Normally, if someone rings the doorbell on a Saturday afternoon, it is my friendly neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like many Christians, they mistake the Bible for a book that ought to be read by the laity. And so they are out all the time fishin’ for souls. It is almost sweet. And annoying as hell! You see, these people are frauds. They pretend to be my friend but they aren’t interested in me anymore than the salesman at Best Buy is. I’m not an individual; I’m just another soul like all the rest. And it takes all my force of will to not talk to them about religion because I am far more serious about the subject than they are. So I just smile, take their Awake! magazines, and close the door. It makes them happy because they are under the delusion that this is what Jesus wanted them to do.
But here in little Sonoma County, the election has begun. So now, when the doorbell rings, it is likely to be someone selling a political candidate. I like this! And it isn’t because I like politics more than religion, because that isn’t even true. If actual religious seekers came to my door, I would be happy to engage with them. But instead, religious dogmatists come to my door to sell me their religion. But that’s not what they say. According to them, they’re doing me a favor!
The campaigners are selling stuff too, of course, but they don’t claim otherwise. They are partisans looking to help out their side. That kind of honesty is refreshing in modern America where even our television commercials are often of dubious relevance to the products that they are pushing. But you know what’s really great about them. They never try to read to me. “If I may, there is a passage from Barack Obama’s 2012 inaugural address that is of particular relevance to this, ‘For George Washington so loved the nation…'”
Fundamentally, there is nothing different about the Christians who come to my door and the political activists. They are all true believers for their causes. I suspect that the nice young man who came to my door a couple of days ago is just as certain Mike McGuire is the right man for the California State Senate as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are that God will create a heaven on earth for them in a now unspecified future time. But there is still a huge difference between them.
In our society, we are told that having irrational certainty about religion is a good thing. This allows Christians to go their whole lives without ever hearing Jesus referred to as a Cosmic Jewish Zombie. It is thought that doing this is rude, which is probably true. But it also means that religious thought doesn’t advanced and they are stuck with a common philosophy today that would have appalled early Christians, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Thanks to right wing hate radio and especially Fox News, we are getting a lot more of this in politics. Still, it is true that if you start spouting off about politics at a local pub, someone will counter you.
As a result of this, political activists come to my door with humility. They know they are intruding. They know that the person behind the door may have strongly held opinions that counter their own. The Christians know that they may get some push back too, of course. But it isn’t the same. The vast majority of people do not agree with them. Only 2.5% of the nation is Jehovah’s Witnesses. (The Mormons don’t come around here, but they are much the same with 5% of the population.) And even most other Christians don’t want what they are selling. While doing some work at a Baptist Church recently, I found a pamphlet on how to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses. But whatever abuse they get only goes to prove to them the righteousness of their work and purity of their souls.
Political activists have no such solace. The essence of political organizing is not about convincing people who disagree with them. It is to find and organize those who do agree with them. So they aren’t trying to find people who scream at them so they can feel good that they’ve located followers of The Evil One.
But above all, political activists are to be admired because they are involved in facilitating the basis of our society: democracy. I’ve always felt dragging the Bible from door to door is very much like my bringing Don Quixote door to door. It too is an old book with much spiritual insight. Why don’t I do that? Because my interest in Don Quixote is not widely shared. I may think that people would be better off if they read the book, but it is presumptuous of me to force it on them. But all citizens of this country should care about who our elected representatives are. So political activists are a very good thing indeed.
Thus far, the only people to come to my door are Democrats. And the only political mailings I’ve received are from Republicans. I find that humorous: Democrats have people, Republicans have money.