidence will work better than meekness in this situation, and don’t get angry with them unless they get angry with you. But make sure they know you’re serious about this request. Then ask them – point blank – if they intend to honor it. If they say no, tell them you’re prepared to complain to the congregation overseer or that they’ve left you no choice but to complain to the police.
Remember, all Kingdom Halls are different. Some congregations will honor a request like this, so it’s worth a try. If they come back after you asked them not to, then it may be time to try option number 4…
4. Try Calling The Kingdom Hall And Asking Them To Leave You Alone
In some neighborhoods, a call to the Kingdom Hall will actually get you routed to the congregation overseer, also known as a Presiding Overseer, unless you happen to call during meeting hours. Either way, you should ask to speak with an elder or the Presiding Overseer. Then make your case to him directly.
This may have some impact if the elders at that congregation are especially moderate, or if you have legal grounds – such as being visited so frequently that you’re ready to pull your hair out or to call the cops on them for harassment. (See suggestions #5 below.) If the Witnesses who have arrived at your home were rude, inconsiderate, or otherwise not very nice, you could try explaining this to the overseer and citing it as one of the reasons you don’t appreciate their visits. You could mention other reasons as well, like accidental damage to your property. For instance, there were several cases at my former Kingdom Hall where Witnesses actually ran over someone’s dog by mistake! I know of one case where the Witnesses held open the householder’s door to prevent him from closing it on them, only to have the householder’s pet bird fly away! These are not the sort of experiences Jehovah’s Witnesses want to be known for, and they might be enough to persuade the overseer to spare your house from further visitations. You could also tell him that you have pets that might injure the Witnesses, such as an aggressive dog, and you frankly don’t want to deal with a lawsuit if a Witness gets bitten.
Once you’ve made your case, make sure to ask the overseer if he intends to honor your request or not. If he refuses to make any promises, make sure to let the overseer know what you’re prepared to do if anymore Witnesses come knocking. Please do not threaten him or any Jehovah’s Witnesses with any form of violence. Yelling and screaming probably won’t help, either. But you can threaten to take your case to the authorities or even take legal action by contacting a lawyer if he seems unwilling to mark you as a Do Not Call.
If nothing else, you can tell the authorities that you asked the congregation to leave you alone – and that they refused – when you try the next suggestion, which is…
5. Talk To The Police
As a last ditch effort, you can try calling the police if Jehovah’s Witnesses are calling on you far too often. There are rules in different countries and in different states that could justify making your home off limits to the entire congregation if they won’t leave you be. If nothing else, a phone call to the police will let you know where you stand and what’s required for the authorities to get involved.
Be forewarned that some Jehovah’s Witnesses might visit you anyway just to prove to Jehovah God that they aren’t afraid of defying local authorities in his service. But you can still let the police know about it if they do. Be sure to get the Witness’ name as well. If there’s a fine for this sort of thing, the congregation elders won’t like making a cash pay out. That might be enough to get the elders to enforce your request.
Will Any Of These Suggestions Guarantee Success?
Sadly, no. It all depends on your local congregation and the elders. As I have stated several times already, all Kingdom Halls are not alike. Things that work at one Kingdom Hall won’t guarantee success at any other.
Note that some Witnesses are genuinely proud to be known for visiting people who’d rather be left alone. They see it as giving us a chance for everlasting life whether we want it or not. We may feel that we’re entitled to be left alone, but they feel that we’re entitled to know about life everlasting on a paradise Earth. Many Witnesses also feel that it is their duty to preach to others, not only for our sakes, but for their own. They want to earn their way into paradise too, and evangelizing is one of their principle ways of getting there.
To quote many of the Witnesses who have tried to reconvert me over the years, “I have to do this and you have to let me do it!”
Do we really? Well, I don’t think the witnessing work should be made illegal. I’m all for free speech. But I certainly think the rest of us have the right to be left alone if that’s what we want, too.
Either way, if you have any real suggestions you’d like to share with us, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Just remember, if you’re a former Jehovah’s Witness or currently a Jehovah’s Witness, Kingdom Halls do vary quite a lot. If your Hall handles these requests differently than the ones I’m familiar with, let us know with some suggestions below.