My Jehovah's Witness Broke Up with Me
“Five minutes,” he said, and his watch beeped as he started the timer. I could only stammer. After six months of meeting every week, was this really how our friendship was going to end?
I met John the way I meet most Jehovah’s Witnesses, with him knocking on my door and handing me a Watchtower pamphlet. We chatted, I agreed to meet with him, and for six months, John and I met every week over open Bibles and Starbucks coffee. We were both very candid from the beginning about our intentions: He believed I did not follow true Christianity and wanted to convert me, and I believed the same of him.
John had tons of stories about Christians (“Trinitarians,” as he referred to us) who had treated him in some pretty shabby ways over time, so I worked extra hard to treat him and his faith with respect. Our conversations were passionate at times, but always respectful and cordial. Every week, I asked John how I could pray for him. I shared his concern over his mother’s health and celebrated his adult daughter’s personal triumphs. We talked about my family too, and the joys and pains of having a strong-willed 3-year-old and a baby at home that didn’t care much for sleep. We talked about my wife’s struggle with postpartum depression and the challenges of being a good husband and father. Before long, I found that I really cared for John, and he for me. We were becoming friends.
John was a veteran JW. He was a trainer of new Witnesses and a seminar speaker, and he had carefully crafted rebuttals to the initial discrepancies I pointed out. I prayed a lot for the Spirit’s guidance, asking God to lead me to places where John would be open to new information. And it began to work!
More and more, we were coming to places in the Scripture where John didn’t have a ready-made answer to my questions. And especially as we came to places in his literature where biblical and historical facts didn’t back up the Watchtower’s claims, he began to grow uncomfortable. He would grow quiet, brow furrowed, and say he didn’t know what to say.
“No problem, John,” I would say. “Let’s just stew and pray on it and come back to it next week.” He began to get edgy and defensive, and I could tell that cracks were beginning to form in his once water-tight worldview.
Then came the breakup. The week prior, we read a claim in a Watchtower publication that I knew was demonstrably false, and I suggested that we research it for the next week. I hit the local library and went to work gathering quotes from early Church fathers, articles on the subject and even photographs of the ancient texts in question.
When I sat down the next week, my research was sitting in a folder next to my Bible. John didn’t sit down. “I don’t need to see it,” he told me. “It’s all lies anyway, and I don’t want to meet anymore.”
“What do you mean?” was all I could manage as a response.
“You obviously aren’t open to truth, and there is no point in meeting any further. It was nice meeting you.” And he turned to walk away.
“Wait a minute John,” I stammered. “Can we talk about this?” The next few minutes (five minutes, to be exact) were tense. John’s normal warmth was gone, and his face was hard. As I heard my own voice, I recognized it had taken on a slightly desperate quality. I tried to speak in measured tones, not wanting to cause a scene. He said little in reply, his body half-turned toward the door. There was really nothing more to say.
As I drove home, my heart felt like a stone in my chest. I wanted to be dispassionate but couldn’t pull it off. I flashed back to high school and that kick-in-the-stomach feeling I had when I’d just been dumped! I felt used, betrayed. I was hurt, angry, defensive—wanting to lash out and at the same time, wanting to re-extend friendship to John and repair the breach.
And I was perplexed. Was John only pretending to be my friend? No, I knew he truly cared for me, in spite of the deeper desire to see me give up my faith and accept his. But how could he expect me to take his faith seriously, I wondered to myself, when his friendship was so conditional? When our relationship was shown to be a façade—nothing more than a means to an end?