Friday, January 27, 2012

Door-to-door judgment

This morning, the doorbell rang.

Sounds normal, but it's really not. Nobody just pops in around here. Every visit is scheduled, and most social activities are out. Out at a playground, out at a restaurant, out at a theme park. So, no, my doorbell doesn't ring often.

I pretty much assumed it was a book being delivered from Amazon.

Imagine my surprise when I open the door to see two middle aged men standing on my doorstep. I say hi, and they introduce themselves, Dan and Harold, or something like that. After they say their names, there is a full fifteen seconds of awkward silence while I wait for them to explain why they are on my doorstep. Eventually, the truth comes out: they are with the new ginormous Christian-non-denominational church that is being built a few blocks away and they want to meet all their neighbors.

I say, I've seen the church, it's beautiful, etc.

Then they ask the question I know that they are actually there to ask:

"Have you found the Lord?"

I almost want to chuckle at the overly-aggressive tone the man has in his voice as he asks it, because the accusation is so thick that it completely contradicts the words he is saying.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind proselytizers. I understand where they are coming from; they have something in their life that they love and they want to share it with others. My religion, in fact, is famous for its proselytizing efforts. I am not annoyed by these men on my doorstep, nor am I annoyed by the women from another sect that come by my house every three months like clockwork.

But I am firm in my faith, I am happy with my religion, and while I am not annoyed by this attempt to convert me, I am certain that nothing he says will ever take me away from my church and into his.

So, I answer, politely and honestly:

"Yes. We've found the Lord"

In response to this, his eyes narrow and he asks sharply and, again, accusingly:

"Are you Christians?"

I am almost laughing at this point, for two reasons. One, I don't see how Christianity and this angry, accusatory tone can coincide with one another. Two, based on his attitude, I know exactly how he's going to react to my answer.

"Yes. We're Christians. We're actually Mormons."

Both men widen their eyes, tighten their lips into flat little lines. One of them takes a visible step backward, as though he doesn't want to "catch" my Mormonism. At this point, it takes most of my willpower not to laugh.

But then.

Oh, there had to be a "but then..." to this story, right?

But then, the man turns to my five year old son and says, "What about you? Have you found the Lord? Do you know Jesus?"

That's right. This man is trying to convert my five year old son to a different faith, right in front of my face, in my own doorway. I think this would bring out the mama bear in just about any woman. However, my son is on the autism spectrum, and he just doesn't speak to strangers. Ever. And being spoken to directly by someone whom he has not yet warmed to is pretty much the most horrifying thing he can imagine. So my son jams his fingers in his mouth, makes a weird squeaking noise, and steps back to hide behind me.

Then the men do the unthinkable.

They give me that look.

That pitying, disgusted look. As though I'm doing something wrong and contributing to this neurological disorder. The situation has stopped being funny and has now become an unpleasant experience that I want to end as quickly as possible. The thought of shutting the door in their faces crosses my mind, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Their next statement is thick with contempt.

"If you are ever ready to follow God's plan for you, you do what is in your heart, and you will know to come find us."

And he extends a small, yellow pamphlet toward me, his face still a mask of disdain, as though we are some infestation of autistic-Mormons. And then he and his friend turn away, too quickly, without waiting for any response, without so much as a "have a nice day" or "thanks for your time" or anything.

The irony: he is an immigrant, speaking in a thick and easily recognizable accent, and of a minority race. A man who has undoubtedly dealt with the small mindedness of others for many years is here, standing on my doorstep, judging my family and looking at my child as if he's an insect.

And the circle of judgment and small-mindedness continues, just being pointed in a different direction.


  1. That just takes all the air out of my heart. This is the kind of stuff that you would think would be obvious to people--that EVERYONE at some point perpetuates these awful cycles of judgment and disdain, but when you are in the thick of it, you can't see past the end of your own nose. I'm sorry your day started like this. If it had been me, I probably would have just let my laughter happen, and then started throwing out quotes from different philosophers, asking them if they'd ever heard of St. Thomas Aquinas, and at that point they'd probably think I was the nutsiest pagan ever and run away screaming. Never mind that Aquinas was a philosophizing champion for the existence and goodness of God.

  2. Okay, what happened to "do unto others" and all that stuff?? Good. Grief.

    Have you ever seen Black Books? I always think of the very first episode when I see door-to-door God-botherers! (if you haven't, the first episode is on Youtube!)

  3. PS. I probably would have said "Oh, is he lost?" when they asked if I'd found the Lord. Going to Hell, party of one!

  4. Wow. I'm shocked that a non-denominational Christian group would be so denominational. It truly is sad. Even as an atheist, I'm more of a christian than that. I'm glad that you feel so strong in your faith, so that his effort to shame you did not affect you. I'm also proud that you were strong enough not to slam the door. I feel like slamming my front door right now! I hope that D did not recognize the way he was being treated. :(

    1. Honestly, this is the one "up" side to his disorder: he cannot process social norms, so he doesn't understand when others are being rude. It actually protects him when other kids are giving him the "Why are you so weird?" look. And in situations like today. Thank goodness.

  5. That's actually funny :)
    I am proud of my faith, and have no problem answering that question in the affirmative, even though that's not really the way I see it, but even I have to admit that your answer is hilarious.

  6. When I was a kid we lived an hour and a half away from the nearest Jehovah's Witness congregation. In the middle of nowhere. Every Saturday morning, without fail at around seven, there would be a knock on our door. Thankfully, my family has a very Irish Catholic surname and we very quickly found that announcing you're Catholic very quickly and in the most judgmental tone you can muster is the best way to repel said invaders of personal space.

    At my last place of residence (where I lived for five years), my husband and I only ever had one lot of doorknockers the entire time we lived there. This may be due to the extremely dodgy meth lab appearance of our driveway, despite living around the corner from their church.

    NZ is really different than the US though, most of us aren't members of a congregation, and I would say that probably more than fifty percent of the population identifies as Agnostic, and at lest a tenth or so (myself included) are outright Atheists. I definitely find that I'm more often faced with peoples beliefs via social media than face to face nowadays, which is sometimes even more offensive, because you cannot just make the choice to 'close the door'. Often you can't even comment lest you be subjected to cruel taunts by the posters other friends.

    It's really unfortunate that there are still so many intolerant people around, and what you said about the mans minority status hit the nail on the head. What ever happened to mutual respect? Also, sorry for the long and rambling comment, it just wanted to keep going.

  7. I definitely do not mind "rambling comments" :)

    I do think it's harder to deal with people's rude religious lines on the internet. People feel that they don't have to bother with being nice at all, and add in the fact that you can't (as you said) "shut the door" as easily, and the basic herd mentality of the web, and it's basically just waiting to explode.

    I genuinely don't mind proselytizers! Like I said, my church relies heavily on missionary work, and we infamously send missionaries out knocking on doors, I just don't appreciate it when they are rude and completely out of line!

  8. I hear ya. I don't have a problem with them either, at the end of the day we all have our own beliefs and its human nature to want others to share in your opinion. I did not, however appreciate being woken up at 7am. One of my beliefs is no getting out of bed before 9 on a Saturday. You can tell I don't have kids.

  9. Oh... that's a good point. I even have little kids and hate that I have to be up before 9 AM :/
    I hear ya. Loud and clear!