I’m interested in religion from a social and cultural perspective. I’m interested in the breadth of religious activity and religious self-conception. The majority of my experience is in mainline protestant Christianity, with the rest mostly in evangelical protestant Christianity.
I used to travel a lot for work, and I tried to go to visit different religious groups: Bahai, unitarian, new religious movements, and so on. If I was in a town for a week, then it seemed okay to go and snoop.
Tonight the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is holding a bible study for Passover (in which is contained their celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus). I’ve been having conversations with one of the Witnesses, who invited me. I’d like to go, I am interested in authoritarian religious groups (I’ve also got a soft-spot for Scientology). But I’ve decided not to.
The reason is, I’ve been unable to communicate why I am interested in them. So they see someone who’s always willing to talk about God, who is interested. And I know, from my past history in evangelicalism, I know what that means to them. I know enough about the Witnesses to know that evangelism is a significant demand on each member, bringing in someone new is a deeply important event.
So I feel like I am abusing their invitation, somewhat. Or that I’m certainly there under false pretences. Or that I’m storing up unnecessary problems for the guy who has been evangelising me.
Maybe it wouldn’t be like that, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem if they didn’t. But its going to take more conversations to make my position clear and to understand how they could relate to an interested party with no prospect of conversion. When the relationship is still at the level of “let me tell you about this amazing man, Jesus” we’re not there yet.
I wouldn’t think twice if these weren’t people in my little village. If this was a business trip, and I was leaving next week and never coming back. But somehow it feels deceitful. Which is a shame, because I’ve never been in a Kingdom Hall before, and I’d love to experience more of what goes on there.
Am I being over-sensitive?