Scene: Jehova Witnesses trying to convert Muslims (!)
I’ve been asked to give a quick answer to the puzzling question of the title, by a friend who happened to witness a bizarre exchange between J.Witnesses and Muslims.
I needed to write this down to try and prove to myself that I can be concise…
Observation #1: Evangelize/proselytize.
Jehova Witnesses represent a case study in naivete. You wonder how could they possibly convert people, since they are found in jokes alongside doorbells, and they rejoice for every piece of news reporting about plagues, deaths, natural disasters and wars: they’re happy because when the world is in ruins it means Armageddon is finally coming. And yet they convert.
Come to think of it, it’s a bit like how lions hunt: then don’t need to devour the entire herd of gazelles, they just maul the weakest individuals.
That’s the spirit: insist relentlessly. Undeterred by the thousands of annoyed smarty-pants mocking them, they harvest a meager but significant crop.
It’s a shame, a pity, a sin (!) that evangelization is neglected or unwelcome these days, even and especially in the Catholic Church itself
We refrain from witnessing the Gospel to avoid the accusation of proselytism (i.e. obtaining superficial and insincere conversions). We cave in to critics. That’s how exemplary courage, missionary zeal, frankness and determination are becoming more and more a prerogative of the extreme fringes of Protestantism, preaching a distorted and incomplete Gospel. Plus, they are proselytizing. Nice result: the negative effect we wanted to prevent happens anyway, but now it’s also pushing people in the wrong direction!
Observation #2: the kitchen knives salesman.
Jehova Witnesses use tried and tested techniques and rehearsed talking points. Just like that teleshopping guy, how was he called again? I believe the name was Chef Tony. He staged a demonstration about how to use a knife, in other words he cunningly presented as something new, amazing and extraordinary the most trivial object: something that had been perfected millennia ago. With this approach he was able to sell heaps of knives!
Presenting something old as fresh and novel is a trick that pays off abundantly. No wonder Jehova Witnesses insist on changing the name of stuff (like the Our Father that is called the Model Prayer): they get people out of their comfort zone, in need of a fresh start, guided by them through a somewhat unfamiliar territory.
Those who fall for this trick (the new car smell sprayed on the seats of a used car) maybe are people who needed to get back to Jesus, possibly to cling to Him in a difficult time of their life, like a castaway with a life buoy. But pride typically prevents humans from admitting they were wrong the whole time. Hence, to satisfy my craving for God without compromising my self-esteem, as a superior being who always knew how pathetic those Catholics clinging to their medieval superstitions are, my only option lies in finding something radically alternative. A new and improved version of Christianity: I didn’t know nor judge it before, hence I feel excused for my past. Ignorance comes guilt-free. Buying a new product at the supermarket of ideas is quite enjoyable for a consumer.
When someone catches you off guard with a puzzling question about a familiar subject, don’t feel uneasy. There’s nothing extraordinary behind it, it’s only a salesman’s trick.
Answer to the question: what I think of the Bible.
people should not feel challenged to come up -on the spot- with a personal opinion about our sacred book, as if centuries of studies could be ignored.
The Holy Bible is a working document for the Catholic Church, just like a textbook is a reference point and a teaching aid for a college professor. He wrote the book, he’s not subordinate to it.
Jesus Christ never said: “Write this book”, he instead proclaimed “Go forth and preach!” Do you really believe this is by chance?
For the very same reason you go to a school (university) in order to master a certain subject, you don’t consider textbooks sufficient.
It’s actually worse than that, because the kind of things you learn at school are much easier to learn through a book than the foundations of the Gospel.
Faith is not made of paper, it’s passed on through life. But this isn’t actually the trickiest part. No, it’s basic theological concepts that elude you when you lack proper guidance.
This book teaches us that Jesus is a man; that Jesus is God. Sounds self-contradictory, huh? The point is that God’s nature is beyond what human minds could understand. Fine.
Now take a random guy with no prior knowledge on the subject and put him in front of the book: he’ll read it and come to the conclusion that Jesus is just a man, not a god. Take a different guy, same conditions, and he’ll pick the idea that Jesus is God, not a man. Rinse and repeat. Multiple interpretations.
The fallacious concept of Holy Books
The Catholic Church doesn’t depend on a book because, by its nature, a book is unreliable: you can extract from a text any desired concept and its opposite. The Church provides the authentic interpretation.
If this is not OK with you, please explain what kind of clumsy Deity designed such a terrific salvation plan: based on a sparse collection of scrolls, open to multiple contradictory interpretations… then the community who wrote and collected them preserved and passed on for millennia -as a sacred tradition- a wrong interpretation of the whole (Oh snap!)… Are you suggesting that God is a sadist? Forcing you to fight against your “brothers” to decide what was that He told us? Really! Talk about ineffective communication, handing down a document nobody knows for sure what it means!
All of this nonsense is based on the premise of refusing to accept the simplest explanation: God chose the custodians for a reason. By establishing a Church and protecting it he gave you an obvious source to trust, among many discordant voices.
Protestantism in practice imported the concept of sacred book from Islam out of necessity: they needed a credible, stable entity to anchor a religious identity, since they were breaking away from the Church established by Christ himself. The holy book was their only excuse, the only possible choice.
But the Quran is at the root of Islam through a profoundly different process, and its foundational role is decisively more radical. The Quran isn’t taking the place of the Bible, but of Jesus himself.
Which -by all means- constitutes an impoverishment.
Christianity isn’t based on the Bible. Christianity is based on the Church. The original Church: Catholic (=Universal).